Friday, 27 November 2009

What to see: Arco della Pace, Milan

When Emperor Napoléon I became King of Italy he ordered the construction of a rod linking his capitals Milan and Paris via Lake Maggiore, Switzerland and the Simplon Pass. The beginning of that road, the tree-lined Corso Sempione, was modelled on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. At the top of Corso Sempione, serving as an entrance to the Sempione Park and its medieval Castello Sforzesco, stands the Arco della Pace, the triumphal arch commemorating Napoléon’s victories, which he commissioned the architect Luigi Cagnola to build.
The building of the Arch of Victories, as it was then called, was not completed at the time of Napoléon’s downfall, when Milan reverted to the Habsburgs. Work was only resumed in 1826 on the orders of Emperor Franz I, who changed the subjects of the reliefs to commemorate the peace of 1815 rather than his son-in-law’s victories, thereby also giving the arch its new name. It was inaugurated in connection with Emperor Ferdinand I’s coronation as King of Lombardy in September 1838.
The arch is made of Crevola marble and on top is a bronze quadriga – the Chariot of Peace by Abbondio Sangiorgio, each horse cast in one piece. The quadriga originally faced the Corso Sempione – and thereby France – but the Habsburgs had it turned around so that it now faces the Castello and the centre of Milan beyond it.
The arch is flanked by two identical, now disused guards’ pavilions (second photo). As the arch is currently under renovation (third photo), the first photo is borrowed from Wikipedia.

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