The Sforza Castle in Vigevano and the “Campanone”
The Visconti and Sforza Castle in Vigevano, one of the largest fortified complexes in Europe, has a very long history. Back in the Lombard Age and until the 10th century, its village coincided with the entire “Vicus Gebuin” settlement, i.e. the ancient Vigevano.
Between the 13th and 14th centuries, these seven hectares were set apart from the rest of the city and became home to the Visconti family, and one hundred years later to the Sforzas. The huge structure was extended by Ludovico il Moro, and later Francesco II Sforza completed the final touches and decoration, with special focus on the Ducal Palace that is now a single unit with the Castle.
Even the great architect Donato Bramante took part in the Castle’s history, designing the tower that rises in the highest point of the town, of which it now a symbol. Inside the bell chamber is the “Campanone” (literally, “big bell”) immortalized by novelist Lucio Mastronardi in his 1962 masterpiece, “Il maestro di Vigevano”:
“The bell sounds eleven thirty. The big bell has rung each hour and half hour for two hundred years: some hear it for the first time, others for the last. Who knows when they’ll ever change it?”
But no, they’ve never changed it. It was a generous gift of Charles V, and is still there doing its job at every hour.