Castello di San Giorgio was commissioned by Francesco I Gonzaga to the architect Bartolino da Novara, and built on the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria di Capo di Bove between 1395 and 1406.
In 1458, the architect Luca Fancelli, at the behest of the Marquis Ludovico II Gonzaga, renovated the castle, which definitively lost its military and defensive functions.
The castle was for many years the residence of Isabella d’Este, wife of Francesco II Gonzaga, one of the most famous noblewomen of the Renaissance. As the Lady of the manor, Isabella invited numerous artists and humanists of the time at the castle, such as the painters Andrea Mantegna and Pietro Perugino, the polymath Leonardo da Vinci, or the poets Ludovico Ariosto and Baldassarre Castiglione.
The castle remained the Gonzaga residence for about a century, until Guglielmo Gonzaga moved his apartments to the renovated Palazzo Ducale.
Starting with 1815, after the Austrian occupation of the city, the castle became a maximum security prison where opponents of the regime were imprisoned.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The Castle of San Giorgio is a square-plan building with four towers at the corners, surrounded by a moat with three drawbridges.
Inside, there are many beautifully decorated halls, of which we can mention Sala dei Soli (Hall of the Suns), located on the ground floor and decorated with 15th century frescoes, Sala degli Stemmi (Hall of the Coat of Arms), which is accessed by a spiral staircase, Salone degli Affreschi (Hall of the Frescoes), Sala delle Sigle, Isabella d’Este’s bridal chamber, Saletta della Grotta (Hall of the Grotto), part of Isabella d’Este’s apartment, Sala delle Armi (Hall of Arms), in which Giulio Romano painted 12 heraldic coats of arms, Chapel of the Castle, built by Giovanni Battista Bertani in 1563, and Sala dello Zodiaco (Hall of the Zodiac), with traces of paintings by Giulio Romano.
Camera Picta (Painted Chamber), also known as Camera degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber), is a wonderful room located on the piano nobile of the northeastern tower of the castle, frescoed with illusionistic paintings over a period of nine years by Andrea Mantegna.
Scalone di Enea (Staircase of Aeneas), the work of Giovanni Battista Bertani of 1549, connects the castle with Palazzo Ducale. At the end of the staircase, one enters the courtyard of the castle, enclosed by the loggia built by Luca Fancelli in 1472.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castello di San Giorgio is located about 1.6 kilometers away from the Mantua railway station. The closest bus stop is Duomo, located in the northeastern corner of Piazza Sordello, on the bus Lines 4C, 4S, 4T, 6 and 12.