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VMs: Naviglio Grande & the map page...

Hi everyone,

I think I *may* have identified some of the buildings on the map page: here's a link to a picture laying out the main correspondences I'm claiming.

http://voynich.info/images/naviglio.jpg <-- 50k image

I've mentioned before that I thought that the VMS map page probably represented some kind of water engineering: my working hypothesis for some time has been that it represents the various Navigli around Milan, so this is just a more easily testable version of that idea. :-)

The geography and the buildings seem to match pretty well, but my theory's far from watertight <g> *just* yet. As the flour mill still exists (!!!), I was planning to travel to Milan shortly to test this out - perhaps I will, perhaps I won't... I've posted the details so far here anyway. :-)

I've also appended a moderate amount of background information below, if anyone's inspired to help follow this through. :-)

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

* * * * * * * * *


The Navigli (canals) around Milan were the autostrada of their day, used for trade (even carrying building materials), and for travelling between major cities. During the 15th century, the Milanese elite also built many holiday houses on estates near the canals, especially by the Naviglio Grande between Abbiategrasso and the River Ticino. A fine example of this is the Villa Visconti Castiglione Maineri, near what is now (the very swanky) Cassinetta Di Lugagnano area.

Here's a site (in Italian) on the history of the Navigli:


The Naviglio Bereguarda (started in 1420, completed in 1470) connected Abbiategrasso with Pavia (and other Visconti-Sforza estates, like Motta Visconti) in the South. It was incomplete as of 1460, which is (I believe) why it appears but without any significant prominence in the map page.

The normal way to Pavia from Milan was on the Naviglio Pavese, which connected to the heart of Milan.


Given my interest in the Sforzas, Abbiategrasso (where the Naviglio Grande from Milan kinks ninety degrees, before looping up and to the left on its way to the River Ticino [and hence Switzerland]) is a key location.

In Cicco Simonetta's diary, each entry is tagged with one of three placenames - Mediolanum ("Milan"), Abbiate ("Abbiategrasso"), and Nuova ("Villa Nuova"). I'm pretty sure that the Sforza court moved between these three places: the forests out of town (beyond Abbiategrasso) were also well-renowned hunting grounds, which would seem incentive enough for a duke. :-)

Also: when (in the 1470s) there were major life-or-death political disputes among the Sforzas, Bona of Savoy (Bona Sforza) spent a lot of time in Abbiate ("the Abbey"), holed up in a "maschio" at the top of a tall tower. Coincidentlaly, Caterina Sforza (her step-daughter) also later slept in a maschio, though in Forli (according to Pasolini). My guess is that it was the wooden room right at the top of a tower, with the best view in town (though I'm far from certain about this).

Abbiategrasso, with its classical square courtyard arrangement and a known tall tower, has long seemed like a very strong candidate for the map "castle" to me.

*** The Flour Mill ("Mulino") of PAZZA BIRAGA ***

Here's the link where I found information on this place - I'm a little surprised that I can't find any further details on this obviously very historical place [its probably listed under a different name], but there you go. :-/


	Probabilmente la porzione di terra circostante la sponda
	destra del Naviglio fu la prima ad essere edificata verso
	gli inizi del XV° secolo. I primi documenti relativi al
	territorio di "Cassina Biraga" sono risalenti al 1428,
	anno in cui Maffiolo Birago costruì la roggia,facendola
	derivare dal Naviglio, per il funzionamento di un mulino.
	Questo, edificato poco dopo, al limite fra il territorio di
	Cassina Biraga e Lugagnano, è ancora esistente e in

	La costruzione mantiene ancora una struttura molto
	solida con poche aperture; su una parete si apre una
	finestra ad ogiva leggermente strombata e corniciata da
	eleganti modanature in gesso. Considerato il più vecchio
	tra i funzionanti lungo la cerchia dei Navigli, e
	perfettamente restaurato da pochi anni, conserva intatta
	sia la macina di pietra che tutti gli strumenti annessi,
	compresi gli ingranaggi in legno che collegano le pale
	alle pulegge di trasmissione. E? attualmente sede di un
	suggestivo laboratorio artigianale di biancheria e corredo
	per la casa.

My not-very-good translation ("roggia" --> mill-race?, etc):-

	The land on the right-hand bank of the Naviglio was probably
	built up towards the beginnings of the 15th century.  The first
	references to "Cassina Biraga" are in 1428, the year in
	which Maffiolo Birago constructed the mill-race, taking its
	current from the Naviglio Grande, to drive a flour mill. This
	same mill was built a little later between Cassina Biraga
	and Lugagnano, yet still exists and functions perfectly!

	The mill's construction is solid with only small openings;  on
	one wall one window is a pointed arch, with elegant frames
	molded from chalk.  Thought to be the oldest working mill
	beside any [Italian] canal, and now perfectly restored, with
	even the still-intact mill-stone driving the wooden gears
	connecting all the pulleys to the buckets. It is currently
	home to an evocative handicraft, textile and domestic
	science museum.

*** The "casa pigionante" ***

I haven't been able to find out much on this: the interpretation given on the site (above) derives its name from the Italian word for rent ("pigione"), and that it's on the grounds of the Villa Visconti.

Looking at the VMS closely (especially Petr's hand-enhanced version of Kraus' photograph!), the building appears to have two small buildings to the right of it, one above the other: and perhaps a few birds flying around above it. These certainly are too deliberate to be ink smudges.

My intuition is that these are basically the same, and that the structures on the side are two pigeon-cotes - pigeon also translates into Italian as "piccione". Seems plausible?