The Renaissance - Learning and Creativity
The Renaissance (15th & early 16th centuries)
An explosion of intellectual and creative activity in Europe in the fifteenth and early
(renaissance is a French word meaning re-birth).
Why did it happen?
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 arts
The arts and the great Italian Renaissance cities (Florence, Rome and Venice) were transformed by money
- the nobility (like the Medici family in Florence).
- popes (starting with Nicholas V , pictured right, in
3. Wealth and increases in population
Europe became richer as businesses prospered, helped by:
- 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
- North and South America were discovered (bringing enormous amounts of precious metal
- Europe’s population increased from 70 million in 1500 to 100 million in
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.
But Charles V, pictured right, defeated the Turkish siege of Vienna in
The Turkish threat wasn’t completely removed until their defeat at the sea Battle of
Leponto in 1571.
Key Renaissance artists
Leonardo da Vinci
Italian genius - sculptor, architect, engineer and artist
His best known paintings are the:
- Mona Lisa (pictured right).
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.
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,
Key Renaissance thinkers
Machiavelli (1469-1527) - pictured
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.
Erasmus (1466-1536) - pictured
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).
Thomas More (1478-1535) - pictured
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
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).
Italian scientist and astronomer (pictured right) who was forced by the Roman Catholic Church to publicly
withdraw his support for Copernicus in 1633.
He who thinks little, errs much,
- Leonardo da Vinci (pictured
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,