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THE DUCAL RESIDENCE

As Francesco Sforza died in 1466, his firstborn son, Galeazzo Maria, became Duke of Milan. He was a refined, cultured young man who liked luxury and was used to attend the French Court, as well as those in Mantua and Ferrara. He had spent his childhood in the palace of Pavia, developing a sort of passion for his mother's ancestors, in particular for Giangaleazzo Visconti, whose portrait was painted in many frescos at the Castle. He liked to imitate Gian Galeazzo's style in dressing and his taste in choosing hounds. As he wanted to move the entire court into the castle, Galeazzo Maria decided to transform the old fortress into a luxury residence. Again, architects called in to work on the project are Bartolomeo Gadio and Benedetto Ferrini from Florence. The latter had already been working on some projects commissioned by the Sforza family since 1452.
The building of the new residence went on quickly. Galeazzo Maria had the Castle enhanced with the Ducal Courtyard and other elements along the Rocchetta. The chronicles of that time report that the Sforza family's lifestyle was quite simple. They liked luxury when choosing clothes, horses and jewellery but used to live in rooms just next to the hen house. At night, they used to sleep in the same rooms where they had held meetings during the day.
The architects worked unceasingly. On the occasion of the French bride's arrival, Bartolomeo Gadio had to design a stable that could host as many as ninety horses.

arcades in the Rocchetta courtyard The Ball Room

After years of incessant works overseen by the duke, who had many ideas but often changed his mind indeed, the Castle became a luxury residence. The Rocchetta, which was already provided with many defensive elements, was enhanced with an elegant Renaissance portico, probably designed by Benedetto Ferrini. Inside the Rocchetta were wide rooms, such as the 'Sala della Balla' (Ball Room), on the first floor, where Galeazzo Maria used to play his favourite sport, very similar to tennis for many aspects.


The Ducal Apartments

the Portico dell'Elefante detail of the ducal courtyard Inside the Ducal Courtyard Galeazzo Maria Sforza commissioned the open-air hall and a portico - today known as 'Portico dell'Elefante' because of the fresco portraying an elephant painted on the arcade. Originally, there were also other animals painted on it, such as a lion, of which you can still see the hind paws. The ducal family's private apartments on the ground floor and on the first floor of the Corte Ducale are provided with elegant arcades designed by Ferrini and with frescos painted by groups of artists with heraldic subjects, which were much appreciated by Galeazzo Maria, and ornamental patterns. The 'Sala dei Ducali', 'Sala delle Colombine' and 'Sala degli Scarlioni' belong to this period. Access to the upper floor is through a stairway with little steps, designed with the aim of allowing the Duke to go up on his horse.

the Cappella Ducale The Chapel

Galeazzo Maria and his architects cared in particular for completing the Corte Ducale. The Ducal Courtyard was built in 1473, then frescoed in the same year by painters such as Bonifacio Bembo, Giacomino Vismara and Stefano Fedeli, whose names are mentioned in some documents that are still kept in the archives. Inside the refined and luxury Corte Ducale is a beautiful Chapel, which the Duke managed to liven up with 22 choristers from the different European Courts.



Last works in the castle

the Bona Tower Galeazzo Maria Sforza was killed on December 26 1476 in front of the Saint Stephen Church. His widow Bona had a high tower built in the most protected area of the Castle: the Rocchetta. From there, she could look out on all the building. The tower is known today as 'Torre di Bona'. But Ludovico il Moro, Galeazzo Maria's brother, took power and commissioned new works for the Castle. He was responsible, in fact, for bringing great artists in Milan to work on his castle. He had Galeazzo Maria's initials, which were painted on the walls of many rooms in the castle, replaced with his'. Then, he had the room on the ground floor of the Torre Falconiera decorated with new elements. the PonticellaLeonardo da Vinci painted the frescos inside Sala delle Asse (the famous pergola by Leonardo can be still admired today after long restoration). Leonardo also painted another fresco on one of the walls of this room, of which today remains a monochromatic fragment. The Ponticella was probably designed by Bramante. It is a wide space built above the moat with a portico and three little rooms, one of which was decorated with a painting by Leonardo, now lost. Ludovico il Moro had the Portico inside the Rocchetta completed. In 1490 the Sala del Tesoro was frescoed by the Bramantino. One of the most famous frescos of the Castle, 'Argo', by Bramantino, though spoilt, can still be admired in this room.

The Castle historical background



Castello Sforzesco - Piazza Castello   20121 MILANO