The Sforza Castle, one of the most representative and popular monuments in Milano, has undergone over the centuries various and complex transformations; it has been defence fortress, military barracks, private residence and centre of cultural institutions and museums.
Because of its evident defensive structure, it underwent sieges, demolitions and reconstructions of some parts of it during French, Spanish and Austrian domination.
The events of the Castle unfold in the city’s wide window of history, beginning with the original nucleus of the castle, named Porta Giovia, dating back to 1358-1368 during Galeazzo II Visconti’s period, who used the Castle as his residence while he stayed in Milano, but mostly used it as a military base.
The Castle became Filippo Maria Visconti’s permanent residence, continuing with the consolidation and construction of a real fortress. Later, it was mainly Francesco Sforza who, as ruler of Milano in 1450, gave particular impetus to the reconstruction of thebuilding which had been seriously damaged between 1447 and 1450.
Today the Castle hosts many Civic Museums; in fact, since 1896 it has hosted one of the vastest artistic collections in the city, mainly in the Museo d’Arte Antica (Museum of Ancient Art).
There is also the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery), Raccolta di Mobili (Furniture Collection), with pieces from the 15th to the 19th century; the Rocchetta, where one can admire the Museo delle Arti Decorative (Museum of Decorative Arts), with its extremely vast collection of ceramics; the Oreficerie (Goldsmiths); one of the largest collection of musical instruments in Europe; the Arazzi Trivulzio (Trivulzio Tapestries); the Armeria (Armoury); the Museo della Preistoria e Protostoria (the Museum of Prehistory and Protohistory); the Museo Egizio (Egyptian Museum) (closed until June 2020 for refurbishments) and the Sale Viscontee, rooms for temporary exhibitions.
Finally, many important archives and libraries are located in the Castle: Biblioteca d’Arte (Library of Art), the Archivio Storico (Historic Archive), the Biblioteca Trivulziana (Trivulziana Library), the Biblioteca Archeologica e Numismatica (Archaeological and Numismatics Library), C.A.S.V.A. (Centre for Advanced Study in Visual Arts), Raccolta delle Stampe “Achille Bertarelli” (“Achille Bertarelli” Print Collection), Archivio Fotografico (Photographic Archive) and the Raccolta Vinciana (Vinciana Collection).
The last masterpiece of Michelangelo, the Pietà Rondanini, can be found in the Museo della Pietà Rondanini, opened in 2015 in the Spanish hospital inside the Castle and dedicated exclusively to the sculpture.
A guided visit to the crenulated walls of the castle. From here the whole structure of the castle can be admired from above, in particular the Corte Ducale (Ducal Courtyard).
The view towards the centre of the city is also splendid.
An evening walk to admire the illuminated castle and, turning one’s gaze in the other direction, the view of the Madonnina that stands out and shines against the sky of Milano.
In 1521, the central tower of the castle, where a munitions deposit was held, collapsed due to an accidental gun powder explosion, possibly caused by a lightning strike.
In the last 20 years of the 19th century, many proposals were put forward suggesting the demolition of the whole, or at least a good part, of the castle. Fortunately, these were not taken up and the project for the restructuring of the building was entrusted to architect Luca Beltrami, already a stout defender of the Sforza bulwark.
In 1893, the architect devised a reconstruction plan based on archive documents, paintings and contemporary literary texts that directed him towards a philological reconstruction. It provided for the recovery of decorations that were used during the era of the Sforzas, the covering of the parapet walks, the repositioning of the coat of arms of the rulers of Milano and naturally, the rebuilding of the Torre del Filarete (Filarete Tower) or the Torre Umberto I (Tower of Umberto I).
The Torre del Filarete was completely reconstructed by architect Luca Beltrami based on some graffito found in the Cascina Pozzobonelli (Pozzobonelli Farmhouse) and in an abbey. On the other hand, the architect redesigned the windows and the façade of the castle from scratch, inspired by the style of interior. The Torre del Filarete was inaugurated on the 24th September 1904 and was subsequently dedicated to Umberto I.
The antique Visconti park was reduced in size over the centuries, leaving only a dusty piazza called Piazza d’Armi, which was utilized for military exercises. Between 1891 and 1894 it was given new life thanks to the commitment of the municipal administration at the time. It cost 1,700,000 lira of the day for 21 hectares of green space, designed by the architect Emilio Alemagna. It is now Parco Sempione (Sempione Park).