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:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.