Top 10 Facts about Sforzesco Castle
This Castle has been standing tall in Milan, Italy since the 15th century. It stands on the foundation of a fortress that was built in the 14th century.
The Castle was home to the Sforza family that ruled Milan during the Renaissance period. Leonardo da Vinci worked on the design and frescoes in the Castle.
Sforzesco Castle was the largest citadel in Europe between the 16th and 17th centuries.
A lot of renovations and improvements were done on the Castle and its grounds. One of those that changed things was Napoleon III.
He drained the Moat and removed the drawbridges in the castle. The Castle has now been turned into seven specialized museums and art galleries.
They host Milan’s cultural and civic history as well as Michelangelo’s final work.
There is more about this Castle that you would find interesting. Here are the top 10 facts.
1. This Castle has beautiful architecture and gardens
You do not have to go inside the castle to marvel at its beauty. Its façade and gardens are worth your time.
The castle is part of Sempione Park that has neat walking paths, a pond and cafés.
It is a tourist magnet and gets crowded especially in the morning hours.
There are museums at the castle building that charge entrance fee.
2. Lord Galeazzo II Visconti commissioned Sforzesco Castle
The original construction of the castle was ordered by lord Galeazzo II Visconti. Construction work happened between 1358 and 1370.
Since it was built close to the wall, it was named after one of the gates known as Castello di Porta Gioia.
This same location had Roman fortifications of Castrum Portae Jovis.
The new owners of the castle, Gian Galeazzo, Giovanni Maria and Filippo Maria Visconti expanded it to a square plan.
They included four towers at the corners and made the walls 7 metres thick.
This was their main residence but was destroyed after they were ousted by the Golden Ambrosian Republic in 1447.
3. Francesco Sforza turned the building into his residence
In 1450, Francesco Sforza rebuilt the castle after defeating the Ambrosian Republic.
He made it his residence and went further to hire a sculptor. In 1452, he got Filarete, an architect and sculptor, to design the central tower.
The tower got named after the sculptor still goes by its name Torres del Filarete.
His son took over the construction work after Filarete died. He worked with Benedetto Ferrini.
Local painters worked on the designs in the castle.
4. Leonardo da Vinci designed the interior of the Castle
After Ludovico Sforza became the Lord of Milan in 1494, he called numerous artists to decorate the castle.
Leonardo da Vinci was one of the artists commissioned. He worked on the frescoes in several rooms in the castle in collaboration with Bernardino Zenale and Bernardino Butinone.
Another artist that worked on the frescoes in the castle was Bramante. He is responsible for the Sala del Tesoro.
Around 1498, Leonardo da Vinci worked at the ceiling of the Sala delle Asse, where he painted it in vegetable motifs.
The main architect, Filarete, blended the aesthetics of early medieval Milan with the 15th-century architectural plan.
5. Sforzesco Castle got damaged
A lot of work was put in to make the castle beautiful and majestic. This was however short-lived when Italian, French and German troops damaged it.
After the French victory in 1515 during the Battle of Marignano, Sforza, his Swiss mercenaries, and the cardinal-bishop of Sion went back to the castle.
King Francis followed them, under his command, his army placed mines under the castle’s foundation and blew it up.
Later the remnants of the castle were used as a weapons depot.
6. The Castle once served as a Citadel
Sforzesco Castle has seen it all, from being damaged by its owner to being damaged in the war and becoming a weapon depot.
The Castle once served as a Citadel after the governor’s seat was moved to Ducal Palace in 1535.
Its garrison was occupied by 1,000 to 3,000 men who were led by a Spanish castellan.
A few years later, the castle was renovated to modern fortifications and its shape changed to a hexagon.
External fortifications of the castle extended to 3 kilometres and covered an area of 25.9 hectares.
It was used as a fort by the Austrians in Lombardy who replaced the Spaniards.
7. There are museums Sforzesco Castle
After the monarchs left the city of Paris took over the management of the Castle.
Today, it houses several small museums known as the Civici Musei Castello Sforzesco.
The museums have Egyptian funerary objects and prehistoric artefacts from Lombardy dating from Paleolithic period to the Late Iron Age and Italy’s last Celtic peoples of the 1st century BC.
Belgioioso collection of 17th and 18th century Flemish and Dutch paintings are also found in the museum.
Other artefacts include keyboard instruments, ancient tennis balls and dozens of spectacularly detailed Trivulzio Tapestries.
The Tapestries of the Twelve Months was designed by Bramantino in 1503. He laced them in the ducal workshop at Vigevano.
8. Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà can be found in this Castle
The last work of 89-year-old Michelangelo, the unfinished Rondanini Pietà, is housed in its own little museum inside the castle.
Michelangelo started his career at 23 and was the prime artist of his time.
He was considered a genius when it came to painting, murals architecture and engineering.
His last work is a sculpture that he did not finish due to illness. He loved his chisel and marble and spent days in his studio.
The sculpture was never finished because he died a few days later.
9. Sforzesco Castle is quadrangular
The shape of the castle changed from the original which was a square. Currently, Sforzesco castle has a quadrangular plan.
It has square towers and an ogival gate with its walls facing the north of Milan.
The Castle was once accessed through a drawbridge. Torre Ducale has a loggia bridge built by Bramante.
It was used to connect Corte Ducale and Cortile della Ghirlanda. This was a wall that was protected by a ditch filled with water.
10. Leonardo da Vinci lived here for 16 years
Leonardo moved to Milan in 1482 to be a court painter for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza.
He lived in the Castle while creating many of his masterpieces such as the Madonna of the Rocks, Lady with an Ermine and The Last Supper fresco.
Leonardo also took part in other fields such as planning, engineering, and event planning.
The Duke gifted him with a small vineyard in 1498. It was from there that Leonardo painted the Last Supper.