Table of Contents

Renaissance in Europe (14th-17th century)

What: In the fifteenth century A.D. people of Europe developed interest for the literature, art, architecture, painting and culture of Greece and Rome. Renaissance began from Italy.

Meaning: ‘Rebirth’ or ‘New Birth’. It is new birth from the control of Church on social and personal life of each individual.

Why Italy: huge repository of classical ruins and artifacts of Roman architecture, and immigration of Greek Artist and scholars from Constantinople.


1. Fall of Constantinople (centre for learning among Christianity and Greeks).

2. Invention of Printing press (John Gutenberg of Germany in 1436), spread the intellectual knowledge through book printing across nations and cities.

3. Patronage from ruling class: Francis I (France), Henry VIII (England), Charles V (Spain), Sigismund I (Poland) invited many persons having new ideas to their courts. Loronjo-de-Medicci, the ruler of Florence invited many artists to his court and decorated his palace with new paintings.

4. Intellectual ideas: book ‘Yes and No’ of Peter Abelard (University of Paris) talked about rationality and ability to question. Roger Bacon of Oxford University who said that nothing should be accepted without proper experiment and observation.

5. Declining importance of Church and its waning influence on personal life.


1. Literature: Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ (1321), an Italian book, which had themes like love of one’s country, love of nature as well as the role of individual. Francesco Petrarch’s ‘Sonnet’ poetry glorified secular or Worldly interests of life and humanism. Machiavelli in his famous book ‘The Prince’ (1532, short treatise on how to acquire power, create a state, and keep it), described the principle of the ‘Lion and the Fox’. Thomas Moore, William Shake­speare and Christopher Mario also belonged to this period.

2. Art: before renaissance, art was based on religious themes only. This was replaced with Humanism, dignity, individualism and rationality. Famous artist included Gentile Da Fabriano for Gothic style painting, Leonardo Da Vinci for Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings, Raphael for paintings, Michelangelo (sculptor).

3. Architecture: The pointed arches of the Churches and Palaces were substituted by round arches, domes or by the plain lines of the Greek temples. ‘Florence’, a city of Italy became the nerve centre of art-world. The ‘St Peter’s Church of Rome’ the ‘Cathedral of Milan’ and the ‘Palaces of Venice and Florence’ were some of the remarkable specimens of Renaissance architecture.

4. Sculptures: Lorenzo Ghiberti carved the bronze doors of the Church at Florence, Donatello is remembered for his realistic statute of ‘St. George’ and ‘St. Mark’, Michel Angelo’s huge marble statue of ‘David’ at Florence.

5. Counter Reformation: When churches found their legitimacy being questioned, they began bringing extensive development on architectural front (Vatican structure of 16th century).

6. Age of exploration/discovery (15th-17th century): European naval explorers discovered new sea routes, new continents and established new colonies.

7. Social changes: Greek and Roman texts fostered a more rational, scientific approach to theology, the natural world, and the arts. Human beings and nature became subjects worthy of study.

8. Science Revolution: escalated interest on Alchemy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine and geography. Famous contributors were Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei in Astronomy, Commandino in Mathematics, Andreas Vesalius in Medicine, Issac Newton in Physics.

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