Unveiling the Renaissance Architecture Times, History, and Its Evolution

Brunelleschi Filippo, the renowned Italian architect, played a crucial role in initiating the rediscovery of ancient Roman architectural principles. He is regarded as the father of Renaissance architecture, and the title is justified by Giorgio Vasari’s statement that “Brunelleschi Filippo was sent by Heaven to invest in architecture with new forms after it had wandered astray for many centuries.” What this visionary engineer did with the structure is quite intriguing and profound, and it brought a drastic change in the way buildings were constructed.

Renaissance Architecture History: How Did the Renaissance Contribute to Architecture?

Renaissance architecture originated in Florence, Italy. It appeared first in the 15th century and gradually spread throughout Europe, including Russia, Germany, Spain, and France, by the end of the 16th century. The period between the early 1400s to 1600 is the period when architecture evolved in shapes and forms and is referred to as the Renaissance architecture period. 

The architectural style brought its elements inspired by remnants of Roman antiquity present in Italy and the ancient architecture books like Vitruvius and replaced the medieval Gothic style. However, the elements of ancient Greeks can still be seen in the design. Over time, the architectural style was slowly influenced by local traditions, transitioning away from the initial roots. It was eventually overruled by the rich, ornate Baroque style from the 17th century.

The Renaissance architecture was divided into three phases,

Early Renaissance, Quattrocento, circa 1400;

High Renaissance, circa 1500;

Late Renaissance, circa 1520;

This write-up plans to introduce you to the various key elements of Renaissance Architecture and how each phase had its own story to tell in this evolution.

What Is the Renaissance Style of Architecture? How Did It Evolve?

Renaissance Architecture example

The Periods of Renaissance Architecture:

Renaissance architecture was a profound revival of interest in antiquity in various forms. Be it art, thought, or architecture, the style saw a resurgence in its Italian roots. The principal phases of Italian Renaissance Architecture are:

Early Renaissance, Quattrocento (1400-1500):

The early Renaissance period laid the foundation of the Renaissance architectural movement. During the early Renaissance period, architects and artists revisited the classic principles and started to think of ways to include geometry, logic, and proportionality in architectural construction. A few elements from classical antiquity were also reintroduced into the design. 

The father of Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi, developed Basilica Di San Lorenzo in Florence, which set an example of this early Renaissance period. This masterpiece serves as a blueprint for future Renaissance architects.

High Renaissance (1500-1525):

The architects from the High Renaissance period incorporated classical antiquity elements into their creations. Innovation and imagination reached its zenith, and architecture started being built with great proficiency. Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Bramate are a few renowned architects from this period who developed masterpieces like St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and San Pietro in Montorio.

Architects meticulously designed the buildings to uphold the principles of proportion, symmetry, and beauty.

Late Renaissance (1520-1600):

The evolution continued, and the architects brought new forms and ideas into construction during the Late Renaissance period. The architects experimented with uncharted territory to include novel spatial and solid aspects of architectural form. 

The Late Renaissance was a more imaginative phase, and one feature that stands out as a benchmark of the Late Renaissance is the use of pilasters that rise from the ground to the facade. 

Michelangelo the Great played a major role in popularizing this style, often referred to this style as the “Giant Order.” The Giant Order showed a bold and attractive side of styling. You can observe Michelangelo’s Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome to better understand the style and its intricacies.

What are the Characteristics of Renaissance Architecture?

The Renaissance architecture period reshaped the architectural landscape for the years to come. Each of the countless buildings built during the period echoed the brilliance of renowned Italian architects. It is worth exploring how these architects infused their expertise in building captivating architecture. Let’s find out about these characteristics that define Renaissance architecture. 

Recognizing Renaissance Architecture: An Iconic Style:

Renaissance architecture stands as an iconic, identifiable style, and if you have read about the set of unique elements that distinguish it, you can easily recognize any building built during that period.

Renaissance architecture predominantly focused on building three types of structures, 

  1. churches, 
  2. Villas and 
  3. Palazzos. 

People recognized villas as countryside residences featuring symmetrical layouts, expansive gardens, and decorative motifs. The palazzo served as a town residence, especially for the nobility and wealthy merchants.

The style still exists in Europe; however, over time, some palazzos transformed into palaces, and villas evolved into castles. This reflects the adaptability of the Renaissance period.

Flat Classicism in Renaissance Architecture:

Renaissance buildings, as you may observe, are unadorned, smooth wall surfaces. They exhibit no sign of influence from the earlier architectural styles that were prevalent in showcasing ornamentation or any decorative embellishments.

The architectural style also eschewed curved lines, maintaining straight lines with only a few arches positioned over the top.

The Use of Columns as a Key Feature:

As Renaissance architecture began to evolve, there was hardly any knowledge about the techniques of building available to them. They had only the remnants of Roman buildings available to them, which served as sources of insights into the grandeur of antiquity. The Renaissance architects found themselves struggling to understand how to construct large and imposing monuments.

In this quest, the architects resorted to the ancient Arabs and their wealth of knowledge. Arab’s documentation provided a new perspective, using which the architects decided to include one feature that stood out: The column.

