This magnificent and majestic architecture, situated in a circular piazza surrounded by a metaphysical atmosphere – a work by Vittorio Viganò -, represents one of the most important neoclassical monuments of Milan and one of most ancient access door to the city. Its construction began in 1807, under the guide of the architect Luigi Cagnola and it was planned to celebrate the victories of Napoleon I, that earmarked a generous amount to start it realization. In fact the first dedication was to the general, and the grandiose door had to be similar to a Triumph Arch, retracing the roman triumph arches beloved by neoclassical culture.
The construction was interrupted after the clamorous defeat of Napoleon I in Waterloo and were resumed only in 1826 when Italy passed under the Hapsburg dominion; it was Ferdinando I of Austria in person that wanted the work to be concluded, in occasion of his entrance in Milan. This changed the dedication of the arch that became a Peace Arch. It took twelve years to end the construction and the architect Cagnola never managed to see its work concluded: he died some years before, in 1833. From that year the direction of the plan passed to another architect: Carlo Giuseppe Londonio. After Magenta’s victory of 1859, the arch saw the passage of Napoleon III and Vittorio Emanuele II.
Arriving at this majestic monument’s feet and pointing to the top of the arch it is possible to observe a group of statues figuring the Sestigia of Peace, forged by the milanese sculptor Abbondio Sangiorgio, accompanied by the four Victories of Giovanni Putti. It doesn’t end here, in the front there are the personifications of the four main Italian rivers: the Po, the Adda, the Ticino and the Tagliamento, and a long series of marble sculptures. A part from the historical hints, a funny curiosity concerns the upper complex of bronze sculptures: have you ever looked really good up there? The horses are rotated of 180 degrees, their position was modified during the Hapsburg epoch to make fun of the French, as their back now points towards France.