Sforza Castle

Milan, Italy

Sforza Castle was built in the 15th century by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan, on the remnants of a 14th-century fortification. Later renovated and enlarged, in the 16th and 17th centuries it was one of the largest citadels in Europe. Extensively rebuilt by Luca Beltrami in 1891–1905, it now houses several of the city's museums and art collections.

History

The original construction was ordered by local lord Galeazzo II Visconti in 1358–c. 1370. His successors Gian Galeazzo, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti enlarged it, until it became a square-plan castle with 200 m-long sides, four towers at the corners and up to 7-metre-thick walls. The castle was the main residence in the city of its Visconti lords, and was destroyed by the short-lived Golden Ambrosian Republic which ousted them in 1447.

In 1450, Francesco Sforza, once he shattered the republicans, began reconstruction of the castle to turn it into his princely residence. In 1452 he hired sculptor and architect Filarete to design and decorate the central tower, which is still known as Torre del Filarete. After Francesco's death, the construction was continued by his son Galeazzo Maria, under architect Benedetto Ferrini. The decoration was executed by local painters. In 1476, during the regency of Bona of Savoy, the tower with her name was built.

In 1494 Ludovico Sforza became lord of Milan, and called numerous artists to decorate the castle. These include Leonardo da Vinci (who frescoed several rooms, in collaboration with Bernardino Zenale and Bernardino Butinone) and Bramante. In the following years, however, the castle was damaged by assaults from Italian, French and German troops; a bastion, known as tenaglia was added, perhaps designed by Cesare Cesariano. After the French victory in the 1515 Battle of Marignano, the defeated Maximilian Sforza, his Swiss mercenaries, and the cardinal-bishop of Sion retreated into the castle. However, King Francis I of France followed them into Milan, and his sappers placed mines under the castle's foundations, whereupon the defenders capitulated. In 1521, in a period in which it was used as a weapons depot, the Torre del Filarete exploded. When Francesco II Sforza returned briefly to power in Milan, he had the fortress restored and enlarged, and a part of it adapted as residence for his wife, Christina of Denmark.

Under the Spanish domination which followed, the castle became a citadel, as the governor's seat was moved to the Ducal Palace (1535). Its garrison varied from 1,000 to 3,000 men, led by a Spanish castellan. In 1550 works began to adapt the castle to modern fortification style, as a hexagonal star fort, following the addition of 12 bastions. The castle remained in use as a fort also after the Spaniards were replaced by the Austrians in Lombardy.

Most of the outer fortifications were demolished during the period of Napoleonic rule in Milan under the Cisalpine Republic. The semi-circular Piazza Castello was constructed around the city side of the castle, surrounded by a radial street layout of new urban blocks bounded by the Foro Buonoparte. 

After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the castle was transferred from military use to the city of Milan. Parco Sempione, one of the largest parks in the city, was created on the former parade grounds.

The government of Milan undertook restoration works, directed by Luca Beltrami. The central tower, known as the Torre Filarete, above the main city entrance was rebuilt, on the basis of 16th-century drawings, between 1900 and 1905 as a monument to King Umberto I.

Allied bombardment of Milan in 1943 during World War II severely damaged the castle.

Museums

The Castello complex includes several museums, some of the described below.

Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco is an art collection which includes Andrea Mantegna's Trivulzio Madonna and masterpieces by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Vincenzo Foppa, Titian and Tintoretto.

The Museo d'Arte Antica has a large collection of sculpture from the late antiquity, Mediaeval and Renaissance periods. The various frescoed rooms of the museum house an armoury, a tapestry room, some funerary monuments, the Rondanini Pietà and two mediaeval portals.

Egyptian Museum hosts a mummy dating from the Greco-Roman period, from Thebes, and Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi are exposed in the mummies, sarcophagi and funerary mask section, while some papyri of the Book of the Dead are exposed in the Funerary Cult section.

Museum of Musical Instruments of Milan exhibits over 700 musical instruments from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries with particular attention to Lombard instruments.

References:

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 14th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Chris Chaisson (3 months ago)
While the free grounds were crowded on a beautiful Sunday, the museums were practically empty. For 5 Euros you can visit all the museums, which could take many hours if you took your time. Go to the museum for the Michelangelo first because it is usually empty and no waiting is required. Once you have the ticket you breeze by the other entrances. Going on a weekday will certainly make the visit more enjoyable!
Alex Iacobita (3 months ago)
A large, impressive and in very good condition structure. The entrance to the castle grounds is free of charge, so you can walk around as much as you like. There are also a few museums that you can buy tickets for, but they’re not very well organized - hard to find, and inside you have to walk the same room twice to see everything, because of how they are displayed (some, such as the Egyptian museum, were closed).
Esmee (6 months ago)
Lovely castle to walk around or chill at. I personally loved the garden in the middle of the castle where you could sit out in the shade and enjoy the surrounding views. The museums have mazing pieces. There were some real surprising pieces of art. I paid 2 or 3 euros to get into all 14 unique parts of the castle. There's art varying from paintings to furniture to cloths and musical instruments. Definitely would recommend anyone to spend a few hours here.
Ellen (7 months ago)
This place is so stunning. I sat within the castle walls listening to live music from a stage that had been set up while sketching a picture. Truly a wonderful experience. Not going inside and instead walking around some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen will be free and well worth your time. There are also free toilets and a water refill on site which is a bonus.
Jake Fauvel (7 months ago)
Great castle. Lots to see and explore. The museum's are huge! Good value for money compared to other cities attractions. Great for a walk around even if you do not want to visit the paid museum's. There is surrounding gardens and a big historic peace arch, a small cafe and a few little souvenir stands, drinks stands. So you can also eat and drink here. The number 12 tram stops right outside so it's also easy to get to. We visited on a Saturday but it was not too crowded for a peak summer weekend day.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Aberlemno Sculptured Stones

The Aberlemno Sculptured Stones are a series of five Class I and II Early Medieval standing stones found in and around the village of Aberlemno. The stones with Pictish carvings variously date between about AD 500 and 800.

Aberlemno 1, 3 and 5 are located in recesses in the dry stone wall at the side of the road in Aberlemno. Aberlemno 2 is found in the Kirkyard, 300 yards south of the roadside stones. In recent years, bids have been made to move the stones to an indoor location to protect them from weathering, but this has met with local resistance and the stones are currently covered in the winter.

Aberlemno 4, the Flemington Farm Stone was found 30 yards from the church, and is now on display in the McManus Galleries, Dundee.