(b. ca. 1400, Firenze, d. 1469, Roma)

View of the Ca'Granda in 1740

Archivio Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda, Ospedale Maggiore, Milan

In 1456, the duke Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, his wife as well as staunch backer of the Sforza's policy in providing assistance, laid the foundation stone of the hospitale grando, the "big hospital," that by incorporating the administration of sixteen hospitals operating at that time in the city earned the appellation of maggiore, or "major." Thanks not only to the quality of the services it provided to patients from all extractions and provenance, including non-residents and foreigners, but also to its ability to attract voluntary workers as well as donations from benefactors, the hospital was soon being acknowledged as the Ca' Granda de' Milanesi, the "Big House of the Milanese".

The project was initially entrusted to Filarete, who sought inspiration from the potent symbol of the cross. The layout involved two crossbars, one for men and the other for female patients, developing within a square, each defining four square-shaped inner courtyards. The two larger blocks were thus connected by a large rectangular courtyard at the centre of which stood a church. The project underwent significant changes as the original architectural solutions had to be adapted to the rigours of the local climate and also scaled down as a consequence of the chronic lack of funds, that slowed down work to such an extent that construction was terminated but a few centuries later.

The engraving showing the view of the Ca' Granda is by the German draftsman and engraver Friedrich Bernhard Werner (1690-1778).

View the ground plan and façade of the building, from the book of Filarete.