THE VISCONTI CASTLE
Archbishop Giovanni Visconti died in 1354. His nephews Matteo II, Galeazzo II and Bernab˛ succeeded him. Matteo died one year later, so the other two brothers shared out the city. Each of them would control three gates: Bernab˛ received the eastern areas of the city and the territories east of Milan. Galeazzo II received the western areas as well as the western territories. Bernab˛'s residence was in Ca' di Can, near the Roman Gate and the Church of San Giovanni in Conca while Galeazzo II continued to live in the Palazzo Arengo, the ducal palace near the Cathedral. The 'Castello di Porta Giovia' originated as a defensive fortress across the town medieval walls, probably in the years between 1360 and 1370.
A great fortification surrounded the squared courtyard inside the Visconti Castle. In 1392, the founder's son Gian Galeazzo added a small fortress in the area opening on the countryside. This was to be used as a barracks for the salaried troops. Between the two wings of the structure stood a moat, which belonged to the medieval walls. This original construction was very similar to the Pavia Castle, which building started in 1360 following an idea of Galeazzo II. Some common features are still noticeable in the part of the Castle facing the Park. The sarizzo stone footing was built in accordance with Galeazzo Visconti and his successors' wish. It has been reported by the chronicles of that era that the Visconti wanted people from the subdued territories to help for the building. In 1392, for instance, 173 people from Bergamo and from the surrounding countryside had to work on the castle footing.
Betrayed and arrested by his nephew and son-in-law Gian Galeazzo, Bernab˛ Visconti stayed in the fortress, which was used also as a prison, for 19 days. Bernab˛ died in the Trezzo Castle in 1395.
The last of the Visconti, Filippo Maria, continued with the building of a bridge between the two parts of the fortress and a garden in the big green area next to the castle. During those years, the Castle (the biggest one among those built by the Visconti with its squared plan of 180x180 meters and its four towers in each corner) was transformed into a plain residence where the last of the Visconti lived lonely and unhappy until his death. His only daughter, illegitimate but recognised (her mother was Agnese Del Majno), Bianca Maria, got married to the mercenary leader Francesco Sforza, who had been called to defend the dukedom against the Venetian neighbours.