Milan History

It is presumed Milan was originally founded by the Celts of Northern Italy around 600 BC and was conquered around 222 BC by the Romans, who gave it the name of Mediolanum. In the 4th century, at the time of the bishop Saint Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius I, the city was briefly the capital of the Western Roman Empire.

From the Pataria to the Sforzas

In the eleventh century the city regained its importance and began to impose its power. Milan became a prosperous, if seldom quiet, comune. The eleventh century saw the birth and growth of several papal and church reform movements, such as the Peace and Truce of God and the Gregorian reforms. Milan itself, the powerful but corrupt church was put under siege by the reformers of the so-called pataria, a local movement led by both religious and secular figures. In the latter half of the century, Milan and its province suffered ecclesiastical schism and confusion as well as violence and war as the patarini struggled to reform the clergy. With peace and order attained in the early 1090s, Milan enterred the wider struggle between the power of the popes and the emperors.

In the twelfth century, she led the other Italian cities in gaining semi-independence from the Holy Roman Empire in the wars of the Lombard League against Frederick Barbarossa, culminating in the glorious Battle of Legnano (1176). Thus, during the Middle Ages Milan became one of the most rich and powerful cities of Europe (due to its commerce and industries) conquering and influencing at times great part of northern Italy. At the beginning of the 11th Century, Milan experienced several civil outbreaks. The main conflicts were between the Nobles and the commoners, who found a religious expression in the Pataria movement. Therefore, a tripartite polity was formed, creating a compromise between the great nobles, lesser nobles, and plebeians, led by a podestà. There was also fighting between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who supported the pope and emperor respectively. The ruling family of Milan, the Viscontis, supported the Ghibellines, and the emperor acknowledged Ottone Visconti as the Archbishop. The Visconti House went on to peacefully conquer Pavia, Piacenza, Bergamo, Brescia, and Parma. In 1354, power fell into the hands of brothers Galeazzo and Bernabò Visconti. Originally they split the city in two to share the power, but rejoined in 1359 to defeat Pavia. Pavia then became Galeazzo's city, where be built a university. When he died in 1387, he left his land to his son, Gian Galeazzo Visconti. However, Bernabo was a different child. He ruled under strict laws, was threatened with excommunication, and became greedy after his brother's death. In 1385, when he attempted to take all the land back under one rule, Gian Galeazzo imprisoned him. Gian Galeazzo went on to be a powerful ruler, who expanded his empire across northern Italy and even into Tuscany, gathering land as he went. The only northern city-state to avoid his conquest were Venice and Florence; near this last city he died from illness in 1402 while trying to subdue it. Gian Galeazzo's sons, Giovanni Maria Visconti and Filippo Maria Visconti split up the land, which then either became independent or was conquered by Venice. Giovanni became duke, but in 1412 was assassinated amid political controversy. Filippo had no sons, ending the Visconti line. He died in 1447, when a popular government was established. Filippo did have a daughter, who married Francesco Sforza, a renowned condottiero. He later was hired to protect the city state with the creation of the popular government, but instead took over, creating the Sforza line. Francesco died in 1466, leaving the land to Galeazzo Maria Sforza. He was disliked because of his cruelty, and assassinated in 1476. His 7-year-old son, Gian bGaleazzo Sforza, with Galeazzo Maria's brother, Ludovico Sforza (Ludovico the Moor), becoming the de facto ruler of Milan. Ludovico was a learned man, adding much to universities and architecture, but when Gian Galeazzo married Princess Isabella of Naples, Ludovico's persuasion of Gian Galeazzo came to an end. Isabella disliked the amount of power Ludovico had, and turned to her family in Naples for help. In return, Ludovico turned to Charles VIII of France, who could claim Naples through the House of Anjou.

200,000 inhabitants.

It is estimated that at the start of 14th century the city may have touched the number of 200,000 inhabitants. During the Plague of 1349 Milan was one of the few places in Europe that was spared by the epidemic, but it was deeply affected by the plagues of 1402 (50,000 deaths), 1542 (80,000), 1576 (17,000) and 1629 (also known as Great Plague of Milan, 70,000 deaths). In the meantime its power was checked by Florence and Venice; thus last city conquered eastern Lombardy after the battle of Maclodio and kept it for centuries.

During the Renaissance Milan was ruled by dukes of the Visconti (1272-1447) and later Sforza (1449-1499, 1512-1515, 1521-1535) families, who had great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Bramante at their service. After trying to conquer the rest of northern Italy in the late 14th and 15th century, Milan was conquered by France, and then later on by emperor Charles V, who took it in 1535 as a dependency of his Spanish possessions. The Spanish domination (up to 1700) is remembered as an epoch of bad rule and decline, but this is debatable, since the economy still flourished and textile industry kept growing in the countryside around the city. In the 18th century Austria replaced Spain as Milan's overlord, because the Spanish line of Habsburgs had died out: the Austrians provided a sound administration who did much to help the city. But the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars saw the city annexed, and capital, into the French satellite state of the Cisalpine Republic, which later became the Kingdom of Italy. After this period, Milan was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia under Austrian rule. By this time nationalism and liberalism were on the rise, and the Austrians were no more welcome. Milan eventually became one of the main centers of the Risorgimento, with notable moments as the Cinque Giornate, a victorious popular revolt against the Austrian garrison in 1848, whose success was soon rendered short-lived by Piedmont's defeat on the battlefields. In 1859 (after the second of the Wars of Italian Independence) Austrian rule was ended by the Kingdom of Sardinia (which transformed into the kingdom of Italy in 1861). The newly formed Savoy monarchy encouraged the use of the Neo-Renaissance style as a way to express patriotism, an excellent example of which is the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in via Gesù. The city began a steady growth in population and industrial output, soon gaining unrivalled leadership in Italy. As a critical industrial center of Italy, Milan was the target of many heavy aerial bombings during World War II. The city was bombed even after Pietro Badoglio surrendered to the allied forces in 1943 - Milan was part of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic puppet state, and an important command centre of the German Army stationed in Italy. When war in Italy was finally over, April 25, 1945, Milan had been heavily damaged and entire neighborhoods such as Precotto and Turro were destroyed. After the war, the city was reconstructed and again became an important financial and industrial centre of Italy. More than 30% of the buildings were completely destroyed and another 30% were so heavily damaged that they were demolished in the first years after the war. Most of those buildings are located in the city centre. Hundreds of buildings built in the last 1,000 years were lost.

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