In 2005, Françoise Schein won a competition to design a public artwork for the Belgian town of Houffalize in Ardennes. She intended to unite the town around a local medieval story, the Tale of the White Lady. This tale is about forbidden love, battles between barons and knights, a country set on fire, and about a lover who sold his soul to the devil so that his fiancée could kill her tyrannical father. The White Lady commits this parricide while Satan triumphs. And her ghost returns to Houffalize every day and cries still today, near the Saint-Roch cross.
The artwork was painted on ceramics by the artist and 120 students from four local elementary and middle schools. They illustrated the tale which was cut into fifty sequences. The mural was installed at the Place du Roi Albert in the city center and is a map of the town in which the tale illustrations are told and placed along the streets.
The Tale of the White Lady – division of the text into 50 sentences, so that each group of students could work on one sentence.
(1) It is at the Croix Saint-Roch, near Maboge, that the fluid spectrum of the White Lady appears (2) (the castle of a baron) In the 17th century, at Berismenil and Samrée, there were once the castles of two barons united by a great friendship. (3) (the castle of another baron) In the 17th century, in Berismenil and Samrée, there were once the castles of two barons united by a great friendship. (4) The Lord of Berismenil had a daughter, (5) The Lord of Samaria had a son. (6) Raised in the atmosphere of friendship that united their parents, (7) the two children became adults and fell in love (8) the two fathers had already made plans for marriage. (9) But then, following a hunting dispute, (10) a dispute arose which soon became more serious. (11) The beautiful friendship turned into a fierce hatred (12) and war exploded between the two lordships. (13) Men in armor ravaged the country. (14) Caparisoned steed, ravaged the land. (15) Archers ravaged the land. (16) and lancers ravaged the land. (17) Villages were burned, (18) Innocent people were slaughtered. (19) Death and desolation hung over the region … (20) Following the conflict, there was no longer any question of marriage: on the contrary, the Baron de Berismenil decided to have his daughter married by the son of the Count of La Roche, his ally. (21) For many weeks, the young girl managed to put off this plan of union, which did not suit her. (22) But her stubborn father imposed on her the bridegroom of her choice, and soon there was talk of marriage. (23) Forced to obey in desperation, the beautiful girl sought solitude (24) and rode breathlessly through the forest to calm her pain and hide her sorrow. (25) One day, while her horse was following a very steep path, he slipped on a stone and risked dragging his rider into a ravine. (26) At that moment a young man appeared who, (27) with a strong grip, grabbed the horse by the reins and miraculously saved the girl. (28) This hero was none other than the first chosen of his heart. (29) As soon as they met again, the love of the two young men grew stronger than ever (30) and they decided to run away. On the agreed evening, the young girl secretly left her father’s mansion (31) and went to the place of the rendezvous. The young man was waiting for her, holding a beautiful black horse by the bridle. (32) Both of them rode it and went to Houffalize (33) Houffalize where the young count had an uncle willing to receive them. (34) Warned of this escapade by his daughter’s nurse, (35) Baron de Berismenil got on his fastest mount and set off in pursuit of the two lovers. (36) Faster, the father gained ground and soon the fugitives were caught. (37) The young man, while driving his mount, (38) put a dagger in his companion’s hand and asked her to use it to protect their escape. (39) At first, she refused, (40) but when she was about to be seized by her father, (41) in a gesture of desperation, she struck him with a large dagger and killed him instantly. (42) As the bloody baron fell to the ground, (43) the thunder roared and the sky lit up with lightning. (44) To get his lover back, the young man had sold his soul to the Devil. (45) Under the guise of the black horse, (46) Satan, seeing the opportunity to steal two lives at once, had suggested to the young man to give the dagger to his beloved. (47) The horse then rushed to the river and (48) Lucifer disappeared with the two souls into an infernal abyss. (49) Thus peace returned between the two castles. (50) But since then, the ghost of the White Lady has come to weep near the Cross of St. Roch. She wanders, as punishment for the terrible parricide that was committed…
PARTENAIRES ET SOUTIENS
City of Houffalize
École communale de Mabompré
Athénée de Houffalize
École communale de Houffalize
École communale de Tavigny
Fonds de la Commission Européenne
PROJECT LED BY
Stéphane Deprée, cultural mediator for the city