In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Milan to 1535

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Renaissance and Reformation Milan to 1535
Andrea Gamberini
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 April 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0289


Thanks to the prestige and temporal power of its church, Milan in 1000 already exercised influence well beyond the borders of the diocese, and was able to consolidate this further in the communal era, when the Ambrosian city was at the head of the leagues opposed to the emperors Frederick I and Frederick II. Yet it was only in the 14th century, after the establishment of Visconti lordship over the city, that Milan became the center of a wide-reaching regional state, which by 1402 occupied a large part of northern and central Italy, but which would shrink during the 15th century and the Italian Wars. A European marketplace of primary importance, but also the seat of a munificent and generous lordly and then ducal court, which attracted some of the greatest artists of the 14th and 15th centuries, from Giotto to Leonardo and Bramante, Milan found it difficult to reconcile its dual roles as a great metropolis and as capital of the state. In fact, if in the beginning of the Visconti adventure the Milanese had broadly supported the dynasty, from which they received offices and resources, the progressive entrance into the state bureaucracy of foreign personnel and the advent of a nonnative dynasty, the Sforza, inclined to promote newcomers from outside Milan, eventually compromised relations between the dukes and the Ambrosian elites, who never became the governing class of the state. This dual nature of Milan, as a great European city (100,000 inhabitants at the end of the 15th century) and the capital of a regional state, is also reflected in the following notes, which contain references for both aspects, although the emphasis is very much on the first (as in the articles on Florence and Venice). Much room will be given to printed works above all, but as far as possible, space will also be given to all those instruments available (including online) to provide guidance on archival resources to researchers.

General Overviews

A glance at the works of synthesis on Milan reveals a preponderance of collective works, as opposed to monographs by individual authors. The latter, in general rather dated, can certainly provide an initial point of entry for the reader who is not an expert in the history of Milan, even if it would be preferable to have recourse to the collective works, which have greater depth and are more up-to-date historiographically.

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