The Renaissance was a fervent period that paved the way for the revival of European literature, philosophy, politics, culture and art. This was an era of seeking the ‘great’, as global exploration opened up new lands, cultures and possibilities for the European economy. Keep on reading to learn 50 enchanting facts about the Renaissance.
Fact 1: The Renaissance was a period of time in European history from the 14th-17th century.
- It served as the bridge that linked the Middle Ages and modern times.
Fact 2: The Renaissance was regarded as a time of “coming out of the dark”.
- It was a period of rebirth for science, art, literature, education, and music in Europe. It was also a time when people, in general, lived a better life.
Fact 3: The fall of the Roman Empire marked the beginning of the Middle Ages.
- In 476 C.E. Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the West, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome.
Fact 4: The word ‘renaissance’ means ‘rebirth’ in French.
- The word was first seen in English in the 1830s.
Fact 5: Much of the advances in science, art, and government that had been credited to the Greeks and Romans, was lost during the Renaissance.
- However, Renaissance humanism looked to classical Greek and Roman texts to change contemporary thought, allowing for a new mindset after the Middle Ages.
- Learn more about some of these scientific advances here.
Fact 6: In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized communication and publication in Europe with his invention of the movable printing press.
- It was through his invention that humanist thinkers like Francesco Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio, were able to print their work and could reach an even wider audience.
Fact 7: The Middle Ages was referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ because so much of what was learned earlier on was lost during this time.
- The term ‘Dark Ages’ was coined by the Italian scholar Francesco Petrarch.
Fact 8: The Medici family were known supporters of the Italian Renaissance.
- The family had a major influence on the growth of the Italian Renaissance through their patronage of the arts and humanism.
Fact 9: The great intellectual movement called ‘humanism’ was a key player during the Renaissance.
- The humanists believed that the Greek and Latin classics contained the lessons one needed to lead a moral and effective life.
Fact 10: Bartolomeu Dias, Christopher Columbus, and Vasco da Gama were the frontrunners of the Age of Exploration.
- In 1492, a trip to the East brought Columbus to the New World—lands known today as the Americas.
- Learn more about some of the exciting exploration that took place in this time period in this great book.
Fact 11: The Renaissance began in Florence, Italy.
- Mainly because the city was the concentration of wealth, power, and intellect in the Church in Europe at that time.
Fact 12: Several important political events throughout Europe in the first half of the 16th century were heavily influenced by the Renaissance.
- In 1503, Julius II was appointed Pope, bringing in the start of the Roman Golden Age.
Fact 13: City-states played a major role in the rule of Italy at the time.
- The wealthy families in these cities supported artists, scientists, and philosophers spurring on new ideas and artistic movements.
Fact 14: Henry VIII of England came to power in 1509, while France was ruled by Francis I in 1515. By 1530, Charles V became the Holy Roman Emperor.
- Prior to this, in 1527, Charles V dismissed Rome in order to prevent the annulment of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, which later led to the establishment of the Church of England.
Fact 15: The term ‘Renaissance Man’ refers to a very clever person who is good in many areas.
- A true genius of the Renaissance was Leonardo da Vinci who was a master painter, sculptor, scientist, inventor, architect, engineer, and writer.
Fact 16: By the 16th century, tensions were rising between Italy and its neighbouring Kingdoms, such as France and Spain.
- Eventually, Italy’s powers were shifted to the northwestern European regions.
- Learn more about how the powers between great European nations shifted during the renaissance here.
Fact 17: Platonism saw revival during the Renaissance.
- One of the most popular Greek philosophers, Plato was known for his dialogues and for founding his Academy north of Athens, which essentially was the first university in the western world.
Fact 18: In Germany, Martin Luther led the Reformation which contested the Catholic Church resulting in the emergence of the Protestant Church.
- The Catholic Church retaliated by implementing an inquisition. During the inquisition individuals who would contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church were arrested.
Fact 19: Venice was famous for its century-old Murano glass.
- Milan, on the other hand, was famous for its ironsmiths.
Fact 20: There was a period in the Renaissance known as the ‘Age of Discovery’, several important explorations were made at this point.
- Voyagers discovered new shipping routes to the Americas, India and the Far East, and explorers trekked across areas that weren’t fully mapped out.
Fact 21: The King of France, Francis I, was called the first “Renaissance King”.
- He was a known patron of the arts and helped Renaissance art spread from Italy to France.
Fact 22: Florence and Rome were very competitive rivals.
- Rome and Florence were rivals, as both cities tried to present themselves as capitals of antiquity, and as capitals of Christendom.
Fact 23: Since artists during this period worked in workshops, they were initially thought of as craftsmen.
- Aside from doing much of their work in workshops, these artists also belonged to guilds.
Fact 24: Rome almost went bankrupt since the church often gave out huge commissions.
- The Church was perhaps the biggest patron of all throughout the Renaissance and in order to raise money for a major commission, they taxed Christians throughout Europe. These payments directly funded such masterpieces as Michelangelo’s ceiling for the Sistine Chapel.
Fact 25: The concepts of ‘proportion’ and ‘perspective’ were amongst the major changes in art during the Renaissance.
