1902 Encyclopedia > Milan, Italy


MILAN (the Latin Mediolanuin, Italian Milano, and German Mailand), a city of Italy, situated near the middle of the Lombard plain, on the small river Olona, in 45° 27' 35" N. lat. and 9° 5' 45" E. long. It is 390 feet above the sea-level, and lies 25 miles south of the Alps at Como, 30 miles north of the Apennines, 20 miles east of the Ticino, and 15 miles west of the Adda.

The plain around Milan is extremely fertile, owing at once to the richness of the alluvial soil deposited by the Po, Ticino, Olona, and Adda, and to the excellent system of irrigation. Seen from the top of the cathedral, the plain presents the appearance of a vast garden divided into square plots by rows of mulberry or poplar trees. To the east this plain stretches in an unbroken level, as far as the eye can follow it, towards Venice and the Adriatic ; on the southern side the line of the Apennines from Bologna to Genoa closes the view; to the west rise the Maritime, Cottian, and Graian Alps, with Monte Viso as their central point ; while northward are the Pennine, Helvetic, and Illnetian Alps, of which Monte Rosa, the Saasgrat, and Monte Leone are the most conspicuous features. In the plain itself lie many small villages ; and here and there a larger town like Monza or Saronno, or a great building as the Certosa of Pavia, makes a white point upon the greenery.

The commune of Milan consists since 1873 of the city within the walls (area 1513 acres) and the so-called Corpi Santis without the walls (area 15,415 acres). The population of the whole area increased from 134,528 in 1800 to 242,457 in 1861, 261,985 in 1871, and 321,839 in 1881, - the city within the walls contributing 110,884 in 1801, 196,109 in 1861, 199,009 in 1871, and 214,004 in 1881. The climate is very variable ; there is a difference of 41° Fahr. between the extreme summer heat and winter cold. The average number of wet days is 72, and of snowy days 10 per annum.

Milan is built in a circle, the cathedral being the central point. The city is surrounded by a wall 7 miles in circumference, and immediately outside the wall a fine broad thoroughfare makes the circuit of the city. The streets inside are for the most part narrow and crooked ; the main streets are the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, the Strada S. Margherita, the Via Manzoni, the Corso Porta. Ticinese, and the Corso Porta Romana. There are few piazzas of any size ; the largest is the Piazza del Duoino, which has recently been extended, and the houses around it modernized. To the west of the city is the open space of the Foro Bonaparte and the Piazza d'Armi, with the square keep of the Visconti castle, flanked by two granite towers, between them. Tile castle was partly destroyed in 1447 by the Ambrosian republic, rebuilt by Francesco Sforza, enlarged by the Spanish governors, and taken by Napoleon in 1800, when the outer fortifications were razed to the ground, and the walls left as they now are. North of the Piazza d'Armi is the modern cemetery, with a special building and apparatus for cremation, erected in 1876.

Among the buildings of Milan the most important is the cathedral, begun under Gian Galeazzo Visconti, in 1386. It is built of brick cased in marble from the quarries which Visconti gave in perpetuity to the cathedral chapter. The name of the original architect is not known, but it is certain that many German master masons were called to Milan to assist the Italian builders. After St Peter's at Rome and the cathedral of Seville the Duomo of Milan is the largest church in Europe. It is 477 feet in length and 183 in width ; the nave is 155 feet high, the cupola 226 feet, and the tower 360 feet. The work was continued through many centuries, and after the designs of many masters, notably of Amadeo, who carried out the octagon cupola, and of Tibaldi, who ornamented the doors and windows of the facade in the 16th century. The work was finished, under Napoleon, in 1805. The style is Gothic, though its purity is destroyed by the introduction of Romanesque windows and portals on the facade. The form of the church is that of a cross. Inside there are double aisles, and aisles in the transepts. The roof is MILAN supported by fifty-two columns, with canopied niches for statues instead of capitals. The windows of the tribune contain brilliant painted glass. To the right of the entrance is the tomb of Archbishop Heribert, the champion of Milanese liberty ; next to that is the tomb of Otho Visconti, founder of that family as a reigning house, and in the right transept the monument of Giacomo dci the corsair of Como, brother of Pope Pius IV. and uncle to Saint Carlo Borromeo. Under the dome, in a crypt, lies the embalmed body of this cardinal saint (1538-84), canonized for his good deeds during the great famine and plague of 1576. The body is contained in a silver sarcophagus faced with rock-crystal. The roof of the cathedral is built of blocks of white marble ; and the various levels are reached by staircases carried up the buttresses ; it is ornamented with turrets, pinnacles, and two thousand statues.

