Castello Sforzesco

The castle's walls with Filarete's Tower

The castle's walls with Filarete's Tower

Along with the Duomo the Castello Sforzesco is Milan's grandest monument. Founded in the 1300's by Galeazzo II di Visconti the Castle was demolished and rebuilt several times over the centuries. In 1450 the castle was entirely reconstructed by Francesco Sforza, who entrusted the design of the beautiful clock tower to the Florentine architect Antonio Averlino - il Filarete. Successively, Ludovico il Moro called on the great artists of the time, including Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci, to decorate the castle. Leonardo arrived at court primarily as a military and civil engineer and only later was he employed as an artist. His most famous contribution to the castle is the frescoed ceiling of the "Sala delle Asse". The painted canopy of entwined branches rises from 16 tree trunks along the walls forming a thick vegetation that culminates overhead in Leonardo's emblem of a double cross within a circle.

Leonardo also planned a soaring observatory tower, to be built at the centre of the facade overlooking the city centre, and unusual dome-capped temples for the corner towers, of which only his preliminary sketches remain. Sadly, his decorations on the walls of the “Saletta Negra” are no longer visible, though it is said that “il Moro” would retire here in meditation after the death of his wife Beatrice. Leonardo also organised entertainments and designed mechanisms to enliven the court parties and amaze the guests. One of the most famous and dazzling performances, the "Festa del Paradiso (Heavenly Party)" was held in the Sala Verde, his stage setting for this included a vaulted ceiling representing heaven.

Did you know that?

The Castello Sforzesco contains another important work by Leonardo, the Codex Trivulzianus. Dealing mainly with military and religious architecture, this codex is housed in the Trivulziana library and is generally kept under lock and key.