The Renaissance

The period of rebirth

What is the Renaissance?

The Renaissance is a period of "rebirth." A time of recovery in Europe from the plague, political instability, and the decline in the power of the Church. During this time, the people of Italy thought that they would have to witness a rebirth of the Ancient Greek and Roman times to start a new era. This era that the Italians dreamed of later become known as the Renaissance which means "rebirth". Not only was the Renaissance a time for a change, but it gave people a new view on their personal abilities. One person that strongly believed in his personal abilities was Leonardo da Vinci.

Important Terms

  • Secular- worldly
  • Urban Society- a system in which cities are the center of the political, economic and social life.
  • Humanism- was based on the study of the classics, the literary works of ancient Greece and Rome.
  • Fresco- a painting done on wet plaster with water-based paints
  • Madonna- a picture, painting, or a sculpture of the virgin Mary normally seated while holding baby Jesus.
  • Mercenary- a solider who sells his services to the highest bidder.
  • Vernacular- the language of everyday spech in a certain region.

Important Events

  • Donatello's David does not have a certain date on which he started and finished the sculpure, but it was first viewed in public in 1469.
  • Leonardo's the Last Supper was started in 1495 and finished in 1498.
  • Michelanglo's sculpture of David was started in 1501 and finished in 1504.
  • Leonardo da Vinci started painting the Mona Lisa in 1503 and finished it in 1507.
  • Michelangelo's famous paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was started in 1508 and he finished in 1512.
  • Machiavelli's the Prince was puplished in 1515.

Important People

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Raphael
  • Michelangelo
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Donatello
  • Petrarch
  • The Medici Family
  • William Shakespeare

"The Renaissance Man"

Leonardo da Vinci, also known as "the Renaissance Man", was a talented painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, and mathematician. Some of his most famous paintings are the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Machiavelli is the author of the Prince, "one of the most influential works on political power in the Western world." The Prince states how to keep political power and how leaders should act (Machiavelli's point of view). For example; Machiavelli believes that "a leader must do good when possible and evil when necessary."


Michelangelo was a painter, sculptor, poet, architect, and literary scholar. His marble sculptures of David and Pieta remain masterpieces. Michelangelo is also known for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


Raphael was admired for his Madonnas, in which he achieved a beauty that extended far beyond human standards. He is also known for his frescoes in the Vatican Palace.


Petrarch was an Italian poet. He was devoted to studying the works of ancient Roman and Greek literature. He is known as the father of Humanism for his devotion to studying these ancient works.


Donatello, a famous sculpture during the Renaissance, is known for one of his most famous sculpture, a life sized sculpture of David. This is one of his earliest pieces which later would become the symbol of the Florentine republic. Donatello worked with materials such as bronze, stone, and wood. Donatello's oversized sculptures is what established his reputation.

Medici Family

The Medici family was a wealthy family who in 1434 took control over Florence. The family ran the government from behind the scenes. For a short time during the family's reign the people of Florence turned to Girolamo Savonarola (a Dominican preacher) to rule the city. In 1498 Savonarola was accused of heresy and was sentenced to death. The Medici family returned to power.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is a famous dramatist. He was known as a “complete man of the theater”. Although he is best known for writing plays, he was also an actor and a shareholder in the theater company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Shakespeare is viewed as the master of the English language. He also wrote sonnets, a type of poetry.