There are four other churches of interest in Milan. S. Ambrogio, the oldest, was founded by St Ambrose in the 4th century, on the ruins of a temple of Bacchus. It is remarkable for its fine atrium, and inside for the mosaics in the tribune, dating from the 9th century, and for the " pala " or plating of the high altar, a curious and ancient specimen of goldsmith's work. S. Maria delle Grazie is a Dominican church of the 15th century. The cupola, with sixteen sides wrought in terra-cotta, is attributed to Bramante. S. Gottardo is now built into the royal palace, and only the apse and the octagonal campanile remain. The latter, a beautiful example of early Lombard terra-cotta work, was built by Azzone Visconti in 1336, and was the scene of the murder of Giovanni Maria Visconti in 1412. The small church of San Satiro, founded in the 9th century, was rebuilt by Bramante in the 15th : the sacristy is one of that master's finest works.

The royal and archiepiscopal palaces are both worthy of note. The former stands on the site of Azzone Visconti's palace, and the present building was the viceregal lodge of the Austrian governors. It contains one fine hall with a gallery supported by caryatides. The Broletto, or town-ball, was built by Filippo Maria Visconti for his general Carmagnola, in 1415, who, however, never lived in it. The Great Hospital is a long building with a fine facade in terra-cotta from the designs of the Florentine Antonio Averlino ; it dates from the reign of Francesco Sforza (1456), and can accommodate 2400 patients. Among the modern buildings the most remarkable are the Arco della Pace, which stands at the commencement of the Simplon road (begun in 1804 by Napoleon, finished in 1833 under the Austrians), and the great Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, connecting the Piazza del Duomo with the Piazza della Scala - a graceful glass-roofed structure 320 yards long, 16 yards wide, and 94 feet high, built in 1865-67 at a cost of 320,000 lire (Z12,800). The Milanese are justly proud of this popular promenade, as the finest of its kind in Europe ; and in the best of their four considerable theatres - the Scala, built in 1778 on the site of a church raised by Beatrice Soala, wife of Bernabe Visconti - they also possess the largest theatre in Europe, with the single exception of the S. Carlo at Naples.

Milan is rich in works of art. It has been the home of many excellent sculptors and architects, among others of Ainadeo and of Agostino Busti, known as Bambaia, - whose work may be seen in the cathedrals of Como and Milan, in the Certosa of Pavia, and in the terra-cotta buildings of the Lombard towns. Later on, towards the close of the 15th century, the refined court of Lodovico Sforza attracted such celebrated artists as Bramante the architect, Gaffurio Franchino the founder of one of the earliest musical academies, and Leonardo da Vinci, from whose school came Luini, Boltraffio, Gaudenzio Ferrari, and Oggiono. In still more recent times Beccaria (1738-94) as a jurist, Monti (1754-1828) as a poet, and Manzoni (1785-1873) as a novelist, have won for the Milanese a high reputation in the field of letters.

The picture gallery of the l3rera is one of the finest in Italy. It possesses Raphael's famous "Sposalizio," and contains many frescos by Luini, Gaudenzio Ferrari, and Bramantino. The Venetian school is particularly well represented by works of Paolo Veronese, Paris Bordone, Gentile Bellini, Crivelli, Cima da Conegliano, 13onifazio, Moroni, and Carpaccio. Luini may also be studied in the church of Monastero Maggiore, a large part of whose walls he painted in fresco. In the archaeological museum, on the ground floor of the Brera, are preserved many interesting monuments, among others the tomb of Beatrice della Scala and the equestrian monument of her husband Bernabb Visconti, as well as the most exquisite sepulchral monument of Gaston de Foix, the work of Agostino Busti. The library of the Brera contains upwards of 200,000 volumes, including some important Venetian chronicles, but it is not so rich in MSS. as the celebrated Ambrosian library, for which see LIBRARIES, vol. xiv. p. 531.

