16Th century architecture: Renaissance Architecture — World History Encyclopedia

Renaissance Architecture — World History Encyclopedia

Renaissance architecture originated in Italy and superseded the Gothic style over a period generally defined as 1400 to 1600. Features of Renaissance buildings include the use of the classical orders and mathematically precise ratios of height and width combined with a desire for symmetry, proportion, and harmony. Columns, pediments, arches and domes are imaginatively used in buildings of all types.

Renaissance masterpieces which influenced other buildings worldwide include St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Tempietto of Rome, and the dome of Florence’s cathedral. Another defining feature of Renaissance architecture is the proliferation of illustrated texts on the subject, which helped to spread ideas across Europe and even beyond. The Renaissance style was frequently mixed with local traditions in many countries and was eventually challenged by the richly decorative Baroque style from the 17th century onwards.

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Renaissance architecture was an evolving movement that is, today, commonly divided into three phases:

  • Early Renaissance (c. 1400 onwards), the first tentative reuse of classical ideas
  • High Renaissance (c. 1500), the full-blooded revival of classicism
  • Mannerism (aka Late Renaissance, c. 1520-30 onwards) when architecture became much more decorative and the reuse of classical themes ever more inventive.

Historians rarely agree on exactly when these changes developed and much, too, depends on geography, both in terms of countries and individual cities.

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Rome’s Pantheon

Capitu (CC BY)

Studying the Past

The Renaissance period witnessed a great revival in interest in antiquity in terms of thought, art, and architecture. The first and most obvious point of study for Renaissance architects was the mass of Greco-Roman ruins still seen in southern Europe, especially, of course, in Italy. Basilicas, Roman baths, aqueducts, amphitheatres, and temples were in various states of ruin but still visible. Some structures, like the Pantheon (c. 125 CE) in Rome, were exceedingly well-preserved. Architects studied these buildings, took measurements, and made detailed drawings of them. They also studied Byzantine buildings (notably domed churches), features of Romanesque architecture and medieval buildings. For many Italian architects, the Gothic style was regarded as an invasive ‘northern’ invention which ‘corrupted’ Italian traditions. In many ways, then, Renaissance architecture was a return to Italy’s roots, even if medieval architecture was never wholly abandoned.

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    The basic grammar of Renaissance architecture was the five classical orders: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, & Composite.

    A second point of study was surviving ancient texts, most particularly, On Architecture by the Roman architect Vitruvius (c. 90 — c. 20 BCE). Written between 30 and 20 BCE, the treatise combines the history of ancient architecture and engineering with the author’s personal experience and advice on the subject. The first printed editions came out in Rome in 1486. Renaissance architects pored over this work, studied the emphasis on symmetry and mathematical ratios, and in many cases, even tried to build structures that Vitruvius had only described in words. Perhaps an even greater effect was that Vitruvius inspired many Renaissance architects to write their own treatises (see below).

    Five Classical Orders of Serlio

    Robert Peake (Public Domain)

    Contemporary Influences

    Architects not only studied the distant past but also what colleagues were doing elsewhere. Drawings and prints spread new concepts far and wide so that those unable to see new buildings in person could study developing trends. Sometimes, influences came from unlikely places. The Florentine painter and sculptor Michelangelo (1475-1564) created some of the most famous of all Renaissance artworks, and these were hugely influential on later artistic styles. His bold and decorative reimagining of classical figures in art also influenced architects, encouraging them to try new ideas in mixing up classical elements and making them more decorative. Michelangelo was himself directly involved in architecture. His Laurentian Library, San Lorenzo, Florence (1525) with its 46-metre (150 ft) long reading room, was a triumphal combination of aesthetics and function — two inseparable ideas for Renaissance architects.

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    Another influential artist-turned-architect was Raphael (1483-1520). He similarly influenced architecture, in his case with the Palazzo Bronconio dell’Aquila in Rome (now destroyed). This building had a very rich exterior decoration and was a deliberate and novel mix-up of the conventional and functional arrangements of columns, niches, and pediments.

    Even more influential than these artists, though, were the specialised architects whose buildings, treatises, and biographies spread their ideas across Italy and Europe. Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) is one such figure, and he is considered the father of Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi was particularly interested in the study of linear perspective and achieving a harmonious simplicity of form in buildings which also considered the immediate environment in which they were constructed. Brunelleschi’s emphasis on classical proportions, simple geometry, and harmony were prime considerations in what became a new architectural language.

