Renaissance was a period in the history of architecture between the early XV and XVII centuries in different regions of Europe, in which there was a conscious revival and development of certain elements of Greek ancient and Roman thought. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was later inherited from Baroque architecture.
The Renaissance style emphasizes the symmetry, proportion, geometry, and regularity of the parts as shown in the architecture of ancient times, especially in the ancient Roman architecture from which many examples remain. The arranged arrangements of the pillars, pilasters, and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes, recesses, and small temple buildings, replaced the more complex proportional systems and irregular profiles of medieval buildings. Developed first in Florence with the works of Filippo Brunelleschi, who is considered one of its founders, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities, and then to France, Germany, England, Russia, and other countries.
This article provides a general look at architecture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, including structures from throughout Europe. While historians disagree on the precise date of the Renaissance, the structures featured here all respond to a sequence of economic, political, religious, and cultural developments that occurred during the time period.
Nevertheless, Renaissance Architecture is generally divided into three main periods: Early Renaissance, High Renaissance, and Late Renaissance.
- 1 Early Renaissance
- 2 High Renaissance
- 3 Late Renaissance, or Mannerism
- 4 Northern Mannerism
- 5 Examples of Renaissance Architecture
- 5.1 St. Peter’s Basilica
- 5.2 Palazzo Pitti
- 5.3 Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio, Italy
- 5.4 Louvre Castle in France
- 5.5 Château de Chambord in France
- 5.6 Heidelberg Castle in Germany
- 5.7 The Green Gate in Poland
- 5.8 El Escorial in Spain
- 5.9 St James Cathedral in Croatia
- 5.10 Frederiksborg Palace in Denmark
- 5.11 São Vincente de Flora in Portugal
- 5.12 Hardwick Hall in England
- 5.13 Antwerp City Hall
- 5.14 Kalmar Castle in Sweden
The Early Renaissance began around 1400 when architects began to look to antiquity for inspiration and reintroduce Classical Roman and Greek elements such as arches, columns, and domes into buildings. Around 1400, builders began to draw inspiration from antiquity and restore Classical Roman and Greek components such as arches, columns, and domes into their structures. The symmetrical façade and clean, streamlined dimensions of early Renaissance structures indicated a departure from the more complicated Gothic proportions that preceded them. A fresh phase of immense building vigor began around 1350, following the peak of the Black Death. In various parts of Europe, new churches were built, while older structures were rebuilt and modernized to fulfill new devotional needs. Many of these structures, on the other hand, took years, if not centuries, to finish, and work on them continued well into the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and beyond.
By 1400, most religious buildings’ basic plans had been fixed for a long time.
High Renaissance was a period of full bloom. The application of Classical components adapted to contemporary 16th-century construction styles was at its peak during the High Renaissance. The use of columns, domes, and arches in High Renaissance architecture mirrored ideal, mathematical ratios, and proportions, and encouraged a sense of intellectual calm and personal harmony.
Late Renaissance, or Mannerism
Mannerism is a European art style that arose in the late years of the Italian High Renaissance around 1520, spread by about 1530, and lasted until the end of the 16th century in Italy when it was mainly supplanted by the Baroque style. The mannerism architecture was characterized stylistically by large divergences from High Renaissance and Medieval styles, which eventually evolved to the Baroque style, where the same architectural vocabulary was applied to very varied purposes. Architects experimented with employing architectural forms to emphasize solid and spatial relationships during the Mannerism period. Harmony as a Renaissance ideal gave way to more flexible and inventive rhythms. The most prominent representative of mannerism is the architect Andrea Palladio (1508 – 1580). His Vila Rotonda, an aristocratic mansion near Vicenza, is one of the best examples of mannerism.
Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, Mannerism spread a bit later (16th and 17th century) in the northern countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Belgium, creating its own style of Renaissance architecture that is now recognizable in the countries of Northern and Central Europe. Northern mannerism was marked by high sophistication, complexity, and novelty rather than harmony and clarity.
Examples of Renaissance Architecture
Because it was a period that embodied many of the political and cultural shifts that were occurring in Europe at the time, particularly the humanism movement, the Renaissance movement began in the heart of Italy, in cities like Florence, Rome, and Venice, and eventually spread outward to the rest of the continent. So let’s see notable examples of renaissance architecture around the world.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Pope Julius II had an intention to rebuild Rome as the center of a great Christian empire in the first decades of the sixteenth century. Each Renaissance church renovation and a new structure was based on the concept that beautiful architecture will further glorify the apostle Peter through the spread of the Church. The resurrection of Christ was accepted by Christianity, particularly the Church in Rome under Pope Julius II, as a doctrine that drove not just theology and liturgy but also the Vatican’s cultural policy. Thus, the St. Peter’s Basilica was rebuilt into a glorious piece of Renaissance architecture.
