Ca’ Granda was founded by the will of Francesco Sforza and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti who, as a sign of gratitude to God for their conquest of the Duchy, wished to build a “Spedale di Poveri” (hospital for the poor).
Begun in 1456, construction continued for more than 300 years thanks to legacies and donations from Milanese citizens. The Festa del Perdono (Festival of Forgiveness), a sort of Jubilee during which indulgences were dispensed by special concession of the Holy See, was celebrated every two years on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, the hospital's patron saint.
The project was entrusted to Antonio Averlino, known as Filarete, and was subsequently completed by architects Solari, Amadeo and Pessina.
The floor plan proposed by Filarete was a rectangle comprising ten identical squares, among which the Church was to occupy a central position. The lateral portions, with a cruciform plan, were reserved for patients.
The entire complex - for centuries considered, in Europe as in Italy, a fine example of advanced hospital architecture - was surrounded by the waters of the Naviglio (canal) that ran along present-day Via Francesco Sforza and widened in the present-day streets named Via Laghetto and Via Pantano.
Anglo-American air raids in 1943 almost completely destroyed the building, and at the end of the Second World War it was handed over to the University of Milan. In 1958 it became the main seat of the University.
Restoration and renovation works, begun in 1951, were entrusted to a team of technicians - among which numbered architects Ambrogio Annoni, Piero Portaluppi and Liliana Grassi - who created a successful blend of ancient and modern and made every effort to recover the original materials. Liliana Grassi, in particular, was largely responsible for restoration of the most ancient portion of the 15th century "Crociera" (the Crossing).
Thanks to a process of promotion and enhancement begun in 2014 - the year marking the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the University of Milan - Ca’ Granda offers visitors a self-guided itinerary of the complex, with 11 totems positioned along the perimeter of the large central Cortile d’Onore (Court of Honour), in other courtyards and Largo Richini Portico; text versions are also available in the virtual tour of the complex.
Every Saturday, from 9am to 4.30pm. Group visits to the Crociera and the Ca’ Granda courtyards may be booked by filling in the following form.
Take a virtual tour tour to discover the history and architecture of the old hospital.