    Dome of Florence Cathedral by Brunelleschi

    Birasuegi (CC BY-SA)

    This architectural language was formally canonised by Sebastiano Serlio (1475-1554) in his Seven Books on Architecture, a hugely influential theoretical and practical work (see below). Serlio formulated the five classical orders, the fifth having first been identified c. 1450 by the architect and scholar Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472). These orders are: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and the fifth, Composite (a mix of Ionic and Corinthian elements). Architects would play around with these orders, mixing and reimagining them to create wholly unique buildings. Designers would also add to the mix other ideas such as clever effects of illusionary perspective, seen especially in the work of Donato Bramante (c. 1444-1514), who was considered the founder of High Renaissance architecture. To better understand what each architect contributed to the movement that was Renaissance architecture, it is necessary to consider some of the key buildings of the period.

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    Churches continued to be a very important part of any community, and one of the most outstanding Renaissance contributions in this area was the dome of Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, designed and built by Brunelleschi. Completed in 1436, the brick dome measures at the base 45.5 metres (149 ft) in diameter, and it made the cathedral the largest and tallest building in Europe at the time. The dome was a brilliant design and built without a fixed centring (temporary wooden scaffolding) during the construction stage. Rather, each circular course of the dome was completed before another course was added on top. The dome is self-supporting thanks to the 8 outer and 16 inner ribs that rise from the base to the peak and which create self-supporting arches. As a consequence of this system, the dome has a pointed profile and is composed of eight distinct sides. Another consideration for the architect was that a pointed dome gives much less side thrust on the drum below it than a hemispherical one, thus eliminating the need for extra support such as unsightly flying buttresses. Made from bricks laid in a reinforcing herringbone pattern, the dome is given further strength and lightness by having a double shell. Finally, it seemed the Renaissance had now surpassed the engineering feats of antiquity.

    Facade of Basilica of S. Andrea, Mantua by Alberti

    Geobia (CC BY-SA)

    Churches were ubiquitous in Europe, but now many were given a facelift. The problem with such projects was how to match the symmetry of classical architecture with the medieval high-naved church. Alberti came up with one solution — to create a facade composed of three equal-sized squares (one on either side of the entrance and another above topped with a triangular pediment). The idea was put into reality for the facade of the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence (completed 1470). The use of columns and pediment strongly remind of a Roman temple front. Alberti went even further with his facade for the San Andrea church (designed c. 1470) of Mantua. Closely resembling a Roman triumphal arch, this was the first monumental classicizing building of the Renaissance. In addition, the interior repeats the arch theme with its massive piers and barrelled ceiling, the largest constructed since antiquity.

    The Tempietto of San Pietro in Rome was designed by Bramante and completed c. 1510. The building, located on what was considered the site of Saint Peter’s crucifixion, was the first Renaissance structure to use the complete Doric order from antiquity. The design, which blends classical and Christian ideas, is an excellent example of Renaissance humanism thinking expressed in architecture. The 16 classical columns (recovered from ancient buildings) are not only elegant and undecorated but the circle design of the temple was considered the perfect shape for a church as that was thought to be the noblest of geometrical forms. In addition, Christian buildings that commemorated martyrs were traditionally centrally-planned structures. The elegant facade and barrelled centre rising straight through a ring of columns to a soaring dome was imitated everywhere thereafter and can still be seen today in buildings worldwide, from London’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral to the United States Capitol.

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    Tempietto of San Pietro, Rome

    Quinok (CC BY-SA)

    In 1565 Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) began work on the San Giorgio Maggiore church in Venice, a building inspired by the 4th-century Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum in Rome. Like Alberti, Palladio sought to provide a classical face to an irregular medieval building behind. The facade, which has columns on massive bases topped by Corinthian capitals, is made up of two interlocking temple fronts. It was Palladio’s innovative solution to covering a sloping building with a symmetrical facade along classical lines. In 1576, Palladio repeated the idea for the church now commonly known as Il Redentore (Christ the Redeemer), also in Venice. The interior is spacious with only a very wide nave and no aisles. It has very little decoration and is mostly white, Palladio preferring instead to give the church character by the play of the abundant light on his Corinthian columns and arches. The luminosity of the interior is largely thanks to semicircular windows filled with remarkably clear Venetian glass. Both of these Venetian churches contain elements seen in Roman baths such as multiple vaulted areas divided by screens of columns.

