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From the 14th century to the 17th century
The word "renaissance" is a French word translating to rebirth. The Renaissance is a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity, and promoted the rediscovery of classical philosophy, literature and art. The movement developed in Italy in the 14th century and spread throughout Europe reaching its peak with the 16th century. It was a fervent period of European cultural, artistic, political and economic "rebirth". Many of the greatest thinkers, authors, statesmen, scientists and artists in history thrived during the Renaissance period.
A cultural movement called humanism began to gain momentum in Italy during the 14th century. Humanism promoted the idea that man was the center of his own universe, that profoundly influenced Renaissance culture.
During the Renaissance period many great advances occurred in geography, astronomy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, anatomy and engineering. Galileo and Descartes presented a new view of astrology and mathematics, while Copernicus proposed that the Sun was the center of the solar system.
Religious altarpieces, fresco cycles, and small works for private devotion were very popular among Renaissance artists. The key feature of art of the period was its development of highly realistic linear perspective and a revival of classical learning, and a more individualistic view of man. Along with Renaissance humanist philosophy, it spread throughout Europe. The greatest artists from the period with a new approach to painting and sculpture were Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Raphael.
Several important explorations were made in a period known as the Age of Discovery. New shipping routes to the Americas, India and the Far East were discovered.
The new ideals of humanism, although more secular in some aspects, encouraged Europeans to question the role of the Roman Catholic church during the Renaissance. As a result of a Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther in the 16th century, a new form of Christianity, known as Protestantism, was created.