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10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Sforza Castle

by Web Editor
A panoramic view of the Sforza Castle, photo credits (c) Milano Panoramica

It is widely considered one of the landmarks and most known symbols of Milan, though the Sforza Castle features interesting stories and details that are unknown to most of the tourists and locals alike. The art historian Stefano Zuffi has rounded up some of the most interesting curiosities for Where Milan.

1. Leonardo and the Castle

The Sforza Castle is the place where Leonardo da Vinci spent his golden years as an artist. As you explore its magnificent fifteenth-century rooms, you’ll note that his genius remains very much alive here.

2. The masterpieces

It was here that he portrayed figures from the court in works such as the Portrait of a Musician, Lady with an Ermine and La Belle Ferronière; he frescoed the magical Sala delle Asse, organized banquets and performances, designed extensions to the Castle (which were never built), presented inventions worthy of his genius and took part in who knows how many conversations on art, mathematics, and nature.

3. Its appearance

Construction of this imposing, military-like, square building which measures some 200 meters on each side began in 1450. The Castle features a moat, three courtyards and four imposing towers at the corners.

4. The castle during the Renaissance

Unfortunately, following the fall of the Sforza duchy at the end of the 15th century, the Castle fell into decline under the foreign rulers of the city, who turned it into nothing more than common military barracks. It even risked being completely demolished on more than one occasion.

5. The 19th-century splendour

Fortunately, at the end of the 19th century, thanks to the architect Luca Beltrami, the Sforza Castle was completely restored to its former glory, with the renovation of the surviving parts and the reconstruction of those missing, so visitors today can explore a magnificent complex replete with art, history and culture.

6. What can you visit at the castle?

You can visit the museum which is organized into several different sections, or simply enjoy a stroll through the courtyards of the large gardens behind the castle. If you have time to spare, we suggest a walk along the battlements that run the length of the walls, offering a wealth of marvelous views.

7. What are the works on display?

The finest art collections belonging to the City of Milan are on display here in the Castle, where you can admire a splendid array of furnishings, musical instruments, tapestries, ceramics, ancient weapons, coins, and above all, paintings and sculptures, including the world-famous Rondanini Pietà by Michelangelo.

8. The most impressive spots

One of the most delightful spaces in the museum is the Ducal Court, home to the dukes of the Sforza family since 1466. Especially impressive features of the Court include the loggia, the Elephant Portico, the Ducal Chapel and, above all, the marvelous frescoes painted in theSala delle Asse, the most thrilling of the historical settings in the Castle.

9. A secret spot: the Sala delle Asse

Leonardo da Vinci executed the frescoes in the Sala delle Asse by order of Ludovico il Moro, transforming the room to appear like a pergola. He painted sixteen mulberry trees intertwined with knotted ropes, celebratory plaques and coats of arms of the Sforza family. Traces of the artist’s drawings of roots burrowing into the rocks are still visible on one of the walls.

10. The treasures of the Trivulziana Gallery

Lastly, among the ancient manuscripts of the Trivulziana Library, you’ll have the chance to admire the Codex Trivulzianus, a priceless notebook featuring notes and drawings by Leonardo.

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