Castles and towers
Unlike the other castles built for military and defence purposes Fénis castle is not situated on the top of a promontory, but rather on a small knoll. In contrast with the defence structure, its function was only to be the prestigious seat of the Challant family.
The castle’s many towers, which display surprising architectural harmony, were added by Aimone of Challant towards the middle of the 14th century to the existing turret, which had already been the residence of Viscount Gottfried II in the previous century. The castle belonged to the Fénis branch of the lords of Challant until 1716, when it was sold to Count Baldassarre Castellar of Saluzzo Paesana. There followed a period in which the castle’s prestigious function was dropped and it was turned into a rural dwelling: the ground-floor rooms were turned into stables, while the first floor was used a barn. It was purchased by Alfredo d’Andrade in 1895, who started restoration works that were completed by Mesturino. Today the castle is owned by the Regional Council.
It has a pentagonal layout; the corners have round towers, with the exception of the south-west corner, which has a massive tower and the southern corner with a square-plan tower. The keep is enclosed in a double perimeter wall, with watchtowers linked by a walkway. Access to the castle is gained via a square tower, which had a portcullis protecting the hallway in case of attack. The inner courtyard has a semicircular staircase and wooden balcony, and is decorated with exquisite frescoes featuring Saint George killing the dragon and a group of wisemen and prophets, holding scrolls on which you can see proverbs and moral maxims in ancient French, while the eastern wall features the Annunciation of Saint Christopher. These can be attributed to a painter close to the school of Jaquerio and date back to around 1425-30. On the ground floor it is possible to visit the weaponry, the dining room, the pantry, kitchen. study and tax-collector’s office. Worthy of note on the first floor are the chapel with a reception hall and the counts’ rooms.