    The culmination of all the aspects of Renaissance architectural features arrived with the new Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The old basilica, built on the site considered to be the tomb of Saint Peter, was demolished. Florence Cathedral’s record as the largest church in the world was about to be superseded. Many architects were involved in a project that dragged on for over a century, but the first major design input came from Bramante. Commissioned by Pope Julius II (r. 1503-1513), the foundation stone was laid on 18 April 1506. The final stone was laid in 1626. The interior measures 180 x 135 metres (600 x 450 ft) while the magnificent dome has a diameter of 42 metres (137 ft) and rises to a height of 138 metres (452 ft) from ground level.

    Public & Domestic Buildings

    A public building which is often cited as a typical example of early Renaissance architecture is Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti in Florence (completed 1424). The architect’s use of tall slim columns to support arches which create a loggia with shallow domes was imitated for the facades of many other types of public buildings throughout the 15th century.

    Basilica Palladiana, Vicenza by Palladio

    Ylenia (CC BY-SA)

    In 1546 Palladio designed a new facade for the town hall of Vicenza (known thereafter as the Basilica Palladiana). The arches create what became known as the ‘Palladian window’, that is a pair of shorter double columns supporting the arch with each arch flanked by a single taller column. The idea contributed to what became known as the ‘Palladian movement’ in architecture, often called Palladianism.

    In terms of domestic buildings, an influential reimagining of classical forms can be seen in Alberti’s c. 1450 Palazzo Rucellai in Florence. The flattened facade of pilaster columns and perfect symmetry even included a lower portion of diamond decoration, a direct reference to the ancient Roman wall-building technique known as opus reticulatum. This building was the first of the Renaissance to receive a facade using the classical orders.

    Another significant contribution to new ideas in private buildings was made by Bramante with his 1501 Palazzo Caprini in Rome. It is known as the ‘House of Raphael’ after Raphael began living there from 1517. It had an upper floor of classical orders and a lower rusticated floor of arched shop fronts. These two levels combined to create a strictly symmetrical facade, and it was hugely influential on palace buildings in Italy for the next two centuries.

    Palazzo Farnese, Rome

    Myrabella (CC BY-SA)

    Palladio was also hugely influential in domestic architecture. Working for wealthy landowners in and around Vicenza in northern Italy, Palladio designed many impressive villas which reimagined the temples of ancient Rome as private homes. He added a grand columned portico for the entrance (or even one for each side of the building), had a large central room topped by a dome, and put the whole structure on a raised platform. The best example is the Villa Valmarana, aka ‘La Rotonda’, near Vicenza, built c. 1551. Later Renaissance architects would add terraced gardens to further enhance the visual experience of grand isolated domestic buildings.

    As the 16th century wore on, Renaissance architecture evolved into the more decorative and inventive Mannerism. A good example of this change in mood is the courtyard of the Palazzo Marino in Milan (completed 1558 CE), designed by Galeazzo Alessi (1512-1572). It is a theatrical presentation of classical elements almost obliterated by decorative sculpture. Compare this building with the classical symmetry and austerity of the High Renaissance Palazzo Farnese in Rome (design c. 1517) by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (c. 1483-1546).

    Palazzo Marino Courtyard, Milan

    Carlo Dell’Orto (CC BY-SA)

    Finally, Renaissance architects were involved in less beautiful but practically useful projects such as building flood defences, fortifications, monumental public fountains, and town planning.

    Written Works on Architecture

    Many architects, as noted, wrote books on their subject. Alberti’s On Building (De Re Aedificatoria) came out in Latin in 1452 and then in the Tuscan vernacular in 1456. Alberti catalogued the defining principles of classical architecture and noted how these might be applied to contemporary Renaissance buildings. He emphasised the need for buildings to be visible from all sides, that the designer should equally consider the interior and exterior, and they should be impressive both in size and appearance. The book became a sort of architect’s bible, even more so when it was printed in 1485 as Ten Books on Architecture. Justifiably, Alberti became known as the ‘Florentine Vitruvius’. Alberti’s work also began a wider discussion on the role of architecture in society, the relation of a building’s design to its function, and got people talking about architecture who were not directly involved in that field.

