The Sforza Castle with the Duomo Cathedral and the La Scala Opera House is one of the most notable landmark of the city of Milan.
A brief history
The Sforza Castle is named after the duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, who ordered its construction on the ruins of a 14th Century fortification, in the middle of the 15th Century. In 1452 the duke hired one of the most important architect of those times, Antonio di Pietro Averlino (aka Filarete), who designed the main entrance and tower of the Sforza Castle, which is still known as Torre Filarete.
The decoration of the halls of the Sforza Castle continued under the dukedome of Lodovico Sforza, the grandson of Francesco, who hired Leonardo Da Vinci and Bramante. Both Leonardo and Bramante worked with Lodovico for the decoration and design of the Santa Maria delle Grazie basilica. This includes the Last Supper, the masterpiece of the Italian renaissance, in the refectory of the monastery right next to the basilica.
With the fall of the Lodovico’s dukedom and the beginnning of the Spanish domination of Milan, the Sforza Castle was turned into a military fortress while the official residence of the rulers of Milan was moved to what is now know as the Royal Palace, near the Duomo Cathedral.
Under the Spanish first and the Austrian then, the Sforza Castle was mainly used for military purposes. This led to important losses in terms of artworks. The architecture of the facility was mostly focused on defensive needs.
It was not until the unification of Italy, in 1861, that the Sforza Castle went back to its original splendor with important renovations commissioned by the Italian royal family. The Torre Filarete was completely rebuilt by architect Luca Beltrami according to the orginal design of the 16th Century.
The Sforza Castle has a quadrangular shape. Each side of the medieval walls has a 200 meters length and the whole perimeter of the castle is surrounded by a defensive ditch.
The main access of the Sforza Castle is surmounted by the Torre Filarete which features a bas-relief of King Humbert the First, to whom the tower is dedicated, who was assassinated in Monza, near Milan, in 1900.
Above this bas-relief there is the statue of Saint Ambrogio, the saint patron of the city of Milan, and the six emblemes of the dukes of Milan.
The interior of the castle is split in three different areas. The main courtyard known as Piazza d’Armi (parade ground) mostly used for military purposes, and the two smaller areas the Cortile della Rocchetta and the Corte Ducale, which were the private gardens of the duke’s residence.
The Sforza Castle hosts several permanent art exhibitions.
- The Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco that features artworks by Canaletto, Titian, Mantegna and Tiepolo
- The Rondanini Museum which features Michelangelo’s last work the Pietà.
- The Egyptian museum
- The Museum of Musical Instruments
The castle is also the main venue for public and private events throughout the year and it is one of the favorite places of the Milanese people for their sunday walk.