All the walls of the chamber located on the third floor of Tour Ferrande have been decorated with mural paintings, most of which survive. This is a rare case of an extensive program of paintings found in a secular setting, rather than a church. The use to which the chamber was put is unknown as are the circumstances of the commission. When it comes to the date, the paintings could have been executed at any time during the last three decades of the thirteenth century.
Most of the program is dedicated to the so-called political crusades led by Charles of Anjou, younger brother of King Louis IX of France. Political crusades were wars proclaimed by the papacy against its Christian enemies. When the last Norman King of Southern Italy and Sicily died without a male heir, his daughter married the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. In 1199, Pope Innocent III preached what is now considered to be the first political crusade against the seneschal Henry VI in Italy. Those who would oppose the seneschal would gain the same spiritual benefits as those fighting the Muslims in the Holy Land. Subsequent popes preached crusades, in succession, against several generations of Henry’s successors – the Staufen – including his son (Frederick II); his two grandsons (Conrad and Manfred); and his great-grand son (Corradin).
The paintings represent the crusades against Manfred and Corradin. After protracted negotiations, Charles of Anjou agreed to be the papal champion against Manfred and, in June 1265, Pope Clement IV invested Charles of Anjou with the Kingdom of Sicily.
The episode of investiture is represented on the north wall of Tour Ferrande. Accompanying inscriptions identify the two main actors. The pope, wearing a mitre, holds the keys of St. Peter in his left hand and with his right hand gives a parchment to Charles of Anjou, investing him with the Kingdom. Charles, wearing a crown on his head and a white robe decorated with golden lilies, is kneeling before the pope. In February 1266, Charles of Anjou confronted Manfred in the Battle of Beneveto. The battle is depicted on the south wall of Tour Ferrande. Above the knight on the left, there are two letters remaining from what was possibly the name of the battle: “BE” for Beneveto.
Manfred was killed on the battlefield and his body was found and identified two days later. On the same south wall, a horseman, without armor or helmet, but carrying a torch, proceeds to the right. He drags the body of Manfred behind him with a rope.
To the right a crowned figure – without a doubt, Charles of Anjou – receives the messenger. Only months after the conquest, Southern Italy revolted against the papacy and Charles of Anjou and rallied behind sixteen-year-old Corradin, a grandson of Emperor Frederick II. The revolt was short-lived, and, in August 1268, Charles of Anjou defeated Corradin in the battle of Tagliacozzo. The battle is depicted on the upper level of the south wall. One of the Angevins has golden lilies on the caparison of his horse: this must be Charles of Anjou. Below the battle scene there are two inscriptions identifying the two armies as those of Charles and of Corradin.
Charles took Corradin prisoner, arranged for him to be judged for treason and executed. Below the scene of battle, there is a badly damaged scene depicting the execution of Corradin. Corradin, wearing a crown, with his hands tied behind his back, kneels before a clergyman. Behind him there is a group of soldiers, with one of them – the executioner – carrying a large sword.
Other scenes depicted on the wall of the Tour Ferrande include a battle between a Christian knight and a Saracen.
Tour Ferrande is located in the town of Pernes-les-Fontaines, famous for its many founatains (apparently, over a hundred in number). It is about twenty miles from Orange, in the Vaucluse department in the Provence Côte d’Azur region. One can only visit it with a guided tour arranged by the Office de Tourisme.
For bibliography and further information see Mural Paintings of the Ferrande Tower