    Serlio’s Seven Books on Architecture (1537 to 1575) not only canonised the five classical orders as mentioned above but covered the surviving buildings from antiquity, contemporary architectural theory, and practical advice for architects based on models. A particular feature of these books is the inclusion of a great many detailed and accurate woodcut printed illustrations, often drawn by Serlio himself. Another influential and much-thumbed book on the orders came from Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-1573), his 1562 On the Five Orders (Regole delle cinque ordini).

    Pages from Serlio’s Seven Books on Architecture

    François de Dijon (CC BY-SA)

    In 1556 Palladio provided a series of illustrations for a new edition of his hero Vitruvius’ On Architecture and then made his own contribution to the growing Renaissance library with his Four Books of Architecture (1570). Immediately popular with architects, the work was translated into several other European languages, including four editions in English between 1663 and 1738. The work considers materials, the classical orders, domestic and public buildings, and provides reconstructions of Roman temples. The books helped spread Palladio’s ideas on architecture because although they focussed on classical architecture, the author often used his own designs to illustrate the descriptions.

    The Spread of Renaissance Ideas

    Architects travelling to different cities and the spread of written works helped ensure Italy was not alone as a witness to the architectural revolution. Books were often translated and so, for example, the 50 illustrations of highly decorative doorways in Serlio’s books became popular with Mannerist architects in Northern Europe.

    Architects also moved abroad. In 1541, for example, Serlio left Italy for France, where he worked for the king, Francis I of France (r. 1515-1547) on the design and construction of the Palace of Fontainebleau. Francis was a keen patron of the arts and had already employed Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) between 1517 and 1519, possibly involving the Italian in the design for his massive new Chateau de Chambord. Serlio designed the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc (c. 1546) with its classical-inspired facade of pilasters. This chateau is a typical example of how Renaissance ideas were blended with local architectural traditions across Europe in buildings of all kinds from Antwerp to Lisbon.

    Chateau de Chambord

    Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

    The English architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652) famously collected original drawings by Palladio following a visit to Italy and so introduced his style to England. Jones designed such grand structures as the Queen’s House in Greenwich and the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London, both in the second decade of the 17th century. Palladio’s designs were also popular in Ireland and the American colonies where his columned entrance porches became a standard feature of everything from houses to libraries. Renaissance ideas even spread to other continents. The Spaniards travelled with architectural books and then copied elements into the buildings they erected in Mexico and Peru. Jesuit missionaries did the same in India and other parts of Asia. Meanwhile, back in Europe, the 17th century heralded a new architectural movement, which challenged the classically-dominated Renaissance style. This was the much more playful and exuberant Baroque style.

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    10 Characteristics of Renaissance Architecture


    As an architectural style, Renaissance architecture appeared in 15th century Florence, Italy, and from there on spread throughout Europe until the end of the 16th century. The Renaissance style replaced the medieval Gothic style and took its inspiration from Roman ruins present in Italy as well as from books of ancient architects, such as Vitruvius. It is a style that both revives and innovates the techniques of ancient Greeks and Romans. Below are presented the main characteristics that will allow you to recognize this unique style anywhere in Europe.


    1. The Key List Of Elements To Look For In Renaissance Architecture

    “Temple Types” in Antis and Prostyle, Book 3, Chapter 2 by Vitruvius, attributed to a member of the Sangallo family, 1st century BC, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


    If you keep in mind the following list of elements, you will be able to tell Renaissance buildings apart from others easily. First, only three types of buildings were built: churches, palazzos, and villas. The villa was meant to be a countryside residence and the palazzo as a town residence. These types are still valid in the rest of Europe, with palazzo as palace and villa often transformed as a castle.


    Moreover, Renaissance buildings feature flat classicism, meaning that the building’s walls do not have many physical depths in their decorations. To understand this, it is best to look at a Baroque exterior and see that it features a lot of depth in the decoration. Another point of the flatness is the fact that curved lines are never used in buildings. Everything is relatively straight, featuring only a few arches.


    The most common decorative elements are the columns, pilasters, pediments, arches, blind or not, and stringcourses. Moreover, the different stories of the façades are often marked with decorations, so one can easily tell if the building is one story high or two stories high just by looking.


