Vigevano is crowned by the Castello Sforzesco, a stronghold rebuilt 1492-4 for Ludovico Maria Sforza ('Lodovico il Moro'), who transformed the fortification of the Visconti into a rich noble residence, at the cusp of gothic and renaissance. Leonardo was his guest at Vigevano. Bramante came to work for him. The old castle has a uniquea raised covered road, high enough for horsemen to ride through, that communicates between the new palace and the old fortifications; there is a Falconry and the Ladies' Loggia made for Beatrice d'Este.
Vigevano has one of the finest piazzas in Italy, an elongated rectangle, also said to have been laid out by Bramante, and certainly built for Lodovico il Moro, starting in 1492, planned to form a noble forecourt to his castle, unified by the arcades that completely surround the square. It is significant that Lodovico demolished the former palazzo of the commune of Vigevano to create the space. The opposite end was enclosed in the 17th century by the concave Baroque facade of the cathedral, cleverly adjusted to bring the ancient duomo into a line perpendicular to the axis of the piazza and centered on it. In a gesture that combined architecture and politics, the bishop removed Sforza's rampway that led to the castello's forecourt.
The town is the birthplace of Gian Carlo Rota.
The earliest notices of Vigevano date from the tenth century, when it was a favoured residence of the Lombard king Arduin, for the sake of the good hunting in the vicinity.
The cathedral was built in 1100, rebuilt in the sixteenth century, and in the seventeenth by Bishop Caramuel Lobkowitz, 1680, himself an architect, who also contributed to the expense.
Vigevano was a Ghibelline commune, favoring the Emperor and was accordingly besieged and taken by the Milanese in 1201 and again in 1275. In 1328 it finally surrendered to Azzone Visconti, and thereafter shared the political fortunes of Milan. The Church of S. Pietro Martiere was built, with the adjacent Dominican convent, by Filippo Maria Visconti in 1445. In the last years of Visconti domination it sustained a siege by Francesco Sforza, himself a native of the city. Once he was settled in power in Lombardy, Sforza procured the erection of Vigevano as the seat of a bishop and provided its revenues.
The first bishop was Galeazzo Pietra, succeeded by his nephew Maurizio Pietra (1552). Marsilio Landriani (1594) founded a Barnabite college for the education of young men. Giorgio Odescalchi (1610) was a very zealous pastor; the process of his beatification has been commenced. Giovanni Caramuel Lobkowitz (1675), who designed the duomo's facade, was also the author of many philosophical and theological works, though his "Theologia fundamentalis" was censured. Pier Marino Sonnani (1688), a Minorite, enlarged the seminary. Nicola Saverio Gamboni was placed in the see by Napoleon in 1801.
See also Geography of Italy.