Agriculture. - The district of Milan is renowned for its excellent agriculture. It may be divided into two regions, where different systems of farming are pursued and different crops produced. The first region lies on the lower slopes of the Alps, where they sink into the plain. This is called the dry Milanese, for it is watered by torrents only, which have worn themselves too deep a bed to allow of irrigation, and the peasants are obliged to collect the rainwater in large mud-lined tanks called " poppe." The soil is for the most part thin and light, and is frequently washed down the incline into the plain ; in some parts it is only kept in its place by stone walls reared at great cost. The farms are smaller here than in the lower plain, and are let on a system which is a compromise between the mezzadria, which once obtained in the district, and regular leases. The tenant pays a money rent for the house; and for the land he either pays in kind or in a money equivalent, supplemented by labour given to the landlord. In cases where vines or fruit trees are grown, the landlord supplies and maintains them till they come into fruit. The landlord carries out all improvements, and the tenant holds the farm at his pleasure. The rotation of cropping is for three years. The value of these farms varies greatly, ranging from 7 to 14 lire the pertica (1000 square yards). The district produces maize and wheat in abundance, a little flax and millet, apples, and wine. The second agricultural district is that which lies in the plain ; it is called the wet Milanese, fronktbc elaborate system of irrigation which makes the meadows yield a constant succession of crops. The plain is traversed by innumerable canals at various levels, crossing one another on bridges, or by siphons, so that the peasant can flood his fields at any moment. The system is as old as the 12th century; it was improved by Leonardo da Vinci, and is now the most perfect network of irrigation in Europe. The farms vary in extent from 1500 to 4500 pertiche. They are let upon leases for nine, twelve, or fifteen years, at rents ranging from 8.50 to 12.50 lire the pertica, while those near a city may bring from 15 to 20 lire. The rotation of cropping is five-yearly. The meadows yield four crops of grass in the year ; the first three - the maggengo, the agostino, and the terzuolo - are cut, the fourth is grazed off. Where the ground is perfectly flat and water can stagnate, rice is grown • this crop is continued for four years in succession, then the land is rested with cereals and grass. The other crops are maize and wheat. But the chief occupation is the supply of dairy produce. The cows are bought in the Swiss cantons of Uri, Zug, Lucerne, and Schwyz, the last furnishing the best milkers. The cheese called Parmesan comes from the .Milanese ; and the rich cheese, made of unskimmed milk, known as Stratehino, is made principally at the village of Gorgonzola, 12 miles east of Milan.

Industries. - The industries of this district have increased very rapidly since the union of Italy, and the city is now the chief commercial centre in North Italy. The principal industry of Milan and the Milanese is the production and manufacture of silk. For feeding the worms mulberry trees are largely cultivated on the plain; and the district counts upwards of 200 factories, where the silk thread is unwound from the cocoons, yielding 4,000,000 lb of raw silk in the year. Some of this is exported to France for manufacture, but the Milanese can now almost rival their neighbours in the production of silk stuffs, velvets, and brocades. Cotton is manufactured at Saronno and Legnano, fustian at Busto, linen at Cassano, combs at Burlando, and porcelain and carriages of very excellent workmanship in Milan itself.

History. - Bellovesus, king of the Celts, who crossed the Alps when Tarquinius Priseus was king in Rome, is the traditional founder of Milan. The city became the capital of the Insubrian Gauls, and was taken by the Romans in 222 B.C. As a Roman municipinm it continued to increase in magnificence and importance ; and under Constantine it was the seat of the imperial vicar of the West. Under Theodosius, in the 4th century, Milan, to judge from Ausonius's description (Ordo Yob. Urbium, v.), must have been rich in temples and public buildings. Theodosius died at Milan after doing penance, at the bidding of St Ambrose, for his slaughter of the people of Thessalonica. Ambrose is still venerated in Milan as the founder of the Milanese church and the compiler of the Ambrosian rite, which is still in use throughout the diocese. After his death the period of invasions begins ; and Milan felt the power of the Huns under Attila (452), of the Heflin under Odoacer (476), and of the Goths under Theodorie (493). When Belisarius was sent by Justinian to recover Italy, Datius, the archbishop of Milan, joined him, and the Goths were expelled from the city. But Uraia, nephew of Vitigis the Gothic king, subsequently assaulted and retook the town, after a brave resistance. Uraia destroyed the whole of Milan in 539 ; and hence it is that this city, once so important a centre of Roman civilization, possesses so few remains of antiquity. Narses, in his campaigns against the Goths, had invited other barbarians, the Lombards, to his aid. They came in a body tinder Moil', their king, in 568, and were soon masters of North Italy, and entered Milan the year following. Alboin established his capital at Pavia, and Milan remained the centre of Italian opposition to the foreign conquest.