    2. The Use Of Columns In Renaissance Architecture

    Corinthian column capital, 4th-3rd century B.C., Greek, South Italian, Tarentine, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

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    Although most people tend to associate columns with ancient Greek or Roman temples, they are also an important characteristic of Renaissance architecture. After the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the knowledge and techniques developed by the Romans were gradually lost. In the 15th century, the people who lived in Italy did not know the techniques of ancient Romans. They were surrounded by ruins of Roman buildings that they had no idea how to rebuild. However, because the region of Italy became interested in old manuscripts, chance had it that they came across ancient documents purchased from Arabs. Some were treatises on architecture.


    Columns seem to be an easy element to build, but that is only apparent. Without any knowledge of the right height, width, and the right rigorous mathematical formula, one will not be very successful in building a column. By finding books that explain these details, Renaissance architects could learn how to do it. They also learned about the three registers of columns: doric, ionic, and corinthian. By learning how to build columns, architects rendered them a key feature of most Renaissance buildings.


    3. The Extensive Use Of Geometrical Shapes 

    Di Lucio Vitruvio Pollione De architectura Libri traducti de latino in vulgare affigurati: commentate:& con mirando ordine insigniti by Vitruvius, 1521, via The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


    While Gothic architecture makes use of some geometrical shapes, it does not have an understanding of them as Renaissance architecture does. Mastery of geometrical shapes in architecture is essential because it can ensure the stability of the building over time and use space in the right way. It also contributes to the height of a building: the more stable a structure is, the taller and grander the end result may be.


    Most building plans from the Renaissance make use of the circle and square in their designs. This ensures that the building has a sturdy foundation, but it also plays an aesthetic role, making the plan full of proportion. The use of geometrical shapes in plans is also visible on the façades because most of them are an interplay of circles, squares, and triangles.


    4. The Vibrant Interiors Painted By Renaissance Masters

    The Sistine Chapel fresco by Michelangelo, 1473-1483, Vatican City, Rome, via Google Arts and Culture


    The vibrantly painted interiors of most Renaissance buildings are a must on this list, despite not exactly being an architectural characteristic. Due to the betterment of both materials and techniques, frescoes are often highly associated with Renaissance art. The Sistine Chapel is, by far, the most famous example where architecture provides the proper setting for a breathtaking painted interior.


    Artists grew in numbers during the flourishing of arts in the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe, and patrons commissioned them more than ever. This increased the interest in interior decoration. The austere ancient look of a Renaissance building exterior gave way to an interior with painted frescoes depicting religious subjects, often with ancient-like painted vegetal decorations.


    5. The Return Of Domes In Renaissance Architecture

    The Dome of Florence, Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore by Filippo Brunelleschi, 1434, via Duomo Firenze


    Domes are familiar architectural elements that are still widely used in contemporary buildings. However, they were not used in medieval architecture and made a comeback only in the Renaissance. Due to ancient authors like Vitruvius, architects were able to figure out the proper method for building a dome.


    Why was it so tricky beforehand? A dome does not have a foundation of its own. Instead, it uses the building walls on top of which it is placed as a foundation. Due to this, a wrong mathematical formula may cause the building to collapse under the dome’s weight.


    The most well-known Renaissance domes are those made by Brunelleschi in Florence and by Michelangelo in Rome. However, their construction would not have been possible without the theory provided by Vitruvius. In this sense, the recovery of ancient manuscripts again played a significant role in the development of Renaissance architecture.


    6. The Importance Of Linear Perspective In Architecture

    Linear perspective study for the Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinci, 1481, via Britannica


    Another important discovery of the Renaissance was linear perspective. This discovery was made by artists who employed it mainly in painting and drawing. However, it came to play a crucial role in architecture as well. This occurred due to the Renaissance human ideal that encouraged people to have a universal approach to artistic and intellectual activities, thus avoiding a specialization of talents. Because of this, most architects were also artists.


    As architects were also draftsmen or painters, they started using linear perspective in architecture as well. The first to do so was Filippo Brunelleschi. The role of linear perspective in Renaissance architecture is the same as in painting: it must guide the eye to a designated place and offer a sense of depth. The sense of space and depth was vital as it gave what we would call today a 3D sensation. Linear perspective was beneficial for façades as it provided the necessary visual guide for the eye. The viewer would follow the long and straight lines of a column and arrive at its decorated capital.


