The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Milan

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Milan
Edition of 1920. See also Milan on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MILAN, mĭl'ạn or mĭ-lăn', second city of Italy, the capital of the province of Milan, an archiepiscopal city on the Olona, about 90 miles by rail northeast of Turin. It is situated in a beautiful and fertile plain between the Adda and Ticino, which feed several canals, one of which, encircling a considerable portion of the interior of the city, divides it into two unequal parts. The town is built in the form of an irregular polygon, and is surrounded, except on the castle side, by a wall or rampart called the Bastione, encircled on the outside by a fine road shaded by chestnut-trees. Suburbs have sprung up beyond this circuit, and the general railway station is also outside. The city is entered by 11 gates, several of which are magnificent. The streets leading from these gates are wide, well paved and lighted and traversed by electric street car lines; the lateral streets are less commodious. The houses are built mostly of brick, but have often a handsome and showy exterior. The principal street is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, a prolongation of the new and handsome Corso Venezia, together leading from the cathedral to the Porta Venezia; other good streets are the Corso Porta Romana, Via Torino, Via Dante, etc. The chief square is the Piazza del Duomo, in which stands the Duomo or cathedral; and another is the Piazza della Scala. Besides fine public gardens (Giardini Pubblici) there is a large public park (Parco Nuovo) occupying an area that was long a drill-ground, and was previously the site of the citadel and connected works. This has been finally laid out and planted, and an artificial lake and mound have been constructed. Adjoining these is an amphitheatre, capable of containing 30,000 spectators. The castle — recently restored and now converted into a museum of art and antiquities — fronts the park on one side; at the opposite side is the Porta Sempione with the fine Arco Sempione or Arco della Pace, a triumphal arch of white marble.

Among the public edifices of Milan the first place belongs to the Duomo or cathedral, a magnificent structure, inferior in magnitude to Saint Peter's at Rome, but in some respects not an unworthy rival. It is built of white marble, and though exhibiting a somewhat incongruous mixture of styles, in which the ancient Gothic occasionally gives way to the modern Italian, is one of the most impressive ecclesiastical edifices in the world. The Duomo in its present form was commenced in 1387, and is not yet entirely completed. Its form is that of a Latin cross, divided into five naves, terminated by an octagonal apsis, and supported by 52 octagonal pilasters of uniform size, except four, which, having to bear the cupola, are larger. It is 486 feet long, the tower is 356 feet high, it occupies an area of 14,000 square yards and can hold 40,000 people. Around the exterior are 4,500 niches, of which above 3,000 are already occupied by statues; in the interior everything is of the most imposing and gorgeous description. Among the other remarkable edifices are the basilica of Sant' Ambrogio, founded by Saint Ambrose in 387, and though completely repaired in 1631, still retaining much of its original form and containing many relics of the ancient building embedded in its walls; the churches of Sant' Eustorgio, San Lorenzo, Santa Maria della Grazie, with a cupola and sacristy by Bramante, and the celebrated ‘Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci; Santa Maria della Passione, a majestic edifice, with excellent paintings and a magnificent mausoleum; San Paolo; San Carlo Borromeo, etc. Among the palaces are the Palazzo Reale or La Corte, adorned with numerous frescoes and surmounted by a lofty tower; the archiepiscopal palace, adjoining the cathedral; the Palazzo di Comando Militare; the Palazzo Marino, now the Municipio, a colossal structure; the Palazzo Ciani, completed in 1861, and adorned with heads of Victor Emmanuel, Garibaldi, etc.; and the Palazzo di Brera or Delle Scienze Lettere ed Arte, containing the Pinacoteca or picture-gallery, with a very valuable collection of paintings and statutary, and containing also the library of the Academy, 300,000 volumes. Besides this library Milan possesses the Ambrosian Library, the earliest, and still one of the most valuable, public libraries in Europe. There is also a valuable museum of natural history and one recently founded, of theatrical relics, a world-famous conservatory of music, a military college, a theological seminary, a veterinary school. The principal structure erected in recent times is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a kind of covered street connecting the Piazza del Duomo with the Piazza of La Scala Theatre. It is 320 yards long, contains handsome shops and is adorned with 24 statues of celebrated Italians. Milan has a number of theatres; La Scala is the second largest theatre in Europe, and accommodates 3,600 spectators. The principal benevolent endowments are the Ospedale Maggiore (founded 1456), richly endowed, and occupying a vast range of buildings in the Gothic style, with accommodation for 4,000 patients, and several other hospitals for the cure of diseases. Since it formed part of United Italy no town has more rapidly increased in commercial and industrial activity and in population than Milan. The spinning and throwing of silk employ a large number of hands. Other important articles of manufacture are machinery, locomotives and railway cars, automobiles, boilers, electrical apparatus, tobacco, cotton, lace, carpets, hats, glass, earthenware, chemicals, white-lead, jewelry, etc. Besides these, corn, rice, cheese and wines are the principal articles of trade. The municipality is one of the most progressive in Europe; great street improvements have been carried out; there is an adequate street railway service giving communication with the neighboring communes; and, while there is still much overcrowding and congestion of population, the death rate has been greatly reduced. Milan is the see of an archbishop, the seat of courts of primary resort, criminal and mercantile courts and a Court of Appeal for all Lombardy. The United States is represented by a consul.

The foundation of Milan is attributed to the Insubrian Gauls; but the first distinct notice of it occurs 221 B.C., when it was subdued by the Romans, under whom it acquired so much importance, that in the division of the empire attributed to Constantine the Great it ranks as the second city of Italy. In the middle of the 5th century it was sacked by the Huns under Attila, and again in the following century by the Goths. Greater horrors yet awaited it; and the Goths, who had been driven out by Belisarius, having regained possession by the aid of the Burgundians, gave it up to the flames and put almost all its inhabitants to the sword. Rebuilt, it again became very flourishing under the Lombards and Charlemagne. Arrogance grew with its prosperity, and Milan lorded it so haughtily over the neighboring towns and republics, that in 11C2, when the Emperor Frederick I, whose supremacy it refused to acknowledge, had resolved to take summary vengeance, the inhabitants of Pavia, Cremona, Lodi, Como and Novara eagerly hastened to the task and razed it to the ground. The cruelties practised produced a reaction, and in 1167 the famous Lombard League was formed at Pontita, and among other important results succeeded in bringing back the Milanese; and the city, again rebuilt, became even more populous and influential than before. It long continued, however, to be torn by internal factions, headed by the leading nobility, among whom the Visconti at last gained the ascendency, and ruled it from 1395 till 1447. They were succeeded by the Sforzas, whose rule ended in 1535. Milan passed next into the possession of the Spaniards. At the close of the War of Succession it was allotted to Austria (1714). Under Bonaparte it became the capital of the Cisalpine Republic, of the Italian Republic, and of the Italian kingdom. In 1815 it was restored to Austria, and continued the capital of the Austro-Italian kingdom until 1859, when by the Peace of Villafranca Lombardy was ceded to Piedmont. Pop. about 663,000.

Bibliography.— Ady, C. M., ‘A History of Milan under the Sforza’ (New York 1907); Beltrami, L., ‘Reminiscenze di storia e d'arte nella città di Milano’ (Milan 1862-67); Noyes, Ella, ‘Story of Milan’ (in the ‘Mediæval Town Series,’ London 1908); Shaw, Albert, ‘Municipal Government on the Continent of Europe’ (New York 1906); Valeri, F. M. ‘Milano’ (Bergamo 1906).