- The Renaissance was a period of dramatic development in art, influenced to a degree by the rediscovery of ancient sculpture.
Fact 26: The Black Death, which was an epidemic of bubonic plague, decimated half of Europe’s population.
- The plague, which was almost always fatal, spread most rapidly in cities, where people were in close contact with each other. The Black Death however, left survivors with relatively more wealth and ability to climb the social ladder.
- Learn more about how The Black Death devastated Europe here.
Fact 27: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were bitter rivals.
- Michelangelo angered da Vinci after insulting the latter for his failure to finish a horse sculpture.
Fact 28: The Northern Renaissance was a movement that occurred in Europe, north of the Alps.
- Italian artists mostly depicted classical mythology, while Northern artists portrayed mostly domestic interiors and portraits.
Fact 29: During the Renaissance, hunting became a popular form of entertainment for the wealthy.
- Most of the time nobles would hunt in large hunting parties. In these hunting parties there were humans, dogs, spears, and arrows.
Fact 30: The images of humans, created by artists during the Renaissance, were deemed ‘too perfect’ to successfully portray human life.
- It left very little room for error which was essential in depicting true human life.
Fact 31: During this period, artists and architects would often compete for a commission to create a piece of art.
- Da Vinci was commissioned to create his most celebrated painting in the 1940s, “The Last Supper”. The masterpiece was made for the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria della Grazie in Milan.
- Learn more about the great art born from The Renaissance here.
Fact 32: An inspirational moment of the Renaissance was when the highly influential ‘Laocoon’ sculpture was excavated in Rome in 1506.
- The sculpture has since been placed on public display in the Vatican, where it remains today.
Fact 33: Leonardo da Vinci introduced a new painting technique called “Sfumare” in the Renaissance era.
- The technique enabled greater depth and realism to be given to painting.
Fact 34: Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is still one of the most famous paintings in the world.
- The breathtaking painting on the chapel’s ceiling was commissioned from 1508-1512.
Fact 35: Artists like Rembrandt, da Vinci, and Caravaggio employed the use of chiaroscuro in their artwork.
- The word chiaroscuro is Italian for light and shadow. Today, it’s often called “shading”.
Fact 36: Leonardo da Vinci’s “ Mona Lisa” is perhaps the world’s most famous painting.
- In his journey to create a perfect masterpiece, Da Vinci worked on the “Mona Lisa” continuously for over 20 years.
Fact 37: Scholars believe the demise of the Renaissance was the result of several compounding factors.
- This included numerous wars that plagued the Italian peninsula by the end of the 15th century.
Fact 38: Michelangelo’s “David” is one of the most recognized works of ‘Renaissance sculptures’.
- The masterpiece was a symbol of strength and youthful beauty.
- Learn about other great pieces of art here.
Fact 39: The Renaissance mathematician and astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, argued that the Sun was the centre of the galaxy rather than the Earth.
- This heliocentric view of the world was controversial because it challenged the existing teachings of the church.
Fact 40: Donatello and Brunelleschi are considered to be among the founding fathers of the Renaissance.
- Donatello was a sculptor who revolutionized the art in Florence during the early Renaissance, while Brunelleschi excelled in both literature and mathematics.
Fact 41: The Netherlands developed its own Renaissance movement.
- The movement saw the revival of painting, including Jan van Eyck, that later had an artistic influence on Italy.
Fact 42: Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch, was a 14th-century Italian scholar and poet known as one of the earliest humanists.
- Petrarca is best known for his ‘Canzoniere’, and is considered one of the greatest love poets of the literature world.
Fact 43: One of the most important advancements in Renaissance art was the development of linear perspective.
- Linear perspective uses principles of math to realistically portray space and depth in art.
Fact 44: The Renaissance was also an age of scientific discoveries.
- Galileo Galilei and René Descartes promoted a new view of astrology and mathematics, challenging old Aristotelian ideas.
- Learn about great Renaissance scientific discoveries here.
Fact 45: It was the Northern Renaissance artists who first introduced oil painting to Italy.
- The technique involves painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder.
Fact 46: Wealth poured into Venice and Genoa through trade with the Ottoman Empire.
- The Ottomans exported luxury goods like silk, furs, tobacco and spices, and had a growing cotton trade.
Fact 47: Some scholars argue that the ‘Renaissance’ is more accurately described as part of a ‘Longue Duree’ of European history.
- They think this because a lot of what happened during the Renaissance was over many years, and the speed of which things changed was quite slow. It is too vague to say the ‘Renaissance years’ as this does not accurately describe how long this time really was!
Fact 48: It took a team of scholars and translators 7 years to complete the translation of the King James Bible, which was first published in 1611.
- It is an English translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England.
Fact 49: Prior to the Renaissance, the Hundred Years War that lasted from 1337–1453 had devastated much of Europe.
- For over a century, Europe was haunted by failed Crusades and also the Black Death which killed about 25 million people in Europe.
Fact 50: At the end of the 15th century Luca Pacioli published the first work on bookkeeping.
- This made him the founder of accounting.