Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum, Brescia, Italy

The Museum of Arms Luigi Marzoli (Italian: Museo delle armi Luigi Marzoli), located in the Mastio Visconteo of the Castle of the city of Brescia, exhibits collections of ancient weapons of Europe.

This collection is the result of the testamentary legacy, January 26, 1965, with which the entrepreneur Luigi Marzoli of Palazzolo sull’Oglio linked to the town of Brescia his own private collection of ancient weapons, collected in fifty years of research. The collection is one of those recalled by Douglas Cooper in his 1963 volume, Great private Collections, alongside the collections of Rotschild and Sir Denis Mahon.

Inaugurated in 1988 on the installation of Carlo Scarpa and Francesco Rovetta, completely posthumous. 580 pieces (part of the 1090 pieces of the legacy of Luigi Marzoli). At the core of the collection are added further 300 pieces belonging to the Civic collections, especially firearms of the nineteenth century. Ten exhibition halls.

The weapons were placed in premises of the Mastio of Brescia Castle.

A selection is exhibited in the sixteenth-century Duranti-Marzoli palace of Palazzolo sull’Oglio, owned by the Marzoli family, where the collection was born.

The Palazzo Duranti-Marzoli is a two-storey Renaissance building of the sixteenth century, formerly the home of the Counts Duranti and acquired in 1920 by the entrepreneur Luigi Marzoli.

The building has an architectural structure consisting of two buildings joined orthogonally to L on the North-West corner and that enclose, with the portico delimited by stone columns of Sarnico, a delightful garden.

The porch leads to the ground floor where the hall and the hall are located, both with frescoes from 1770-1780. In these and other rooms on the ground floor the weapons of the collection are exhibited.

In the external façade to the west two projectiles are projected, the result of a cannonade of 1705 between the French and Austrian troops during the Spanish succession war.

The external façade, on the royal road connecting Brescia to Bergamo and Milan, is provided with an access portal in gray sandstone of Sarnico surmounted by a balcony bordered by a frame of the same material and style of the portal. The balcony opening is crowned by a broken tympanum.

The weapons:
They are weapons built in the period from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century for the white ones and up to the eighteenth for those by fire, an expression of the ability and skill of mainly Lombard artisans.

The exhibition consists of armor and parts of armor, mainly defensive in character, of the XV-XVII century, of short white arms and long fisted and auctioned in the XV-XVII century and of short and long firearms including 15 cannons of the XV-XVIII century.

Swords, swords, stalks, daggers and clearly offensive clubs are exposed from the defensive function.

There are complete armor for knight, both war and parade.

There are numerous short offensive weapons, among which the two-handed broadswords and the cinquedee, especially short and wide swords, stand out for their originality. These are accompanied by a series of arms in the auction, such as falcioni and halberds of various shapes and types, some artistically engraved.

The seventeenth-century firearm with fire ignition are represented in both the short and long version, such as pistols, pistols, threesomes, mazzagatti for the first and arquebuses, rifles, poplars, trombini and rifles for the second.

In the production of firearms, as far as Italy is concerned, the Brescia craftsmen of Valtrompia, particularly from the Gardone Val Trompia district, where the availability of raw materials, the water needed for the operation of the hydraulic machines and a capacity technique refined in centuries of production of weapons made a tradition possible.

Brescia Castle:
The castle of Brescia is a medieval fortress perched on the hill Cidneo, close to the historical center of the city of Brescia.

For anyone coming to Brescia, from any direction, is the imposing stony mass of the Castle to mark the panoramic profile of the city. The complex of fortifications, occupying an area of about 300×250 meters, is one of the largest in Italy, and completely covers the hill Cidneo. Having never had a specific function as a feudal castle, much less a noble residence, you immediately notice how the fortress, well inserted in the city context, is richer in buildings of cult and military character rather than residential and directional structures in the strict sense of the term.

The castle is accessed via an imposing sixteenth-century monumental portal, attributed to Giulio Savorgnan and built on the inspiration of the military architecture of Michele Sanmicheli, adorned with a large Lion of San Marco and the coats of arms of the Venetian rectors. On the sides you can admire the bastions of San Faustino (on the left) and San Marco (on the right). Crossing the entrance, following the path to the right you reach the bastion of San Pietro, also meeting a sixteenth-century well to which were affixed, in 1890, two stone lions of the sculptor Domenico Ghidoni. Following the path to the left, instead, you notice first the bell tower of the former sanctuary of Santo Stefano Nuovo, then skirting the Haynau building, so called because from here, in 1849, the Habsburg Marshal Julius Jacob von Haynau directed the military operations against the Brescian insurrection. On the vast square above the bastion of San Faustino there is a characteristic steam locomotive, one of the symbols of the Castle, which at the beginning of the twentieth century carried out the route Brescia-Edolo. On the right, near the long building of the officers, there is the mouth of the Soccorso road. Beyond the buildings of the Piccolo Miglio, today an exhibition venue, and the Grande Miglio, where the Museo del Risorgimento is housed. Here is also the entrance to the covered passage that leads to the fifteenth-century tower Coltrina.

Climb the ramp to reach the fourteenth-century wall with entrance with double drawbridge: on the right rises the tower of Prisoners. Proceeding on the left, it runs along the keep, inside the wall of which we can still see traces of Ghibelline crenellation. Finally we reach the northern gardens, with the top of the Coltrina tower on the left, the Martyrs’ pit in the center (where some Resistance exponents were shot in 1945) and, on the right, the French tower. Otherwise, from the fourteenth-century drawbridge, you can reach the top of the fortress with the square of the Mirabella Tower, where you also have access to the keep that houses the Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum. Inside, moreover, the remains of the foundations of the Roman temple are visible.

A hall of the weapons museum
After the Second Italian War of Independence (1859), the castle of Brescia returned to be used as a simple military prison. Shortly thereafter, the municipality bought the hill and started the restoration work, which slowly led to the military’s distortion of the fortress, making it much more similar to the place it is today, that is, a leisure center and venue for public events in Brescia. In 1904, on the initiative of Dominatore Mainetti, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Brescia, and Federico Bettoni Cazzago, mayor of the city, the Bresciana Industrial Exposition was organized, an economic event of the highest importance, inaugurated personally by King Vittorio Emanuele III. For the occasion important folklore shows and various sports competitions were organized and some temporary pavilions were built to host the exhibition. The castle was barded with an interesting temporary Art Nouveau cladding, under the direction of engineer Egidio Dabbeni, and was connected to Corso Zanardelli by an electric tramway.

In August 1909 it was the site of another exhibition, dedicated to electricity, and organized by ASM Brescia, which a few weeks earlier had obtained the assignment of production and distribution of electricity in the city.

After this last exposure, the castle was recovered as a public area by initiative of the mayor of the mayor Girolamo Orefici. It became the seat of the local Risorgimento Museum, housed in the rooms of the Grande Miglio, and of the Museum of Natural Sciences to which the zoo was soon annexed. The area outside the ramparts became an urban park.

Today the castle houses the Museo del Risorgimento, the Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum, containing armor and weapons from the medieval period, the Specola Cidnea and two large railway models.

It is possible to visit the inside and the hidden areas of the fortress thanks to guided tours by the Brescia Speleological Association, which for years has conducted explorations of passages and conduits, bringing to light forgotten paths.