Visconti-Sforza Castle

Vigevano, Italy

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.

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Details

Founded: c. 1337
Category: Castles and fortifications in Italy

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Antonio Castellon (10 months ago)
Very strange place, it has a good potential as a touristic place but they didn't invest and prepare enough what they have. (1) missing smiles to visitors (2) include explanations for each picture (more than just the time when Leonardo did it) (3) include English as well (everything was only in Italian (4) video Exposition requires more bright or less illumination, it was impossible to watch anything. (5) it was no explanation of the constructions prototypes at all (6) maintenance in general in the castle was veeeeery poor... Missing restores of painted walls, everything was practically in nude bricks (what it was not the original shape of the castle) It's a pity because the place can be really a nice touristic place helping to increase the economy of the village.
Shinobu6a P (2 years ago)
Fun, educational, and beautiful place to visit.
paoloalberto filio (2 years ago)
Very nice historic site with a beautiful garden and directly connected to the plaza of the Duomo of Vigevano
Florian VI (2 years ago)
The group of monuments composed of the Piazza Ducale and Visconteo-Sforzesco Castle as seen today, is the result of construction works which lasted over two centuries during the reigns of the Visconti and Sforza in Milan. This was the period during which Vigevano reached its maximum splendour, becoming the ducal residence and an important commercial centre. The town developed in a spiral around the castle which is one of the biggest fortified structures in Europe. Its core dates back to the Longobard era (VII-X century), whilst its transformation into a princely residence was instigated by the Viscontis (in particular Luchino Visconti) and the Sforzas, in particular Ludovico il Moro. Artists such as Bramante, and, it is thought, also Leonardo, contributed to its construction. Work on the castle was completed between 1492 and 1494. Following the end of the Sforzesca dynasty (1535) the castle passed into Spanish hands and began a slow decline. In 1696 the plenipotentiaries of the European governments, who had assembled to sign a peace treaty for Vigevano declared the castle to be unfit for use and when it became the headquarters of a garrison of the Austrian army at the beginning of the Eighteenth century, radical changes began to take place. Around the second half of the Nineteenth century it became the barracks of the Sardinian army and later of the Italian Royal Army and remained a military headquarters until 1968.
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