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Michelangelo's Creation
Between 1300 and 1600 the Western world was transformed.

An extraordinary wave of artistic and cultural innovation shattered medieval society and brought European culture reluctantly into the modern era.

This was the Renaissance.

In art…

Artists discovered how to paint in three dimensions, bringing new life and realism to their subjects. Breaking away from the religious traditions of the medieval world, they created entirely new genres of art, rich in drama and emotion. Radical new techniques were invented, like painting with oils, and perspective. Artists such as Botticelli, Gozzoli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Ghiberti transformed the way we saw our world.

In architecture and science…

Buildings were constructed that were bigger and better than ever before. Taking inspiration from the classical past, new rules were invented governing proportion and perspective. Magnificent temples to wealth were designed across Florence and the largest dome in the world was built by Filippo Brunelleschi, the brilliant engineer.

Men no longer accepted at face value the teachings of the Church. Now they wanted to study the natural world, to discover for themselves the secrets of the universe. Leonardo da Vinci pioneered the study of human anatomy and Galileo Galilei rocked the Catholic establishment by announcing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

In politics…

Liberated from the exclusive grasp of the Catholic Church, education filtered down to the upwardly mobile middle classes. Ancient texts, unread for more than 1,000-years, were devoured and debated. With the invention of printing, ideas swept across Europe faster than ever before, and thinkers and writers shared their opinions with the general public. Vasari recorded the lives of artists and the contribution of the Medici, in a precursor of today's PR.

Machiavelli, the Godfather of Realpolitik, wrote the first modern manual for leadership, “The Prince”, visualizing a pragmatic world in which the end always justified the means.

Throughout Italy, republics and duchies blossomed under the glow of creative achievement. Around Europe, kings and princes turned their sights on the jewels of Italy and an era of total war was soon unleashed.

In religion…

In this new world of communication and debate, the corruption and decadence of the Catholic Church was almost intolerable. Martin Luther becomes the first heretic to publish his theories worldwide. This German monk shattered centuries of reverence and assumption, paved the way for a revolution in faith and forever divided the Christian world prompting the Counter-Reformation.

People still argue about what the Renaisssance meant, when it began and if it even existed. What is undeniable is that something extraordinary happened at the heart of the last millennium. It changed the face of western culture and left no doubt that the Medici were the patrons, the catalyst of genius.

Where to next
Turning Points   Turning Points: Timeline of the Renaissance
Gallery Gallery: Art of the Renaissance

The Renaissance

- Botticelli
- Donatello
- Ghiberti
- Gozzoli
- Leonardo
- Michelangelo
- Raphael
- Vasari

- The Republic
- Italy at War
- Machiavelli

- Heresy
- Counter-Reformation

Science & Architecture
- Galileo
- Brunelleschi