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The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity


The Renaissance (15th & early 16th centuries)


Famous for...

An explosion of intellectual and creative activity in Europe in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries

(renaissance is a French word meaning re-birth).


Why did it happen?


1. PrintingThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

Johannes Gutenberg’s (pictured right) invention of the first European printing press in Germany in 1440 accelerated the spread of knowledge.

People were particularly inspired by the rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman art and culture.



2. Patrons of the artsThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

The arts and the great Italian Renaissance cities (Florence, Rome and Venice) were transformed by money from:

  • the nobility (like the Medici family in Florence).
  • popes (starting with Nicholas V , pictured right, in 1447).


3. Wealth and increases in population

Europe became richer as businesses prospered, helped by:The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

  • the development of its banks.
  • the invention of double entry book-keeping by the Italian friar, Luca Pacioli (pictured right), in 1494.
  • bigger markets - see point 4.


4. Bigger markets


Markets increased because:

  • bubonic plague disappeared (the Black Death of 1348-50 killed at least a third of Europe’s population).
  • North and South America were discovered (bringing enormous amounts of precious metal like silver).
  • Europe’s population increased from 70 million in 1500 to 100 million in 1600.

 The Reformation - Religion and Ethics


5. Security

The Ottoman (Turkish) empire (led by Suleiman the Magnificent, pictured right above) was a huge threat to Western Europe after its capture of Budapest in 1521.The Reformation - Religion and Ethics

But Charles V, pictured right, defeated the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1529.

The Turkish threat wasn’t completely removed until their defeat at the sea Battle of Leponto in 1571.



Key Renaissance artists


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Italian genius - sculptor, architect, engineer and artistThe Reformation - Religion and Ethics

His best known paintings are the:

  • Last Supper
  • Mona Lisa (pictured right).


Michelangelo (1475-1564)

Italian sculptor (creator of the nude statue, David), architect and artist

Famous for his painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome - pictured below is God's creation of Adam from the Bible's Book of Genesis.

 The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity


Raphael (1483-1520)The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Italian architect (of St. Peter’s church in Rome) and artist

His paintings include the School of Athens, showing a group of great Greek philosophers, pictured right.




Key Renaissance thinkers

 The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) - pictured right

His book, The Prince (1513) explains that you don’t have to be good to be a great leader.

Today’s word ‘Machiavellian’ means using dubious means to get what you want.


The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Erasmus (1466-1536) - pictured right

Dutch scholar and intellectual force behind the Reformation (the Protestant rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church that began in1517).

Erasmus proposed a key idea of the Renaissance: humanism (i.e. people can control their lives through their own thought and actions).


The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Thomas More (1478-1535) - pictured right

In his book, Utopia (1516), More (an English friend of Erasmus) wrote about an imaginary and ideal island without intolerance, money or war.

He was executed for refusing to support Henry VIII’s divorce.


The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1573)

Polish astronomer (pictured right) who proposed that the earth went around the sun (not the other way around as the Roman Catholic Church then believed).


The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Galileo (1564-1642)

Italian scientist and astronomer (pictured right) who was forced by the Roman Catholic Church to publicly withdraw his support for Copernicus in 1633.


 The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity

Key quotes

He who thinks little, errs much,

- Leonardo da Vinci (pictured right).


They raise our intellect to heaven,

- Michelangelo’s (pictured right) motto referring to painting, sculpture and architecture.


It is surely harmful to souls to make it a heresy to believe what is proved,

- Galileo.


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