The Lombards were Arians, and the archbishops of Milan from the days of Ambrose had been always orthodox. Though the struggle was unequal, their attitude of resolute opposition to the Lombards gained for them great weight among the people, who felt that their archbishop was a power around whom they might gather for the defence of their liberty and religion. All the innate hatred of the foreigner went to strengthen the hands of the archbishops, who slowly acquired, in addition to their spiritual authority, powers military, executive, and judicial. These powers they came to administer through their delegates, called viscounts. When the Lombard kingdom fell before the Franks under Charles the Great in 774, the archbishops of Milan were still further strengthened by the close alliance between Charles and the church, which gave a sort of confirmation to their temporal authority, and also by Charles's policy of breaking up the great Lombard fiefs and dukedoms, for which he substituted the smaller counties. Under the confused government of Charles's immediate successors the archbishop was the only real power in Milan. But there were two classes of difficulties in the situation, ecclesiastical and political; and their presence had a marked effect on the development of the people and the growth of the commune, which was the next stage in the history of Milan. On the one hand the archbishop was obliged to contend against heretics or against fanatical reformers who found a following among the people ; and on the other, since the archbishop was the real power in the city, the emperor, the nobles, and the people each desired that he should be of their party ; and to whichever party he did belong he was certain to find himself violently opposed by the other two. From these causes it sometimes happened that there were two archbishops, and therefore no central control, or no archbishop at all, or else an archbishop in exile. The chief result of these difficulties was that a spirit of independence and a capacity of judging and acting for themselves was developed in the people of Milan. The terror of the Hunnish invasion, in 899, further assisted the people in their progress towards freedom, for it compelled them to take arms and to fortify their city, rendering Milan more than ever independent of the feudal lords who lived in their castles in the country. The tyranny of these nobles drove the peasantry and smaller vassals to seek the protection for life and property, the equality of taxation and of justice, which could be found only inside the walled city and under the rule of the archbishop. Thus Milan grew populous, and learned to govern itself. Its inhabitants became for the first time Milanese, attached to the standard of St .Ambrose, - no longer subjects of a foreign conqueror, but a distinct people, with a municipal life and prospects of their own. For the further growth of the commune, the action of the great archbishop Halbert, the establishment of the carroccio, the development of Milanese supremacy in Lombardy, the destruction of Lodi, Como, Pavia, and other neighbouring cities, the exhibition of free spirit and power in the Lombard league, and the battle of Legnano, see the article ITALY. See also LOMBARDS.

After the battle of Legnano, in 1174, although the Lombard cities failed to reap the fruit of their united action, and fell to mutual jealousy once more, Milan internally began to grow in material prosperity. After the peace of Constance (1183) the city walls were extended ; the arts flourished, each in its own quarter, under a syndic who watched the interests of the trade. The manufacture of armour was the most important industry. During the struggles with the emperor Barbarossa, when freedom seemed on the point of being destroyed, many Milanese vowed themselves, their goods, and their families to the Virgin should their city come safely out of her troubles. Hence arose the powerful fraternity of the "Umiliati " who established their headquarters at the Brera, and began to develop the wool trade, and subsequently gave the first impetus to the production of silk. From this period also date the irrigation works which render the Lombard plain a fertile garden. The government of the city consisted of (A) a parlament° or consign° grin-1de, including all who possessed bread and wine of their own, - a council soon found to be unmanageable owing to its size, and reduced first to 2000, then to 1500, and finally to 800 members ; (B) a credenza or committee of twelve members, elected in the grand council, for the despatch of urgent or secret business : (C) the consuls, the executive, elected for one year, and compelled to report to the great council at the term of their office. The wily in which the burghers used their liberty and powers, secured by the peace of Constance, in attacking the feudal nobility ; how they compelled the nobles to come into the city and to abandon their castles for a certain portion of the year ; how the war between the two classes was continued inside the city, resulting in the establishment of the podesth ; and the nature and limits of this office, - all this has been explained in the article 1 rALY.

