(1400-1642) by Lance Wilson and Michael Holland

"Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite,
that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason." - Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, the creator of the Mona Lisa and a scientist and inventor.
Following the devastation created by the Black Death in the 1300's, Italy and later all of Europe experienced a Renaissance, a period of rebirth of knowledge and the works of Roman scholars. These new scholars introduced new ideas, and were capable of excelling in many areas. Leonardo da Vinci, famous for being a painter, was also a sculptor, inventor, mathmatician, and architect. The Renaissance was centered in Italy, where several city-states ruled independently. The strongest of these were Venice, Florence, and Milan. These cities flourished during the 1400's due to vast wealth created by trading silks, sugars, and spices with the rest of Europe. In 1494, the riches of Italy attracted King Charles VIII of France, who invaded the kingdom of Naples. The Italians called for help from Spain, and Spain sent soldiers to Italy to fight the French. The war did not end until 1527, when King Charles I of Spain sacked Rome, leaving Spain the dominant force in Italy. The war did not halt the progress of the Renaissance however, for authors, such as Dante, who wrote the "Divine Comedy", a poem the documents the souls journey to salvation, and Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote "The Canterbury Tales", a collection of stories told by 29 pilgrims who journeyed to Saint Thomas' tomb in Canterbury, England. The arts were also central to the Renaissance. This included new techniques, such as the Fresco, a water-based painting painted on plaster, employed by Masaccio. The period from 1490 to 1520 is known as the High Renaissance, and is associated with Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, the three most skilled and well known artists of the era. Northern Europe also contained many artists during this era, including Jan van Eyck of Flanders and Albrech Durer of Germany who, like many Italian painters, sought to imitate nature, though the northern artists observed reality and details, while the Italians used perspective.
Dante Alighieri, who lived in the fourteenth century, wrote the Divine Comedy, a long poem divided into three parts, the most famous of which is Inferno.

During the Renaissance, the popes were genreally poor spiritual leaders, and were more well suited to being worldly leaders of the Papal States. The Christians during the Renaissance believed that this was wrong, and many people sought to reform the church. The path to salvation was very mechanical during this time, and the reformers wanted to return the church to the teachings of Jesus. Finally, the Roman Catholic Church taught that the deceased's soul would remain in purgatory until indulgences were attached to relics to atone for sins. This made the ideas of Martin Luther better accepted by the people of Europe. Martin Luther was a monk and professor at the University in Wittenburg, Germany. Through study of the Bible, he concluded that only faith in God, and not a certain amount of good works, was the path to salvation. Upset by the sale of indulgences, Martin Luther sent a list of 95 Theses that attacked the sale of indulgences and other corrupt church practices to his superiors on October 31, 1517. Copies of the document were printed all over Germany. The pope, Leo X, paid it no mind, however, believing Martin Luther was merely a drunk. By 1520, Martin Luther called for a new, reformed German church, which allowed the clergy to marry and retained only baptism and Communion as sacraments. In response to this the Catholic Church excommunicated him in January of 1521. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V attempted to convince him to changes his ways, but Luther was adament that what he believed was correct. Charles V outlawed him, and would have had him killed, but Frederick of Saxony, under whose jurisdiction Luther remained, was unwilling to have Luther killed, for Luther was a prominent professor. Frederick managed to provide protection for Luther when he returned to Wittenburg in 1522. In the following years Luther created a new form of worship service that incorporated Bible readings, preaching on the word of God, and music. The new church he had created came to be known as Lutheranism.

Martin Luther, the man who began the Protestant Reformation.

Another reformer during the Renaissance time period was Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland. His church included the removal of all relics and images, as well a new church service emphasizing prayer, sermons, and reading of the Bible. He desired to unite his church with Lutheranism, but they disagreed on several things, and would remain separate. Ulrich Zwingli was killed in battle in October 1531, and the new leader of his church was John Calvin. John Calvin's doctrines were similar to Martin Luther's in many ways, but they placed more emphasis on God's all-powerful nature. Calvin also believed in predestination, which meant that God had already determined who was saved and who was condemned. This church was eventually called Calvinism. The third church created during this time was Anglicanism. King Henry VIII was ruler of England during this time, and was married to Catherine of Aragon. She had produced for him only a daughter. As his desire was to have a male heir, he wanted to marry Anne Boleyn, but the pope was unwilling to annul his marriage to Catherine. Henry broke away from the Catholic Church in 1534 to create his on chuch, the Church of England. Henry VIII children attempted to return to Roman Catholicism, but Mary burned many Protestants as heretics, securing the Protestant hold in England. The Catholic church than reformed in the mid-1500's, but the only changes made were the banning of the selling of indulgences, although they were still used. They also used Jesuit missionaries to restore Catholicism to many areas, but despite many reforms the Catholic Church largely remained the same.
The Mona Lisa, a painting painted by Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance.

