Visconti Castle

Detail of the Castel of Visconti in Pavia

The Castello Visconteo or the Visconti Castle is located in the town of Pavia in the region of Lombardy. The castle had been built on the orders of Galeazzo II Visconti in the year 1360, after conquering the city. The castle had been the main residence for the Visconti family. There is a large park north of the castle including Certosa of Pavia which had been founded in the year 1396 and had been used as a private chapel for the powerful family.


Visconti Castle History

Bartolino da Novara had been the architect who had been entrusted with the task and although it was built with sturdy fortifications, the castle was built mainly as a residence. The Castle was built in a square, with square towers at the corners. Surrounded by a large moat, the castle had four entrances on all four sides. The entrances were heavily fortified and contained drawbridges, on either side of the castle wall. The façade is in fired red brick with a double row of lancet windows.

During the time of Galeazzo II, the castle was known for its magnificent library created by Francesco Petrarca. Gian Galeazzo, son of Galeazzo II completed the castle with decorations made by talented artists of the late Gothic and Renaissance.

As power in Milan shifted from the Visconti to the Sforza families, Francesco Sforza commissioned new frescoes for the castle. However the Sforzesco did not alter the castle too much except for creating and restoring frescoes.

During the famous Battle of Pavia, between the French and Spanish in 1525, the northern wing of the Visconti castle was destroyed by French artillery. The battle itself took place in the park that connected the castle with the Certosa of Pavia a few miles away. When the Spanish took up residence in the Castle, they did some restoration work as shown by the arms of Spanish families in the halls on the first floor of the East.

In later centuries, the castle was affected by a slow decline, army barracks, until – purchased by the Municipality of Pavia in 1921 – began the first restoration.

Visconti Castle in Pavia


The Castle Today

Today only part of the quadrilateral castle remains today three wings, with two corner towers. The interior of the castle contains some of the best surviving Gothic architecture in Lombardy, much of it not found in other buildings of Lombard origin.

Since World War II, Visconti Castle has been the seat of the Civic Museums of Pavia. The castle houses cultural and archaeological exhibits that include Gothic and Lombard findings. Several art galleries including the Malaspina gallery, the seventeenth and eighteenth century gallery, and the picture gallery of the nineteenth century. Other museums include the Museo del Risorgimento, the Ethnographic Museum and the Gipsoteca Robecchi briquettes, as well as temporary exhibitions. Recently the stables of Visconti castle were restored and will be used as further exhibition space.

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