    7. Renaissance And Ancient Elements Mixed

    Virgin with Child and Saints by Hugo van der Goes, 15th century, via Christie’s


    If you ever look at a building and can identify some ancient elements but fail to figure out the origins of all architectural characteristics, you are most likely looking at a Renaissance building. Renaissance architecture borrows many elements from ancient Greek and Roman buildings but it is not an exact replica. Both architects and artists were deeply encouraged to create elements or motifs that would go well with ancient ones. Even Michelangelo would often innovate ancient motifs and advised his colleagues to do the same.


    However, this liberty did not mean that anything was possible. The artist had to be inspired by ancient Greek and Roman culture and create new elements that would still seem to be from the same register. To put it in more contemporary terms, the artist had to enter the mood of the Ancients and create accordingly.


    8. Always Symmetrical

    Règles des cinq ordres d’architecture by Jacques Chereau after Vignola, 1747, via Christie’s


    Because Renaissance architecture has proportion, harmony, and linearity, symmetry seems to be a natural requirement that completes this picture. For example, the Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci considered that the relationships found between elements were similar to the mathematical relationships found and derived from nature. If nature, God’s creation, is mathematical, proportionate, and symmetrical, then man-made creations ought to be so too. Artists like Da Vinci took to heart this observation and strived to create balanced works in their painting, sculpture, and architecture.


    While Renaissance architecture is sure to offer a variety of buildings, symmetry is a common element all over. It is true for buildings from the Netherlands or Germany even if they appear to be very different from their Italian counterparts. This is proved through looking at the buildings and the best-selling architectural books from the 16th century. One such book is the architecture treaty of Vignola, which sold in more than 250 international editions during the Renaissance period. Accompanied by practical instructions and a lot of illustrations, it was the to-go book for any architect. Moreover, this demonstrates the close relationship between theory and practice in the Renaissance.


    9. The Philosophy Behind Renaissance Architecture

    Interior fresco of the dome from Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi, via Duomo Firenze


    While the previous points dealt with more practical characteristics, it is also worth mentioning the primary philosophy behind Renaissance buildings. During the Middle Ages, the great and imposing buildings of the Gothic style sought to make use of light: huge stained-glass windows would create a holy atmosphere for the visitor. Thus, in what way did the philosophy change for Renaissance architecture?


    For Renaissance architecture, the ideal went a bit beyond traditional and medieval Christianity – it admitted that there were valuable ideas in ancient thought as well. Thus, the Renaissance is a mix of pagan culture and architecture repurposed for Christian traditions. The great minds of Antiquity are no longer banished, but they are accepted and used in the name of God. The image that a building should have is that of a pagan temple now offered to God. This is visible in how exteriors and interiors are constructed. We see stern, pagan-looking exteriors with small hints of Christianity, and painted and decorated interiors that tell Biblical stories, such as episodes from Jesus’ life.


    10. Buildings of Renaissance Architecture You Ought To Know

    Château de Chambord, French Renaissance style built by Domenico de Cortona, commissioned by Francis I, 1519-1547, via Blois Chambord


    The Renaissance style is extensively showcased in numerous buildings. Here are a few of the most notable examples:


    St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy. It is a grand church that highlights a significant number of the characteristics discussed above.


    • Sant’ Andrea in Mantua, Italy
    • Villa Capra in Vicenza, Italy
    • Château de Chambord and parts of the Louvre are great examples from France.


    Additionally, the must-know Italian Renaissance masters are as follows:


    • Filippo Brunelleschi
    • Lorenzo Ghiberti
    • Leon Battista Alberti
    • Donato Bramante
    • Giulio Romano
    • Andrea Palladio


    Through their incredible works, you can get a glimpse of the classical and canon Renaissance buildings that inspired the entirety of Europe.

    Russian architecture of the 16th century

    The 16th century in Russian architecture is rich in events. In this century, active urban planning continues, which was the result of an active foreign and domestic policy of the state during the reign of both Vasily the Third and Ivan the Terrible. This period was marked not only by the construction of new cities, the construction and strengthening of fortifications, but also by the active growth of Moscow, the continuation of construction work in the Moscow Kremlin, the emergence of new monasteries, cathedrals and temples.
    In the 16th century, the power of the Russian state was growing, and the importance of Moscow as a center was also growing. The best craftsmen are brought to the capital from all over Rus’, who work together with Italian architects and architects. With their help, Russia begins the construction of complex architectural objects made of stone, which replaced the traditional Russian wooden architecture.
    At the beginning of the century, work continued on the restructuring of the Moscow Kremlin, begun by Ivan III at the end of the 15th century. The Kremlin was now a building of brick, solemn and majestic, with higher walls than before. The tallest building in the Kremlin was the watchtower — the bell tower of Ivan the Great. Its construction began at the beginning of the century, in 1505-1508, and ended only at the beginning of the next century. To this day, the building is considered one of the masterpieces of Russian architecture of that period.

