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Lesson Four
  Part 4: Power vs Truth

Grade Levels: 6-12

Subject(s): History, Language Arts, Industrial Arts, Visual Arts

Estimated time of Completion: at least two 55-minute periods

  • Understand Italian politics and warfare of the High Renaissance
  • Understand the effects of the Protestant Reformation and the Counter Reformation
  • Understand the contributions of the Renaissance to the scientific method as well as to developing scientific principles
  • Contrast Renaissance and Medieval attitudes
  • View film and understand how images and sounds are used to convey information and mood
  • Use reading strategies to focus viewing
  • Use writing as a way to learn
  • Participate meaningfully in class discussions
Materials Needed: Procedures:

1. Introduce the program by asking these questions before showing the film. (Keep this short so that you can finish the film in one day if possible.)

Connecting Questions:
  • What conflicts have you seen between power and the truth in Florence and in Italy in the Medici series? What further problems do you anticipate?
  • What power will the Medici family have after the death of the Medici popes?
  • What do you know about Galileo?
  • What conflicts do you expect to see between the ideals of the Renaissance, especially in science, and the Catholic Church? Why?
Focusing Questions:
  • In what ways is this 16th century Cosimo de Medici like the 15th century Cosimo de Medici who was Lorenzo's father?
  • What penalties does Cosimo pay for his power?
  • What is significant about Cosimo's choice of a wife?
  • How does Giorgio Vasari contribute to restoring Medici prestige and power?
  • In what ways is Galileo's fate a denial of everything that the Medici and the Renaissance have stood for?
2. Show the film. Depending on time constraints, either ...
(a) complete the entire film in one period and have students complete the viewing guide for homework or as they watch the film or ...
(b) break up the film into two parts and discuss the film midway with discussion and completion of the viewing guide at midpoint and at the end.

3. Either in whole class discussion or small discussion groups that report back to the rest of the class or as an individual written assignment, have students answer these closure questions:

Closure Questions:
  • Would you answer the focusing questions now?
  • What questions do you have?
  • Discuss the meaning of this comment made by Bertolt Brecht in the late 1940s: "Galileo's crime can be regarded as the original sin of modern physical science".
  • What was the role of the Medici family in bringing about the Protestant Reformation and in supporting the Catholic Church's Counter Reformation?
  • In what ways was the Counter Reformation, including the Inquisition, like Afghanistan under the Taliban?
  • What other groups want to establish or have established fundamentalist regimes or theocracies in the modern world?
  • In what ways do people in the U. S. try to impose their religions on others?
  • What are the primary themes of The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance programs? (Check the interview excerpts on the PBS Web site.)
  • On the PBS Empire Series home page is this description: "Within the long history of civilization are great eras of struggle, triumph, and loss. These periods are reflective of the best and word of humanity: explosive creativity, ultimate depravity, the use and abuse of power, and war." How well does this describe the Medici series? What specific parts of the Medici series fit specific parts of this comment?
  1. Observation of responses to class discussions.
  2. Written responses to viewing guides and closure questions.
  3. Products created for any extension activities.
  1. Have students research and then hold a panel discussion, debate, or some other type of public forum on these or other events that relate to challenging the separation of church and state: Congress adding "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954; constitutionality of pledging allegiance in school because of "under God" displays of religious holiday symbols; taxpayers paying for congressional chaplains; removal of Alabama judge Roy Moore because he refused to follow a court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from a government building.
  2. Hold trials for Popes Leo X and Clements VII on human rights violations.
  3. Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786) was critical in securing the separation of church and state in the entire U.S. through the religious clauses of the Bill of Rights. Write a short story set in a 21st century America that does not have the separation of church and state, a country in which people can be fined and jailed for not attending the official government-sponsored church and for not paying taxes to support that church.
  4. Do research on the Puritan theocracy and the Salem witchcraft trials. Make a comparison of the Protestant witch trials and the Catholic Inquisition hearings. Do this in the form of a chart or essay.
  5. Parallel reading: "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, a novel set in the near future in a theocracy.
  6. Using the time line on the PBS Web site as a source and a starting point, complete a time line showing the rise and fall of the Renaissance in all of Europe over the top of the line and the rise and fall of the House of Medici under the bottom. Include illustrations as well as major events, inventions, art works, technological and social developments, and people. Identify the major turning points in the rise and the fall of each with large arrows pointing up (for the rise) and down (for the fall).
  7. Have students take the Who Are You? quiz on the Web site. Discuss the accuracy of the quiz results.
  8. View clips from the program again as a cinematographer and director. Analyze the difficulties presented by the filming of such a series. What worked well? Why? What aspects do you think were most difficult to complete? Why? What would you have done differently given the resources the crew had? (See the interviews on the PBS Web site.) Write a review of the series.
  9. Do a story board for a 10-minute segment of the series. Then do your own story board for the way you would have handled the same segment.
  10. Visit Rice University's Galileo Project which has information on Galileo and the science of his time. The site has a searchable database of over 600 people who made important contributions to science in the 16th and 17th centuries. It also includes "rooms" such as the instrument closet with pictures of the instruments he used to perform his experiments and observations as well as an observing terrace with links to accounts of Galileo's discoveries and stellar images from space agencies and observatories.
  11. Visit the Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence to see displays on Leonardo and other Tuscan scientists
  12. Visit the Multimedia Galileo Room
  13. Visit the Leonardo Gallery and view the interactive models of Leonardo's engineering feats.
  14. Further topics for research: Florentine public celebrations and festivals, origins of the Florentine republic; Humanism; the Great Schism; banishment and exile; condottiere; papal states; the universities of Padua, Pisa, Florence, Rome, or Wittenburg; Ponte Vecchio; color and flower symbolism; Andrea del Sarto; Sforza, Orsini, or Pazzi families; Fra Angelico; Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio); Cesare Borgia; George Gordon and Elizabeth Barrett Browning in Florence; Benvenuto Cellini; Copernicus (Nicolaus Koppernigk); Dante Aligheri; Alessandro Farnese; Lorenzo Ghiberti; Domenico Curradi Ghirlandaio.
  15. Design a webquest or a virtual tour, using the Internet. For example, students could use tourist Web sites to plan a trip to Florence (Firenze). Those sites also include links to museums and local historical attractions. They could design a virtual museum trip to see their favorite art attractions in Florence or go on such a virtual tour already on the web.

    Go to the Teaching Links which include brief synopses; the links work now but the urls may not be functioning by next week.

    The best thing to do is to go to You can do a search to find links to sites of interest to you, then copy and paste them into your own track that you establish for free. You can also add instructions for students. You simply give your students the track number; they can access the links you have set for them. You can also have students design a track around a specific topic.
To find out more about the National Standards applicable to this educational plan click here.

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Gallery Gallery: Renaissance Art

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- Lesson Plan 1:
The Birth of a Dynasty

- Lesson Plan 2:
The Magnificent Medici

- Lesson Plan 3:
The Medici Popes

- Lesson Plan 4:
Power vs Truth


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