The Renaissance was an era of great change that brought Europe out of the Middle, or Dark, Ages. It began in the 14th century in the Italian cities of Florence and Venice, and later spread across Europe. Artists, musicians, architects and thinkers flourished with the support of wealthy patrons, such as the Medici family. Fine libraries, academies and universities were established.
Renaissance instruments included the psaltery and the liruda braccio, used by poets to accompany their poems. The lute, the recorder and the organetto, which used pipes, were also popular.
Renaissance means ‘rebirth’. There was a reawakened interest in science, art and literature. The period lasted until the 17th century. Humanism was one important movement. Humanists, such as the Dutch philosopher Erasmus, thought moral lessons couldbe learned from Greek and Latin texts.
Artists were drawn to the human form, nature and the art of ancient Greece and Rome. Raphael painted Greek philosophers like Aristotle and Plato in The School of Athens.
Sculptors such as Donatello and Ghiberti created amazingly realistic work that was inspired by classical sculpture, although they did not necessarily depict classical themes. Donatello carved saints and prophets clothed in Roman or Geek styles. Sculptors used materials such as bronze and marble.
Early Italian architects, such asBrunelleschi and Palladio, looked to classical styles for their designs, using Greek columns and Roman arches on many buildings.
Block printing was invented in China, but Johannes Gutenberg. a German, invented the printing press in Europe in 1440. It had moveable type held in a wooden frame, and ink was applied using a leather pad called an ‘inkball’. In 1455, Gutenberg printed a Bible that became the world’s first-ever mass-produced book.
Age of Exploration
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans became increasingly curious about the world. Explorers made bold strides in their efforts to increase trade, find wealth and discover new worlds. By the end of this era. Portuguese, Spanish and English explorers had made their way to Africa, India, China, America and around the globe.
Compasses, star charts and a backstaff, which measured the angle of the sun, helped explorers find their way. Zheng He was the first person to use a compass on his sea voyages.
Christopher Columbus was sent by the Spanish King to find a route to China. When Columbus arrived at the Caribbean Island of San Salvador in 1492, he thought he had reached the Far East.
Christopher Columbus’ largest ship was the Santa Maria, a nao, or merchant ship, usually used for cargo. The others, called the Nina and the Pinta, were caravels, which were much lighter ships. The Santa Maria held a crew of 40 men and had large square sails that gave it a lot of power at sea.
Great exploration routes
In 1488 Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz sailed around the southern tip of Africa. In 1497-8, Vasco da Gama travelled to India. A century latter, Sir Francis Drake, an Englishman, travelled around the world.
The Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, conquered the Incas in 1532. The Incas ruled the western coast of South America, now Peru, from their capital at Cuzco. However, the Inca city of Machu Picchu, built high in the Andes mountains, was not discovered by outsiders until 1911.
The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Pacific ocean, but was later killed in the philippines. His ship carried on to become the first to sail all the way round the world, in 1522.
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