When Ludovico Sforza, known as il Moro, decided to transfer his court from Milan to Vigevano, making it his summer residence, he brought with him, in addition to his wife Beatrice d’Este and his court, two exceptional consultants: Leonardo da Vinci and Donato Bramante. It was 1493 and the influence of these two giants has survived to this day.
Vigevano is a beautiful town in the province of Pavia, known today for the many footwear and engineering companies. From its Lombard origins onwards it has always played a prominent role first thanks to the Milanese families of the Visconti and Sforza, then as a free municipality and in modern times as a world-class footwear industry and then for precision mechanics.
It was the Sforzas with Ludovico called “il Moro” who made Vigevano a real city, modernizing it and making it a human scale, thanks to the help of Donato Bramante and Leonardo da Vinci. In Vigevano, Leonardo perfected his studies on water, creating underground roads, water stairs for irrigation and weapons.
Bramante left us the beautiful Piazza Ducale with the majestic tower made for the Moro in 1492, is 134 meters long and 48 meters wide, built on three sides with porches and facades homogeneous, on the fourth side instead we find the cathedral church of Sant’Ambrogio, built later, which makes the square even more impressive.
The Piazza Ducale, created to give prestige to the city, is the anteroom of the entrance to the Visconti-Sforzesco castle. The square is dominated by the imposing tower of Bramante from the top of which you can enjoy a breathtaking view, with its clock and the majestic bells that ring through the city. From the staircases under the tower you enter the courtyard of the castle and its underground streets make it enchanted.
It is right in the castle, a magical place, that we find the greatest architectural presence of Leonardo da Vinci, who arrived in Lombardy at the age of 30, after his experience in Florence where he produced three fundamental works hours preserved in the Uffizi. Strongly wanted by Ludovico Sforza, initially to help him in various projects related to his rich Milanese neighborhoods, later to strengthen Vigevano.
Leonardo’s studies related to the flows of water that then flowed into the Codex Leicester, include his observations on the flows of the River Ticino, which today gives its name to the park at the gates of Vigevano. Leonardo created several mills, still visible in the city; another important footprint is found in the underground and elevated roads, of which we find many drawings, a tangible example is Leonardo’s intuition to help the stables feed the horses that were in the stables of the castle, creating trapdoors above the horses so that they can feed directly; or in the project of the majestic arches of the underground streets that we find today.
To celebrate his genius Vigevano has created a beautiful permanent exhibition called Leonardiana, right in the castle, which houses 24 of his works, reproduced at very high resolution, that give the visitor the opportunity to compare his drawings and writings of various eras as it is not possible to do in other museums dedicated to him.
A high museum representing the presence of Leonardo in Vigevano is the Eco museum of the Mora Waalweg path, located in a fifteenth-century mill, a building always wanted by Ludovico Sforza. Over the centuries the mill has passed through many hands, up to the East Sesia Irrigation Association, which in 2000 made it a museum, hosting a permanent exhibition of 50 working wooden models of Leonardo da Vinci’s projects with their respective writings.
In this museum at the entrance we find a working mill that thanks to its path that winds along the garden gives us the opportunity to study the water flows as Leonardo did.
These two exhibitions located in Vigevano allow us to reconstruct the extraordinary way of thinking of this man, thirsty for knowledge, who wrote on any piece of paper that happened to him and who was amazed by the water trying to govern it.
In Vigevano Leonardo da Vinci probably began to work on the project of the Last Supper, then built in the refectory of the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
And if the young woman portrayed by Leonardo in La dama con l’ermellino is identifiable in Cecilia Gallerani, lady-in-waiting and lover of the Moor, it is likely that the study of this famous painting was also born in Vigevano.
Leonardo da Vinci has given new prestige to Vigevano, making it unique and eternal as he is, and the genius loci of this town still shines today.
ARTICOLO A CURA DI VALENTINA BONAVITA