    In the same period, in 1505-1508, by order of Vasily the Third, the famous Archangel Cathedral was built in the Moscow Kremlin by the Italian architect Aleviz Novy. Subsequently, this place became the burial place of almost all Moscow rulers, princes and tsars.
    Beginning of the century continued frequent raids of the Tatars. Therefore, Tula, on his orders, in the image of the Moscow Kremlin, is being rapidly erected, first a wooden, and then a stone Tula Kremlin. Work is underway to build fortifications or fortify already built fortresses in other cities.
    Moscow continued to actively rebuild during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible during the formal reign of his mother Elena Glinskaya. In 1535, a stone Kitay-gorod was erected. During this period such cities as Tver, Yaroslavl, Vladimir, Kostroma, Vologda were fortified. On the southern and eastern borders of the state, new cities began to be built.
    In the 16th century, a fundamentally new type of structure appeared in Russia — tent churches, which did not use supports in their construction, like traditional ancient Russian cross-domed churches. Pointed temples, looking like majestic fir trees, have become a sign of that time. Inside, such a temple was a single space topped with a tent. Subsequently, hipped roofs, vaults, canopies made of wood began to appear everywhere in Rus’ — over gates, over peasant huts, over boyar mansions and over wells, over chapels and even over wooden grave crosses.
    As noted, the same period of time is characterized by the beginning of a gradual transition from wooden to stone architecture. Since the construction of tent structures, especially in stone, required high accuracy of engineering calculations, it can be said with confidence that by that time Russian architects had already learned to cope with such difficult tasks.
    Another technological innovation characteristic of this period was the use of red brick along with white stone. During the construction of objects, metal fasteners are being used instead of wooden ones, work is carried out using lifting mechanisms.
    The most striking examples of tent churches are the unique and inimitable monuments of Russian architecture of the 16th century that have come down to us — the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye, built at the beginning of the century in honor of the birth of Ivan the Fourth (the future Terrible), and a unique building, a real wonder of the world — the Church of the Intercession on the Moat , better known as St. Basil’s Cathedral, built on Red Square in the middle of the 16th century in honor of the capture of Kazan. According to legend, Ivan the Terrible ordered the Russian architects who worked on its creation to be blinded so that they could not reproduce such beauty again.

    The building of St. Basil’s Cathedral was built of brick, a new material at that time. The foundation and plinth of the temple, as well as some decorative elements, were made of a more traditional material — white stone. Of particular interest is the external decoration of the cathedral. The temple in our time attracts attention with the complexity of the design and multi-colored intricate domes. The architects put all their imagination into the design of the temple, and the result exceeded the wildest expectations. Wanting to emphasize the beauty of the main building material, brick, the architects also painted it “like a brick”.
    In parallel with the construction of tent churches both in Moscow and in the provinces, active construction of five-domed cross-domed churches continues. Among them, one can especially highlight the construction of the Smolensky Cathedral of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, as well as the Assumption Cathedral of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.
    It is worth noting that the reign of Ivan the Terrible was especially marked by the appearance of many new churches and monasteries. After all, with the fall of Byzantium and the Roman Empire, it was Russia, according to the far-sighted plan of the rulers, that became the new stronghold of Christianity for the entire Orthodox world.
    In the middle of the 16th century, stone civil construction was already actively developing in Moscow. Both in Moscow itself and in its near and distant environs, many stone buildings were built. Among them are the famous Alksandrovskaya Sloboda and other royal residences, as well as the grandiose Oprichny Court.
    Of the large Russian cities, only in Novgorod and Pskov in the 16th century, characteristic local features still remain noticeable. Novgorod in these years was a stronghold of the state in the north-west, so they were busy with military and defensive construction. The Novgorod Kremlin, rebuilt in brick, has elements of the Moscow Kremlin in its architecture. By the end of the century, the civil structures of Novgorod began to undergo changes in their architectural appearance, acquiring the features of Moscow architecture.
    Another situation has developed in Pskov. The architectural development of the city continued to go its own way, and it was in the 16th century that its own Pskov school of architecture flourished here. Since the city was the backbone of the state in the west, in the 16th century its fortifications were radically rebuilt. The Intercession Tower has survived from the stone structures of that era to the present day. Later, of course, the influence of Moscow architecture began to be felt here, which manifested itself in the appearance of five-domed churches with basements and other architectural techniques that were not previously characteristic of this area.

