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“We, the Lord of Milan and Count of Virtues, Imperial General Vicar, with the desire to please our eminent and beloved Giovanni Anguissola and Beatrice Visconti, his consort, we grant them the right to freely build a fortification as they like on their property, Grazzano, and in our district Piacenza, regardless of some decrees or our orders issued against it.
This document must be inviolably observed.
As testimony we have provided for this document to be drawn up, recorded and validated with our seal.”
Pavia, February 18,1395


The History of the Castle
With this manuscript, the Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan and of other cities in the north, authorized his sister Beatrice, married to the nobleman Giovanni Anguissola, from Piacenza, to build a castle on their property, Grazzano. The complex was laid out on a square plan with four towers at the corners: two of which had a circular base and the other two with a square base. A square courtyard surrounded by arcades was inside the building. The connecting elements above the arcades faced the internal courtyard with windows or open balconies. A square base surrounded by a wide moat, the battlemented towers in the corners, this fortress, bastion of defence for the Ghibellinis in the struggle for control of Piacenza, is true and authentic; it has everything it takes to be historically important:  cruel clashes, the hangings of prisoners and conspirators, glorious episodes. A wide moat surrounds the castle. Its classical construction plan reflects the period it was built in and testifies the influence of the Viscontis in the area. Various elements recall the Visconti castle in Pavia. Numerous reconstructions were made between successions and battles: in 1698 the pre-existing wooden drawbridge was replaced with a “quarrelled” structure (authorization signed by the notary and registrar of Piacenza, Alessio Dosini, in the favour of the Marquess Felice Anguissola. At the end of 1800, haggard peasants lived in hovels and old stables around the castle. Many parts of the castle had fallen into ruin: loggias and trenches were dangerous, the walls were crumbling and the stability of the fortress was compromised. Upon the death of Filippo Anguissola in 1870, the line of the Anguissola di Vigolzone family died out without heirs. Property passed to his mother Francesca (Fanny) Visconti, the widow of Gaetano Ranuzio Anguissola, who then, in 1883, left his possessions to his nephew Guido Visconti di Modrone. It was Guido’s son, Giuseppe Visconti di Modrone (1879-1941) who thought of enhancing the ties between the family’s coat of arms and the Piacentine possessions, giving birth to a project intending to replace the few modest constructions existing around the castle and the parish church of Grazzano with a 15th-century-style building complex. Duke Giuseppe, “a erudite man of refined taste and clear ideas,” at the beginning of the 1900’s involved the architect Alfredo Campanini (originally from Emilia, though Milan was his adopted city) in the project, who, perfectly in line with Visconti’s ideas, made considerable restoration and transformation work on the castle: apart from the structural-static reinforcement of the building, variations were brought about to the internal distribution of living spaces, to the disposition of volumes, but above all to the decorative elements. The entire construction, including the towers, was raised, the terraces were crowned with Ghibelline battlements (dovetail) and the northeastern corner tower, originally cylindrical, became quadrangular to conform to the northwestern one. This redefinition also involved the furnishing, where the Count’s refined taste was fully expressed.


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