In the last years of Sforza rule, in the early 16th century, Northern Italy became one of the territories contested by the French and the Spanish monarchies. The Spanish prevailed, and the city was governed by them for nearly two centuries (1535-1706). This was not a time of development. The city was oppressed by the scourge of the plague
in 1630; but it was at least enlivened by the cultural initiatives of the Borromeos
- especially cardinals Carlo and Federico. The Ambrosiana
was founded in this period, and seminaries and the palazzo of the Jesuit order (today's Brera) were built.
The great European wars of the late 17th and early 18th centuries brought Milan under the domination of the Austrian Imperial dynasty of the Hapsburgs. The period when Maria Theresa
held sway, during the second half of the 18th century, was characterized by a strong revival operated by lay forces in all sectors of society. The city experienced a recovery which encompassed its economy, the functioning of its public administration, arts and culture, education and scientific development. The Brera Academy was founded in this period and the Scala
Opera theater, the Palazzo Reale
and the Villa Reale
were built, as well as many other private palazzi, in the neo-classical
style which was to continue throughout
In the course of the wars that followed the French Revolution of 1789, Milan came under French control. At first it became capital of the Cisalpine Republic and, thereafter, of the so-called 'Regno Italico', which was governed by relatives of Napoleon and comprised nearly the whole of Northern Italy. This was a brief period characterized by great
artistic and ideological zeal
which bequeathed the city with its first town-planning schemes, together with major public works such as th Arena and some of the new 'Porte' (city gates).
The Austrians returned to Milan after Napoleon's defeat in 1815, but they were no longer enlightened reformers. Their minister Metternich described Italy as 'a mere geographic expression' when, in fact, Milan had been introduced, during the Napoleonic era, to the ideas of Italy's national unification. In 1848
the city rebelled against the Austro-Hungarians, and in 1859 it became part of the Savoy Kingdom, which was to become, in 1861,