Cagnola was born in Milan. He was sent at the age of fourteen to the Clementine College at Rome, and afterwards studied at the University of Pavia. He was intended for the legal profession, but his passion for architecture was too strong, and after holding some government posts at Milan, he entered as a competitor for the construction of the Porta Orientale. His designs were commended, but were not selected on account of the expense their adoption would have involved.
From that time Cagnola devoted himself entirely to architecture. After the death of his father he spent two years in Verona and Venice, studying the architectural structures of these cities. In 1806 he was called upon to erect a triumphal arch for the marriage of Eugene Beauharnais with the princess of Bavaria. The arch was of wood, but was of such beauty that it was resolved to carry it out in marble. The result was the magnificent Arco della Pace at Porta Sempione in Milan, surpassed in dimensions only by the Arc de Triomphe at Paris. Among other works executed by Cagnola are the Porta Ticinese at Milan, the campanile at Urgnano, and the chapel of Santa Marcellina in Milan.
He died at Inverigo in August 1833, five years before the completion of the Arco della Pace in Milan.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press