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Castello Sforzesco (English: Sforza Castle) is a castle in Milan, Italy, that used to be the seat and residence of the Duchy of Milan and one of the biggest citadels in Europe. It now houses several of the city's museums and art collections.
The original construction on the site began in the 14th century. In 1450, Francesco Sforza began reconstruction of the castle, and it was further modified by later generations. A number of the rooms originally had elaborate internal decoration - the best known of these being the Sala Delle Asse, which contains ceiling paintings by Leonardo da Vinci.
After the French victory in the 1515 Battle of Marignano, the defeated Massimiliano Sforza, his Swiss mercenaries, and the cardinal-bishop of Sion retreated into the Castello Sforzesco. However, King Francis I of France followed them into Milan, and his sappers placed mines under the castle's foundations, whereupon the defenders capitulated.
Under the Spanish domination, the castle was developed: between 15th and 16th century, it had a garrison of some 1000 to 3000 men, and was one of the biggest citadels in Europe. It became a star fort, following the addition of 12 bastions. The external fortifications reached 3 km in length and covered an area of 25,9 hectares.
Most of the outer fortifications were demolished during the period of Napoleonic rule in Milan under the Cisalpine Republic. The semi-circular Piazza Castello was constructed around the city side of the castle, surrounded by a radial street layout of new urban blocks bounded by the Foro Buonoparte. The area on the "country" side of the castle was laid out as a vast 700m by 700m square parade ground known as Piazza d'Armi.
After the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the castle was transferred from military use to the city of Milan. Parco Sempione, one of the largest parks in the city, was created on the former parade grounds.
The government of Milan undertook restoration work, which was directed by Luca Beltrami. The Via Dante was cut through the medieval street layout in the 1880s to provide a direct promenade between the castle and the Duomo on axis with the main gate. The central Filarete tower above the main city entrance was rebuilt between 1900 and 1905 as a monument to King Umberto I.
Allied bombardment of Milan in 1943 during World War II severely damaged the castle. The post-war reconstruction of the building for museum purposes was undertaken by the BBPR architectural partnership.
The Civic Museums
The Castello complex includes some museums:
- The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco, with an art collection which includes Andrea Mantegna's Trivulzio Madonna and masterpieces by Canaletto, Tiepolo, Vincenzo Foppa, Tiziano Vecellio and Tintoretto.
- The Museum of Ancient Art which includes Michelangelo's last sculpture (the Rondanini Pietà), the armory, the tapestry room and some funerary monuments.
- The Museum of Musical Instruments.
- The Egyptian Museum.
- The Prehistoric collections of the Archaeological Museum of Milan.
- The Applied Arts Collection.
- The Antique Furniture & Wooden Sculpture Museum.
- The Achille Bertarelli Print Collection.
The Trivulziana Library holds Leonardo da Vinci's 'Codex Trivulzianus' manuscript. Also in 2012 new paintings attributable to Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio have been discovered at the castle.
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- (Italian) Guida Milano, Touring Club Italiano, 1985, pages 438-439.