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:
Heraclea Lyncestis was an ancient Greek city in Macedon, ruled later by the Romans. It was founded by Philip II of Macedon in the middle of the 4th century BC. The city was named in honor of the mythological hero Heracles. The name Lynkestis originates from the name of the ancient kingdom, conquered by Philip, where the city was built.
Heraclea was a strategically important town during the Hellenistic period, as it was at the edge of Macedon"s border with Epirus to the west and Paeonia to the north, until the middle of the 2nd century BC, when the Romans conquered Macedon and destroyed its political power. The main Roman road in the area, Via Egnatia went through Heraclea, and Heraclea was an important stop. The prosperity of the city was maintained mainly due to this road.
The Roman emperor Hadrian built a theatre in the center of the town, on a hill, when many buildings in the Roman province of Macedonia were being restored. It began being used during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Inside the theatre there were three animal cages and in the western part a tunnel. The theatre went out of use during the late 4th century AD, when gladiator fights in the Roman Empire were banned, due to the spread of Christianity, the formulation of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the abandonment of, what was then perceived as, pagan rituals and entertainment.
In the early Byzantine period (4th to 6th centuries AD) Heraclea was an important episcopal centre. A small and a great basilica, the bishop"s residence, and a funerary basilica and the necropolis are some of the remains of this period. Three naves in the Great Basilica are covered with mosaics of very rich floral and figurative iconography; these well preserved mosaics are often regarded as fine examples of the early Christian art period.
The city was sacked by Ostrogoth/Visigoth forces, commanded by Theodoric the Great in 472 AD and again in 479 AD. It was restored in the late 5th and early 6th century. When an earthquake struck in 518 AD, the inhabitants of Heraclea gradually abandoned the city. Subsequently, at the eve of the 7th century, the Dragovites, a Slavic tribe pushed down from the north by the Avars, settled in the area. The last coin issue dates from ca. 585, which suggests that the city was finally captured by the Slavs. As result, in place of the deserted city theatre several huts were built.
The Episcopacy Residence was excavated between 1970 and 1975. The western part was discovered first and the southern side is near the town wall. The luxury rooms are located in the eastern part. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th rooms all have mosaic floors. Between the 3rd and 4th rooms there is a hole that led to the eastern entrance of the residence. The hole was purposefully created between the 4th and 6th century.