    As far back as the 15th century, the fame of Pskov architects spread far beyond the boundaries of their city, as a result, they were specially invited to build objects in other cities. At the beginning of the century they were already working in Moscow. Later, in 1560, near Kazan, in Sviyazhsk, the Cathedral of the Assumption Monastery was erected, the work of Pskov masters, in which the characteristic features of Pskov architecture are clearly visible.

    Architecture of the 16th century in Russia in history for the preparation of a report in the 7th grade briefly


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    updated December 23, 2021


    Average rating: 4

    Total assessments: 63.

    updated 23 December, 2021

    The key event of the 16th century in the history of Russia was the completion of the process of unification of Russian lands and principalities around Moscow. The stabilization of the state led to the rapid development of architecture, even despite a small proportion of the urban population. The 16th century was remembered in Russian history for interesting examples of architecture, both religious buildings and fortifications.

    Construction of churches

    Most of the cult buildings of the 16th century were wooden and have not been preserved to this day.

    Rice. 1. Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye.

    Among the surviving wooden buildings, one can note the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin from the village of Peredki, Borovichi District, Novgorod Region. It was built in 1539 and in the second half of the 20th century was transferred to the Vitoslavitsa Museum on the outskirts of Veliky Novgorod.

    Another example is the Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God from the village of Kholm near the town of Galich, Kostroma region. Its construction dates back to 1552, and now it is located in Kostroma in an open-air museum.

    The best preserved stone buildings. They were built in two main styles: cross-domed and hipped. The latter include the Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye, built in 1532. In addition to it, tent churches were erected in the 16th century in the following places:

    • Moore;
    • Ryazan;
    • Spas-on-Ugra;
    • Balakhna;
    • Alexandrov;
    • Kolomna;
    • Suzdal;
    • Prussian village south of Moscow;
    • Staritsa.

    The Assumption Cathedral in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra belongs to the cross-domed buildings.

    The most beautiful architectural monument of the 16th century is St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. It is also known as the Intercession Cathedral and was built on the occasion of the capture of Kazan in 1552. Construction was carried out from 1554 to 1560. The architect from Pskov, Postnik Yakovlev, became the architect. Now the cathedral is included in the UNESCO heritage list and is considered one of the symbols of Moscow.

    Rice. 2. Church of Elijah the Prophet, Prussians.

    Construction of fortifications

    In most cities, fortifications in the 16th century were wooden, and they have not been preserved. By the end of the century, Russian prisons and towns beyond the Urals began to appear. For example, Tyumen in 1586, Tobolsk in 1587 and Obdorsk (modern Salekhard) in 1595.

    In the European part of Russia, stone fortresses were built mainly on the southern borders to protect against the raids of the Crimean Tatars. They posed a threat even to Moscow. Their last raid on the capital fell on 1591 year. Fortresses were built less frequently on the western and eastern borders. For example, in 1508-1515 the Kremlin was built in Nizhny Novgorod.

    The construction of the Kremlin in Tula dates back to 1514. In 1525 the Kremlin appeared in Kolomna, and in 1531 in Zaraysk. In 1535-1538, the Italian architect Petrok Maly erected the Kitai-Gorod wall in Moscow. In 1556, the Kremlin appeared in Serpukhov. In 1595, the construction of the largest Kremlin in Smolensk began, it was completed in 1602.

    The main examples of architecture of the 16th century in Russia can be presented in the table:




    Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin


    Kolomna Kremlin


    Zaraisk Kremlin


    Church of the Ascension in Kolomenskoye


    Kitaigorod wall in Moscow


    Sviyazhsk Fortress


    Intercession Cathedral in Moscow and the Kremlin in Serpukhov


    Kremlin in Smolensk

    Sviyazhsk is one of the most interesting examples of Russian town planning in the 16th century.

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