Important People

  1. Leonardo da Vinci- A painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and mathematician that showed what the Renaissance people were capable of. He was well-rounded and he mastered the art of realistic painting. His paintings captured perfection in nature and humans. He painted the very-well known Mona Lisa (Right).
  2. Francesco Petrarch- Francesco was known as the father of Italian Humanism. He started the Intellectual movement known, as Humanism, that encourages the emphasis on literature and making "Well-rounded" individuals. Humanism is still encourage today in Colleges and is part of the education system.
  3. Michelangelo- A painter, sculptor and architect that tried to create passion and energy in his works. His figures on the Sistine Chapel in Rome show his perfection in creating God-like figures.
  4. Raphael- At age 25 Raphael was one of Italy's best painters. He was known for his madonnas and frescoes in the Vatican Palace. The School of Athens, a frescoe done by Rafael, shows the balance and order of the classic art of Greece and Rome.
  5. Machiavelli- Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a book known as The Prince. The Prince was a book on how the government works and had advice for rulers.

Key Words

Mercenaries- Mercenaries were soldiers that people bided on their services, led by Francesco Sforza in Milan.
Fresco- A Fresco is a special painting that is made on wet plaster using water-based paints. Masaccio made these paintings come to life with Laws of perspective.
Salvation- Salvation is the term meaning acceptance into Heaven. While the church was falling apart, people wanted assurance of their salvation through religious expression.
Humanism- Humanism was an intellectual movement during the Renaissance pushed by Petrarch that still exists today. It bases study on classics and literary works on things like grammar, rhetoric, poetry, moral philosophy and history.
Laws of Perspective- A style of painting started by Masaccio that makes paintings have depth and pop instead of being flat.
Anabaptists- These people hated the idea that the states could focus so much power on the Christian church. They believed that all of the followers were equal. The Anabaptists were separate from Protestants and Catholics.




Important Events:

  • 1495 - 1498 A.D.Leonardo da Vinci paints his first famous painting, The Last Supper, a portrait of Jesus Christ's last supper.
  • 1501 A.D.Michelangelo constructs his sculptures of Moses & David.
  • 1503 A.D.The Mona Lisa, easily one of the most famous paintings, is created by Leonardo da Vinci portraying a woman.
  • 1517 A.D. (Oct. 31)The Ninety-Five Theses were posted by Martin Luther on the front door of the church. The Ninety-Five Theses criticized the Pope about Indulgences.
  • 1520 A.D.During this time, Pope Leo X had Luther Excommunicated.
  • 1521 A.D.The Edict of Worms, when Charles V wants Luther to take back his Ninety-Five Theses.
  • 1530 A.D.The Counter Reformation is started, led by Pope Paul III. The goal was to restart a weakened religion -- Catholicism, by electing new Church leaders.
  • 1555 A.D.The Peace of Augsburg brings official recognition to Protestants ending war in Germany over religion.
  • 1549 A.D.At this time, Francis Xavier, a Jesuit Priest, led a mission to Japan.
  • 1550 - 1590 A.D. French Calvinists, or Huguenots, fought a civil war with Catholics. The Huguenots had Southern France and the Catholics had Northern France.

For More Information...

Leonardo da Vinci This site is a wikipedia site on everything about Leonardo da Vinci. It tells of his works and his influence on the Renaissance period.
Laws of Perspective This site has a look on the laws of perspective that Masaccio and other artists used during the Renaissance and today.
Renaissance Period The Renaissance was a time of art and push on education. This site shows the all of the art and the large summaries of the events during this era.
Timeline This site is a timeline of the Renaissance/Reformation era. It carries events from 1260 AD to 1648 AD.
Art The art of the Renaissance period is it's own major category. This site goes in depth on the styles of art in a timeline with pictures.