Palazzo Pitti is a Renaissance palace in Florence and was the largest residence in the city. It was built out of inspiration for Roman architecture.
Tempietto at San Pietro in Montorio, Italy
The Tempietto, designed by Donato Bramante, is regarded as the finest example of High Renaissance architecture. The circular temple, or “Tempietto” is situated in the rectangular plaza of the church.
Louvre Castle in France
The Louvre Palace is one of the most exquisite French architectural exemplars of Renaissance architecture. In the 16th century, the architect Pierre Leskot presented to Paris the new Renaissance design inspired by classical antiquity, therefore he was commissioned along with the sculptor Jean Goujon to modernize the palace.
Château de Chambord in France
Chateau de Chambord is one of the most famous and remarkable castles in the world, known for its French Renaissance architecture combined with medieval tradition. The palace is located in the Loire Valley in northwestern France, between the cities of Tours and Orleans.
Heidelberg Castle in Germany
For centuries, this palace has been damaged and destroyed by lightning bolts, flames, and battles since the first edifice was constructed at the beginning of the 13th century and that is why this castle is known as the most famous ruin. Heidelberg Castle still stands magnificently on the northern slope of Königstuhl hill, with its captivating architectural mix. While some of the palace’s buildings are examples of exquisite Renaissance architecture, others are examples of Baroque and Medieval architecture.
The Green Gate in Poland
This Mannerism beauty is one of the main tourist attractions in Poland. It was constructed between 1568 and 1571 as the official palace of Poland’s rulers. It is a masterwork by Amsterdam architect Regnier, and it exhibits Flemish architectural influence in Gdansk.
El Escorial in Spain
Spanish Renaissance architecture began with the grafting of the Renaissance onto Gothic forms in the last decades of the 15th century. The style was spread by local architects by taking over southern Italian architecture, sometimes from illustrated manuscripts and paintings, and by mixing Gothic style with local idiosyncrasies. The construction of this monumental complex was ordered by the King of Spain to mark the victory in St. The Quentin Battle of 1557 with the army of King Henry II of France.
St James Cathedral in Croatia
St. James Cathedral in Sibenik is one of the most significant buildings of the 15th and 16th centuries on the territory of Croatia. The building of the cathedral includes three different stylistic and developmental phases, the first of which is named after Bishop Bogan Pulšić who began its construction, while the remaining two are named after two of the most important architects who defined today’s look of the cathedral – Juraj Matijev and Nikola Ivanov. During the century-long period of construction, the cathedral was created by successive changes of three different architectural conceptions, changing three different styles: the first Gothic, then a mix of Gothic and Renaissance, and finally Renaissance style.
Frederiksborg Palace in Denmark
Although the Renaissance took slower to reach Scandinavia, there are still many fine examples of Renaissance architecture to be seen throughout the region. This palace is perhaps the best example of northern mannerism. It was rebuilt by the initiation of King Charles IV. He planned to rebuild it entirely in the Flemish and Dutch Renaissance styles (Northern Mannerism). The old structure was dismantled in 1599, and the new one was designed by Flemish architect Hans van Steenwinckel the Elder.
São Vincente de Flora in Portugal
The Monastery of São Vicente de Fora is a grand architectural site, one of Portugal’s greatest examples of Mannerism in that country.
Hardwick Hall in England
Hardwick Hall is an architecturally noteworthy Elizabethan prodigy house. Robert Smythson, a Renaissance-style architect, was responsible for its design. Hardwick Hall is one of the oldest examples of the English renaissance, which gradually gained popularity after spreading from Italy.
Antwerp City Hall
Because Antwerp was an important trading city in Belgium, the then authorities wanted to replace the old medieval city hall with an impressive architectural structure that would welcome foreign traders.
Kalmar Castle in Sweden
Kalmar Castle is a castle in the town of Kalmar in the Swedish province of Smaland. The fortress from an old medieval building, in the 16th century was turned into a magnificent Renaissance fortress that befits the then great king Gustav I. Today, it is one of the best-preserved Renaissance castles in Sweden and is open to the public.
Renaissance was the greatest period of revival that continues to fascinate us even today. This period discovered some of history’s greatest intellectuals, authors, architects, scientists, and artists. The Renaissance is the period that said farewell to the dark Middle Ages and opened the bright path of modern civilization.