|Milan (Italian Milano; ancient Mediolanum), city, northern
Italy, capital of Milano Province and of Lombardy Region. The second largest
Italian city in population (after Rome), it is a leading commercial, financial,
and manufacturing center of Italy and a major center of intellectual and
artistic life. Milan is mainly a modern city, surrounded by industrial
suburbs. It has many tall apartment and office buildings in the business
district and extensive residential and industrial sections. A subway system
was opened in 1964. The principal square is the Piazza del Duomo, at one
end of which stands the Duomo, or cathedral, a huge Gothic structure of
white marble, begun in 1386 and completed in 1965. To the southwest of
the Piazza del Duomo is the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio (AD 386). Near the
basilica is the 15th-century Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Adjacent
to the church is a former Dominican monastery, in the refectory of which
is the famous fresco Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.
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|Among institutions devoted to culture in Milan is the 17th-century
Palazzo di Brera, which houses the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, a library,
and the Brera Art Gallery. The Palazzo dell'Ambrosiana houses the Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, which was opened in 1609 and was perhaps the first public library
in Europe. Milan also has excellent museums of art, historical events,
and natural history; the Institute for the Study of International Politics;
the world-famous Teatro alla Scala opera house; a noted conservatory of
music; and several universities.
Commerce and Manufacturing
Milan leads Italian cities in the manufacture of chemicals and textiles. Other important products include aircraft, automobiles, foodstuffs, clothing, glass, leather and rubber goods, machinery, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. The city has a large book and music publishing industry, many banks, and the principal stock exchange of Italy. An international trade fair is held annually in Milan in April.
Ancient Mediolanum is believed to have been founded by a Celtic people. Captured by the Romans in 222 BC, it flourished under the Roman Empire and became the residence of the emperors of the West in the 4th century AD. The city was sacked by the Huns under Attila in about 450 and was destroyed by the Goths in 539. By the end of the 8th century the city had begun to prosper again. During the Middle Ages, Milan was governed by a number of archbishops, under whom the city had a certain degree of independence. The archbishops, however, gradually lost their temporal power to the lower feudal nobility, who transformed Milan into a prosperous commune in the 11th century. In 1162 Milan was razed by troops under Emperor Frederick I. The city recovered sufficiently to help secure the victory (1176) of the Lombard League over Frederick near Legnano. The victory opened a new period of prosperity. In 1277 a noble family, the Visconti, succeeded in wresting control of the city from the ruling Della Torre family; the Visconti ruled until 1447. The reign of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, 1st duke of Milan (1351-1402), was a particularly prosperous period and was regarded as a golden age. In 1450 the Italian soldier Francesco Sforza seized power and founded a line that remained firmly in control of Milan until 1500, when the city was conquered by France. The Sforzas continued to rule as puppets of successive foreign invaders, including the French, the Swiss, and the Austrians. The Sforza line died out in 1535, and soon thereafter Milan came under the rule of Spain. Spain ruled until 1713, when the city was ceded to Austria by the terms of the Peace of Utrecht. Napoleon ousted the Austrians in 1796 and made Milan the capital of the Cisalpine Republic.
Restored to Austria in 1815, Milan became a center of Italian patriotic resistance, and in 1848 it briefly expelled the Austrians. In 1859, the Italians, aided by the French, freed Milan from Austrian control. In 1861 Milan joined the kingdom of Italy and subsequently prospered. During World War II it was heavily bombed. In the postwar period Milan experienced great commercial expansion and urban renewal. Population (1991) 1,369,231.