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Buildings and Architecture of the Italian Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance that began during the 14th century was the beginning of the Renaissance movement and affected art, literature, music and architecture. During the Renaissance people began to show more interest in the art and style of ancient Rome and Greek. This is especially apparent in the architecture that began to use more columns. The form also focused on symmetry and specific shapes and styles that are distinct to the era. Renaissance architecture took a different approach from the Gothic architecture that came before it.


The architecture of the Renaissance went through three distinct phases as if developed. Quattrocento or early Renaissance architecture examined the use of space and really focused on proportions. During the High Renaissance phase, the architects began adding in more elements from Greek and Roman architecture. During the Mannerist phase, the architects began to move towards a more open concept without following as many of the strict rules of early architecture.


There are a few architects that really changed the way that buildings were designed during that time. Filippo Brunelleschi designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral. He is well known for his focus on perspective. Leon Battista Alberti is another well-known architect that focused on perspective. He designed Santa Maria Novella, San Sabastiano, and the Sant’Andrea, Mantua. Donato Bramante was a High Renaissance architect that worked in Rome and Milan. He also designed St. Peter’s Basilica, which Michelangelo worked on. Andrea Palladio was a famous architect that worked in Venice. His legacy is the books that he wrote that taught others about architecture and he is looked on as one of the most influential architects of his time.

Common Characteristics

There are common characteristics to help distinguish Renaissance architecture from different styles. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look at the initial plans or designs. The buildings tended to be square with proportions that are symmetrical. The architecture also used specific elements like columns and pilasters to decorate the buildings. Additionally, the use of arches and domes grew during the Renaissance. The ceilings were often closed in and not left open as they were in medieval churches and other buildings.

Renaissance Buildings

There are several famous Renaissance buildings that show the evolution of the architecture during this period. The Santa Maria Novella was built in Florence and was designed by Alberti. It is well known for the frescoes inside of the church. It is a good example of the symmetry in the architecture of that time. The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore was a church that was built over more than a century, but the dome of the church is a classic example of Renaissance architecture. Brunelleschi designed and oversaw the building of the dome. St. Peter’s Basilica is an example of Late Renaissance architecture. It is a chapel that was built in Vatican City. It is one of the largest churches ever built. The Palazzo Medici Riccardi is an example of Renaissance architecture in designing a palace or a home. Bartolomeo designed the building and it was built mainly out of bricks. Sant’Andrea is another church designed by Alberti, and it is located in Northern Italy. It is well known for its central arch and the contrasting columns and pilasters.

By Alan Bernau Jr

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