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Architecture and Buildings

History >> Renaissance for Kids

During the Renaissance architects began to look back to the Romans and Greeks for inspiration when designing buildings. Much of Renaissance architecture style was taken from Ancient Rome and Greece and then altered to fit their current lifestyle.

St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica is a prime example of Renaissance architecture

Filippo Brunelleschi

Brunelleschi was considered the first Renaissance architect. Some historians consider the start of the Renaissance to be 1419, when he won the commission to build the dome above the cathedral of Florence. This dome was an ambitious undertaking as it was to be the largest dome built since the Pantheon in Ancient Rome, which had been built 1500 years earlier.

Dome of Florence Cathedral
The dome designed by Brunelleschi

The entire dome, including the lantern on top, would take much of Brunelleschi's life to complete. The gold ball at the top weighed nearly two tons by itself. It also took over four million bricks to construct the dome. Brunelleschi also had to invent new ways of lifting heavy objects high into the air, which would later be used by other architects.

Brunelleschi also designed two churches in Florence; the church of San Lorenzo and the church of Santo Spirito. These churches were built with symmetry and order. Many more churches throughout Europe would mimic this basic design in the coming years.

Features of Renaissance Buildings

Renaissance architecture had some distinct features that were fairly common to major construction:
  • Square - Many buildings were built as square or rectangle symmetrical shapes.
  • Front - The front or "fašade" of the buildings were generally symmetrical around the vertical axis.
  • Columns - They used Roman type columns.
  • Arches and Domes - Arches and domes were popular. This was again taken from Roman and Greek architecture.
  • Ceilings - The ceilings of buildings were generally flat. Previously in the Middle Ages ceilings were often left open.
Examples of Renaissance Buildings
  • Basilica of St. Peter - This is perhaps the most famous building built during the Renaissance. Several architects worked on the design for the building including Michelangelo. It has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and is considered by many to be the greatest Christian church building. It took 120 years to complete from 1506 to 1626.
  • The Sistine Chapel - A chapel that is part of the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City, this building is most noted for its ceilings painted by Michelangelo.
  • Palazzo Pitti - Originally built in 1458 for Florence banker Luca Pitti, this palace later became part of the Medici family empire.
  • Palazzo Farnese - A palace from the High Renaissance built in Rome for the Farnese family.
  • El Escorial - This majestic building was built in the late 1500s as the palace of the King of Spain. It is laid out in orderly symmetric squares as shown in the picture below. Some believe that the floor plan was to mimic Solomon's Temple.

  • El Escorial
    El Escorial from above

  • Pazzi Chapel - This chapel is said to be a masterpiece of the simple form of the architecture of the time. It is thought that the original design was by Filippo Brunelleschi even though the building wasn't finished until nearly 20 years after his death.

Take a ten question quiz at the Renaissance Architecture questions page.

Learn more about the Renaissance:

How did the Renaissance start?
Medici Family
Italian City-states
Age of Exploration
Elizabethan Era
Ottoman Empire
Northern Renaissance
Daily Life
Renaissance Art
Clothing and Fashion
Music and Dance
Science and Inventions
Famous Renaissance People
Christopher Columbus
Johannes Gutenberg
Henry VIII
Queen Elizabeth I
William Shakespeare
Leonardo da Vinci

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