Along with the Cathedral - Milan's most famous and much beloved monument - the big Castle is linked to the vicissitudes and dramatic events that the city has been experiencing over the past centuries. For many years, in fact, it has represented a symbol of the power in the hands of the Dukes, as well as of the foreign dominators. Only at the beginning of the 20th century the Castle assumed its distinctive role, becoming a place of culture, which hosted numerous Lombard art collections. The Castle was named after Francesco Sforza, who transformed it into a ducal residence in 1450. But its origins date back to the second half of the 14th century, at the time of Galeazzo II Visconti.
After the Unification of Italy , projects were started for the restoration of streets, squares, buildings and whole areas of Milan. A debate began in particular on the restoration of the city historical buildings, including the Sforza Castle and the big area around it. Cesare Beruto was entrusted with a project to redesign the Piazza d'Armi. He wanted to built elegant blocks of buildings and avenues (current Foro Bonaparte , via Canova and Via Melzi d'Eril). In the late 17th century, according to a project by Emilio Alemagna, the area between the Castle and the Corso Sempione was transformed into today's Parco Sempione. In 1893, the castle was given to the City of Milan. Some citizens proposed its demolition because it was still largely regarded as a symbol of the old tyranny. Other Milanese people proposed to demolish only a part and to put in a straight avenue between the Cordusio and Arco della Pace. Quite peculiar projects were also brought in. Angelo Colla, for instance, suggested to transform the castle into a pseudo-gothic monument.
The "historic restoration" began in 1833 under the supervision of the Milanese architect Luca Beltrami who proposed a kind of "philological" restoration based on what was written in the antique graphic and literary sources. Beltrami started by lowering the circular tower situated on the east side, which was later used as a drinkable water reservoir. The restoration went on with the reconstruction of the top of the circular tower on the west side and the Torre di Bona, the digging of the moat, the rearrangement of the Ducal Courtyard and the Rocchetta, the demolition of the Ghirlanda and the Cavallerizza.
The results of the first stage of the historic restoration were unveiled on the occasion of the Esposizioni Riunite, a major cultural event hosted at the Castle in 1894. About 43,088.50 liras were collected to go on with the restoration, which, from 1895 to 1897, regarded the reconstruction of windows , cornices, roofs and floors.
The old rooms were restored, walls scraped down rediscovering beautiful frescos lying beneath. Spaces for cultural institutes and for art and archaeological museums were set in the Ducal Courtyard and in the Rocchetta. Opening to the public was in May 1900. The restoration by Luca Beltrami ended in 1905, as the reconstruction of the Filarete tower was completed. The tower was dedicated to King Umberto I. The Castle was finally given to the Milanese people. Again, bombing raids in August 1943 seriously damaged the Castle, in particular the Rocchetta. Later restored, the Sforzesco Castle today represents one of the most interesting and entertaining arts centres in Milan.
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