This bitter and well-balanced rivalry between the nobles and the people, and the endless danger to which it exposed the city owing to the fact that the nobles were always ready to claim the proteetion of their feudal chief, the emperor, brought to the front two noble families as protagonists of the contending factions, - the Torriani of Valsassina, and the Visconti, who derived their name from the office they had held under the archbishops. After the battle of Cortenova, in 1237, where Frederick II. defeated the CueIf army of the Milanese and captured their carroecio, Pagano della Torre rallied and saved the remnants of the Milanese. This act recommended him to popular favour, and he was called to the government of the city, - but only for the distinct purpose of establishing the "eatasta," a property tax which should fall with equal incidence on every citizen. This was a democratic measure which marked the party to which the Torriani belonged and rendered than hateful to the nobility. Pagano died in 1241. His nephew Martino followed as podesth in 1256, and in 1259 as signore of Milan, - the first time such a title was heard in Italy. The nobles, who had gathered round the Visconti, and who threatened to bring Ezzelino da Romano, the Ghibelline tyrant of Padua, into the city, were defeated by Martino, and nine hundred of their number were captured. Martino was followed by two other Torriani, Filippo his brother (1263-65) and Napoleone his cousin (1265-77), as lords of Milan. Napoleone obtained the title of imperial vicar from Rudolph of Hapsburg. But the nobles under the Visconti had been steadily gathering strength, and Napoleone was defeated at Desio in 1277. He ended his life in a wooden cage at Castel Barad°llo above Como.

Otho Visconti, archbishop of Milan (1262), the victor of Desio, became lord of Milan, and founded the house of Visconti, who ruled the city - except from 1302 to 1310 - till 1447, giving twelve lords to Milan. Otho (1277-95), Matteo (1310-22), Galeazzo (1322-28), Azzo (1328-39), Lucchino (1339-49), and Giovanni (1349-54) followed in succession. Giovanni left the lordship to three nephewsMatteo, Galeazzo, and Bernabb. Matteo was killed (1355) by his brothers, who divided the Milanese, Bernabb reigning in Milan (1354-85) and Galeazzo in Pavia (1354-78). Galeazzo left a son, Wan Galeazzo, who became sole lord of Milan by seizing and imprisoning his uncle Bernabb. For an account of this most powerful prince see ITALY. It was under him that the cathedral of Milan and the Certosa of Pavia were begun. He was the first duke of Milan, having obtained that title from the emperor Wenceslaus. His sons Giovanni Maria, who reigned at Milan (1402-1912), and Filippo Maria, who reigned at Pavia (1402-1447), succeeded him. In 1412, on his brother's death, Filippo united the whole duchy under his sole rule, and attempted to carry out his father's policy of aggrandizement, but without success.

Filippo was the last male of the Visconti house. At his death a republic was proclaimed, which lasted only three years. In 1450 the general Francesco Sforza, who had married Filippo's only child Bianca Visconti, became duke of Milan by right of conquest if by any right. Under this duke the canal of the Martesana, which connects Milan with the Adda, and the Great Hospital were carried out. Francesco was followed by five of the Sforza family. His son Galeazzo Maria (1466-76) left a son, Gian Galeazzo, a minor, whose guardian and uncle Lodovico usurped the duchy (1479-1500). Lode-vial was captured in 1500 by Louis XII. of France, and Milan remained for twelve years under the French crown. In the partial settlement which followed the battle of Ravenna, Massimiliano Sforza, a protege of the emperor, was restored to the throne of Milan, and held it by the help of the Swiss till 1515, when Francis 1. of France reconquered the Milanese by the battle of 3-larignano, and Massimiliano resigned the sovereignty for a revenue from France. This arrangement did not continue. Charles V. succeeded the emperor Maximilian, and at once disputed the possession of the Milanese with Francis. In 1522 the imperialists entered Milan and proclaimed Francesco Sforza (son of Lodovico). Francesco died in 1535, and with him ended the house of Sforza. From this date till the war of the Spanish succession (1714) Milan was a dependency of the Spanish crown. At the close of that war it was handed over to Austria ; and under Austria it remained till the Napoleonic campaign of 1796. For the results of that campaign, and for the history of Italian progress towards independence, in which Milan played a prominent part by opening the revolution of 1848, the reader is referred to the article ITALY. The Lombard campaign of 1859, with the battles of Solferino and Magenta, finally made Milan a part of the kingdom of Italy.

Literature. - Pictro Verri, Storia di Milano; Colin, Storia di Milano; Canth, Rlustrazione Grande del Lombardo Veneto; the Milanese chroniclers in Muratorrs Rer. Bal. Scriptores; Sismondi, Italian Republics; Ferrari, Riroluzione Litta, Famiglie celebri, s.v." Torrlanl," "Visconti," " Storm," and "TrIvulzh" Muratori, Annali crItalia; Hallam, ilistory of the Middle Ages; and Mediolanum, 4 vols., 1881. Bonvicino da Rive gives a contemporary account of Milan in the 15th century. (II. F. B.)

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