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History

 
Coins issued by the three founder Cantons (Uri, Scwyz and Unterwalden) and minted in Bellinzona (1503-1529).

The post-1500 era

The living conditions of the citizens of Bellinzona did not change dramatically under the new rulers. The socioeconomic structures and the local administrative bodies remained unaltered. The Milanese functionaries were replaced by administrators from the founder cantons but the latter, contrary to their predecessors, represented both the civil and military authority. Under the Dukes of Milan, military command and civil administration had been two separate bodies.
In 1503, Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden jointly set up a government mint in the town to produce silver and gold coins; it was, however, transferred to Altdorf in 1548.
On falling under the jurisdiction of the former enemy, namely the confederates, Bellinzona's fortifications lost their strategic significance and were not enlarged any further. The confederate bailiffs favoured living in the town. In 1515 severe flooding the socalled «Buzza di Biasca» destroyed a part of the city wall but no repairs were carried out. The three castella, divided between the three sovereign cantons, (hence the names Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden) in 1506, were occupied by castellans from Central Switzerland together with a few infantry soldiers, charged with keeping public order and other police duties. In the event of war breaking out which was never the case garrisons of between 60 and 80 soldiers were allotted to each castle and, it would dppear, equipped with antiquated artillery.
In 1803, when Ticino became an independent canton, the three castles became the property of the new «State». Montebello and Sasso Corbaro fell into neglect and around 1900 were both in a serious state of disrepair as were the city and castle walls. From 1813, Castelgrande housed the arsenal and, from about 1820, the cantonal penitentiary. When, after 1850, the young Swiss Federal State undertook the creation of a line of fortifications along the St. Gotthard axis as a demonstration of its wish to defend the region, a fortified barrage, architecturally designed to resemble the medieval model, was built near Sementina. This wall, along with the much earlier structures built to ensure provisioning and the safe passage of supplies, eventually became part of the Castelgrande complex. In 1881, the Government tried in vain to sell Castelgrande but no buyers came forward.
The first efforts to prevent the complete dilapidation of the huge defensive monument were made shortly after 1900, but the first major restoration and consolidation work, directed by the architects C. WEITH and M. ALIOTH, was undertaken in the years between 1920 and 1955. Further restoration work to safeguard the future of the monument was carried out by the architect A. GALFETTI and completed in 1992.


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