The Visconti-Sforza Castle is a Middle Age castle located in the centre of the city of Vigevano, Lombardy.
Luchino Visconti, Lord of Milan and ruler of Vigevano since 1337, began to transform the existing fortification into a local residence for his family. The construction was continued by Gian Galeazzo Visconti, first Duke of Milan, and completed by his heirs, Ludovico il Moro and his grandchild Gian Galeazzo Sforza. Donato Bramante had been working on the project of the castle. Leonardo Da Vinci is known to have frequented Vigevano and supposedly attended to the works. The castle was completed in the last years of the 15th century.
The result was a wide resort covering a surface of 70,000 square meters. The castle consisted of several buildings arranged elliptically and serving different purposes. The imposing main body (Maschio or Ducal Palace) had a U-shape plan with the two wings facing the center of the courtyard of the castle. The Ladies' Palace (Loggia delle Dame), built by Bramante, was reserved to the Duchess and the ladies of the court. A building for the breeding of falcons (Falconiera) and stables for horses (Scuderie) were also part of the castle. The Falconiera was connected to the Ducal Palace through a loggia elevated over the ground. The tower of the castle (Bramante Tower) was modelled after that of the Milan Castle, designed by Filarete. Raised to be visible from the center of Vigevano, it was completed in 1491.
The 14th and 15th centuries was a period of great transformation for Vigevano. The adjacent piazza of the city (Piazza Ducale) was constructed and other buildings erected: the Rocca Vecchia and the Palazzo Sanseverino (or Rocca Nuova). The nearby Rocca Vecchia was connected to the castle through a covered and elevated road (Strada Coperta).
At the end of the 15th century, the castle was frequented by Beatrice d'Este, wife of Ludovico il Moro, who gave prestige to Vigevano as a courteous residence.
The castle continued to be used by the members of the Sforza House. Francesco II Sforza, the last ruler of the House, died in Vigevano on 24 October 1535.
After the end of the Sforza dynasty, under the Spanish regime, the use of the castle suffered a slow decline. Before the Baroque era, when the facade of the Sant'Ambrogio Cathedral was completed, the Piazza Ducale was connected to the entrance of the tower and to the court of the castle.
Since the 18th century the castle had been used for military purposes, initially by the Austrian and then by the Italian Army.
Ceased its military use in 1968, the castle remained abandoned until 1980, when the first restorations began. Since then, a part of the castle have been progressively opened to the public. The restored rooms of the castle host today the city museum, while the largest portion remains unused. Part of the Scuderie is used for exhibitions.References:
The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.
Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.
Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.
In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.
The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.