Fenis Aosta Castle
A leap into the Middle Ages! The castle of Fénis in the Aosta Valley is one of the best preserved medieval castles in Italy.
The Fenis castle was built on the top of a hill surrounded by splendid meadows, unlike the other castles that rise on the tops of mountains to defend and control the territory: this has led to think of a more administrative and less military use of the fort. This castle also belonged to the Challant family. The very scenic architecture, with double crenellated walls and splendid towers, makes the castle a popular and essential tourist visit.
The plan of the castle is pentagonal, with a crenellated wall and circular turrets, connected to each other by a walkway.
Very particular is the small quadrangular courtyard built by Bonifacio I between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. At the center of the courtyard there is a characteristic semicircular stone staircase, on the top of which stands a fresco depicting St. George killing the dragon, made around 1415 and attributed to the workshop of Giacomo Jaquerio. The theme of St. George and the dragon was widespread at the time in the Aosta Valley, as it was considered an embodiment of the knightly ideal. A double wooden balcony runs around the courtyard.
The fresco bears the BMS monogram, referring to the client of this work, Bonifacium Marexallus Sabaudiae. The walls of the courtyard are frescoed with decorations in the international gothic style. On three sides the courtyard is surrounded by a double wooden balcony placed right on the upper floors, the walls of the balconies are decorated with essays holding parchments where proverbs and maxims written in old French are reported, originally each essay was identified with the name of the character he depicted, one of these was a man in Arab costume, probably to celebrate the participation of the Count of Challant in a crusade. The wall facing the large fresco of St. George and the Dragon was decorated in the second half of the 1400s, commissioned by Boniface II of Challant, by the painter Giacomino da Ivrea, and represents the Saints Uberto, Bernardo, Apollonia and Ambrogio, a Bishop Saint probably identified with San Teodulo, a scene of the Annunciation and floral motifs. Below the frescoes stands an imposing statue of San Cristoforo, protector of travelers, probably placed in that place as a sign of good luck for the guests who left the castle.
From the courtyard you enter the ground floor, where there is a large rectangular room, the “Grande Salle Basse” or “Hall of Arms”, this room was once equipped with a trap for those condemned to death, a sort of well with the walls completely covered with blades, note the large stone fireplace, part of the original furnishings of the castle. From this room continue towards the “Chambre Basse” and towards the kitchen. On the south side there were instead the well and the cistern for rainwater, the service rooms and the woodshed.
On the first floor there were the lodgings of the lords of the castle, the private rooms, the state rooms and a chapel. On the north side there is what was most likely a second kitchen, next to the master bedroom the “Chambre Blanche”, on one of the walls there is a large fireplace surmounted by a painting depicting the star of the Challant family. On the south side instead there are the “Chambre des Tolles” and “Cabinet de la Chambre de Tolles”, on the south-west side there was the heated room “Poelle”, here there is a fresco depicting the four Cardinal Virtues and the coat of arms of the Dukes of Savoy.
The second floor, not accessible, could only be reached via a spiral staircase and was reserved for guests, servants and soldiers, from the second floor one could access the roof, where the patrol walkways were located.
Of particular interest is the Castle Chapel, located on the first floor, noteworthy is a large stone fireplace decorated with geometric motifs, a wooden crucifix made by the workshop of the Master of the Madonna di Oropa, the frescoes depicting Saints and Apostles, a Crucifixion, the most important, a Madonna della Misericordia. This last fresco is very interesting, in fact, at the foot of the Madonna, protected by her long hammer, there are two groups of faithful divided into two groups, secular and religious, in the midst of these groups it is possible to recognize some important characters of the time, Pope , Emperor, some members of the Challant family.
History of the Castle
Given its position, on a hill surrounded by green meadows, it is likely that a Roman villa once existed here. The first news concerning the existence of a castle dates back to 1242, when in an official document, a Castrum Fenitii is mentioned as the property of the Viscount of Aosta Gotofredo di Challant.
The present appearance of the castle, however, dates back to the works carried out between 1320 and 1420, when it was given the pentagonal shape and the curtain wall was added. The castle experienced a period of great growth under Boniface I of Challant, but upon his death in 1426, a period of decline began for the Challant family and consequently also for the castle. His successors limited themselves to commissioning small interventions (especially frescoes) but were not interested in taking care of the structure of the building. In 1705, after the death of the last exponent of the Chammant family, Antonio Gaspare Felice, the castle was inherited by his cousin Giorgio Francesco di Challant Châtillon who decided to sell it to Count Baldassaree Saluzzo di Paesana to pay off his debts. Thus continues the period of decline of the castle which will continue to pass from family to family, passing to Pietro Gaspare Ansermin and Michele Baldassarre Rosset di Quart. In 1895 the castle was purchased by the Italian State and from this moment important restoration works on the manor began, to bring it back to its ancient splendor.
Since 1896 the castle has become a National Monument and is owned by the Aosta Valley Regional Administration.
Contacts Fenis Castle Aosta
11020 FENIS (AO)
Telefono: (+39) 0165 764263 Fax: (+39) 0165 764044
Fenis Castle Opening Hours
April – September 09.00 – 19.00 every day
October – March 10.00 – 13.00 and 14.00 – 17.00 (Closed on Mondays)
Fenis Castello Entrance Prices
Full € 7.00
Minors € 2.00
Free for children under 6, handicapped and accompanying persons, teachers and school attendants