Columns offer timeless elegance and are easy to include. The columns also offered structural significance, providing strength to the huge buildings. However, the architects had to explore the finer nuances such as height, width, and other mathematical proportions to make it work. The journey to discovery brought a big change in the Renaissance period.

Mastering the Use of Geometrical Shapes with Purpose:

Renaissance architecture set itself apart by the adoption of geometrical shapes, guided by a thorough understanding of their significance. The knowledge about geometrical shapes in a building holds immense importance as it ensures the intactness of the structure and the optimal utilization of the space.

Consider, for instance, the height of the building. In the Renaissance architecture period, heights defined more stability and granderness in the future and not just reaching the skies. 

The use of circles and squares became a hallmark and served a functional purpose. The robust foundation laid down by the Renaissance architects allowed them to incorporate geometrical shapes. Architects easily demonstrate this style in the way they build facades using circles, squares, and triangles.

Vibrant Interiors Crafted by the Renowned Artists:

The Sistine Chapel is one of the most iconic buildings of the period. It stands out in terms of vibrancy, which can be seen in the way the interiors are built. In earlier times, people considered the interior of buildings sacred and kept them simply adorned with solemn decorations and subdued aesthetics. However, the Renaissance architecture evolution shifted it by filling the interiors with vibrancy. The use of frescoes allowed Renaissance artists to experiment with their imagination and include vibrant colors and intricate details. 

The walls adorned with frescoes showcase a range of ornate vegetal decorations and religious subjects. 

Mastering the Art of Building Domes!

Building domes can be tricky, especially for the Renaissance architects who didn’t have access to any knowledge about building domes. A single miscalculation or a wrong mathematical formula in the construction process can cause the collapse of the entire building due to the immense weight of the dome.

However, the rich knowledge available to ancient authors like Vitruvius helped the Renaissance architects to understand the intricacies of laying the foundation of the dome.

Two names who mastered the art of engineering and domes in Renaissance times are Brunelleschi in Florence and Michelangelo in Rome.

Unveiling the Power of a Linear Perspective:

During the Renaissance period, artists who were also architects preferred to embrace a holistic approach to artistic and intellectual activities. The father of Renaissance architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi, played a pivotal role in encouraging the concept of linear perspective. He inspired architects to adopt a linear perspective for artistic innovation, urging them to design paintings that would guide the viewer’s eye to a designated place while providing a profound sense of depth. In other words, he encouraged the creation of paintings that conveyed a 3D feel.

A Fusion of Renaissance and Ancient Elements:

Renaissance architecture, as we all delve into history, reveals an interesting blend of influences from different cultures. The backdrop of the architects was influenced by Greek Architecture, followed by Arab elements that are both timeless and rich. 

You can observe the influence of the use of motifs and other contemporary elements. 

Renaissance architecture shows an unwavering commitment to principles like symmetry, harmony, and philosophy in the construction of the buildings. 

Examples of Renaissance Architecture:

Now that we have an understanding of the brilliant features of Renaissance architecture let us explore some of the most renowned buildings of this time. 

Santa Maria del Fiore:

Initially conceived by Arnolfo di Cambio, the Florence Cathedral saw its completion under the renowned Filippo Brunelleschi. The initial di Cambio’s design seamlessly integrated the timeless Gothic elements like Gothic ribs and pointed arch. However, Filippo transformed the cathedral entirely. He introduced a massive dome that was classic and eye-catching. 

Palazzo Riccardi in Florence:

Palazzo Riccardi is a Renaissance gem located in Florence. The talented architect Michelozzo di Bartolomeo meticulously paid attention to every element of the austere elegance of Renaissance classicism while designing magnificent architecture.

It is one of the subtle examples of Renaissance architecture symmetry and proportionality. Adorned with Gozzoli’s masterful frescoes that tell a beautiful story, the interiors equally please. 


Tempietto, an architectural gem designed by Bramante in Rome, is the epitome of architectural perfection. The sacredness and the profoundness of the place lie in the fact that, here, St. Peter was martyred. The building’s architecture draws clear influence from the sacred structure of the Temple of Vesta, which is famous for its circular form and symbolic importance. 

The Spread of Renaissance Architectural Revolution:

Initially confined to only Italy, the Renaissance architectural revolution radiated outwards, and the artistic and architectural innovation can be seen across various parts of Europe. The Renaissance style emphasized classical proportions, harmony, and vibrancy while constructing buildings. Countless buildings during this time reflect this manifestation.

The incredible works of these famous Italian masters, Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Leon Battista Alberti, Donato Bramante, Giulio Romano, and Andrea Palladio, are awe-inspiring. The Renaissance architecture period has left a legacy behind, and the artistic achievements will continue to inspire. Thank you!

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Shreya Oza
Shreya Ozahttps://architecturesideas.com/
Shreya is an aspiring content writer possessing a captivating gift of storytelling. She crafts stories that look alive and evoke emotions in her readers. She finds solace and her inspiration amidst the mountains.

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