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28 Incredible Architectural Structures From The Renaissance

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At the beginning of the 14th century, Europe witnessed a new cultural and political movement in the form of Renaissance, that profoundly affected the intellectual thinking in the early modern period. This new thinking was manifested in art, architecture, politics, science and literature.

Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 14th to 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, manifesting a deliberate revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman culture. It was first developed in Florence, Italy and then quickly scattered to other Italian cities, which again carried to different European countries.

The emphasis of Renaissance architecture was on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture. Here is the list of 28 architectural structures of the Renaissance.

28. Sagrestia Vecchia. Florence, Italy. 1421-1440

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Sagrestia Vecchia, also known as the Old Sacristy, is an old Christian building situated in Florence, Italy. The building is considered as one of the most important monuments of early Italian Renaissance. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Brunelleschi, and was one of the forefathers of Renaissance architecture who was commissioned by the Medici family, one of the prominent families in Florence during 14th to 18th centuries.

The interior is segmented by a rhythmic system of arches and pilasters for geometric unity of space. The pilasters are purely for visual purposes. They support an entablature, the only purpose of which is to divide the space into two equal horizontal zones. The upper zone features pendentives under the dome, another relative novelty, more typical of Byzantine architecture.

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27. Santa Maria Presso San Satiro. Milan, Italy. 1472-1482

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The church of Santa Maria San Satiro is dedicated to Saint Satyrus, confessor and brother of Saint Ambrose and Marcellina. The church actually lies on a primitive worship place which was built in 879 A.D. The current one instead was built in 1472-1478 and was designed by Donato Bramante and Giovanni Antonio Amadeo.

Some historian claims that Bramante just had a minor role, and most of the work is attributed to Amadeo. The Church is famous for its false apse, which is considered to be one of the first examples of Trompe-l’œil. It is remarkable for its gold plated interior, terracotta portrayals and altar pieces.

26. Ospedale Degli Innocenti. Florence, Italy. 1419-1445

The Ospedale degli Innocenti or ‘Hospital of the Innocents’ is a historical building in Florence, Italy. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. Regarded as one of the earliest and finest architectural building of Florence, it originally was a children’s orphanage. The building reflects a clean and clear sense of proportion.

The facade is made up of nine semicircular arches springing from columns of the Composite order. Above each arch there is a tabernacle window. A tabernacle window is a rectangular window with a triangular pediment on the top. In the spandrels of the arches there are blue terracotta roundels with reliefs of infants.

25. Queen’s House. Greenwich, London. 1616-1619

Renaissance reached England nearly at the end of the 15th century. Unlike in Italy, however Renaissance style and ideas were slow to penetrate England. Anyway, Queen’s house is the former Royal residence which was built in 1616 to 1619 and is one of the most important buildings in British architectural history. Compared to earlier British Renaissance buildings such as Longleat and Burghley House, it has more and detailed fusion of classical methods.

24. Palazzo Rucellai. Florence, Italy 1446- 1451

Palazzo Rucellai is a fifteenth-century townhouse on the Via della Vigna Nuova in Florence, Italy. It is believed that the Palace was designed by Leon Battista Alberti between 1446 and 1451 and executed, by Bernardo Rossellino. Its magnificent facade was one of the first to demonstrate the new ideas of Renaissance architecture based on the use of pilasters and entablatures in proportional relationship to each other.

The Rucellai Palace demonstrates the impact of the revival of the antiquity, but in a manner which is full of Renaissance originality. The grid-like facade, achieved through the application of a scheme of trabeated articulation, makes a statement of rational humanist clarity.

23. Banqueting House. London. 1619-1622

As the name suggests, it is the place social ambiance. Ingo Jones was the first significant English architect of the early modern period. He was the first person who introduced the classical architecture styles of Rome and Italy to Britain. Among his significant works is the Banqueting house which was built in 1619 and completed in 1622.

The term Banqueting House was something of a mislead. The hall within the house was, in fact, used not only for banqueting, but also royal receptions, ceremonies, and the performance of masques.

22. Palazzo Del Te. Mantua, Italy. 1524-1534

In 1524, Federico II Gonzaga, the Duke of Mantua commissioned architect Giulio Romano to design a pleasure palace, or Villa Suburbana. The palace or Palazzo del te was completed in 1534. Under the guidance of Giulio Romano, local painters such as Benedetto Pagni and Rinaldo Mantovano worked extensively on the frescos. Till date, these frescoes remain the most remarkable feature of the Palazzo.

21. Palazzo Medici Riccardi. 1445-1460

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The Palazzo Medici Riccardi was built during the 15th century in the city of Florence by the famous architect and sculptor Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi. Just like Brunelleschi, Michelozzo was also heavily favored architect by the Medici family who was extensively employed by the patriarch Cosimo de’ Medici.

Built in the mid fifteenth century by Michelozzo on commission from the Medici, the building became the masterpiece of Renaissance civil architecture. The robust pile of the mansion, was for at least a century the symbol of the political and cultural primacy of the Medici in Florence.

It was well known for its stone masonry, which includes rustication and ashlar styles. The tripartite elevation used here to express the Renaissance spirit of rationality, order, and classicism.

20. Cathedral of the Archangel. Moscow Kremlin, Russia. 1505-1508

The cathedral of the Archangel has a long history since its first construction in 1250. The Russian Orthodox church is located in Cathedral Square of the Moscow Kremlin in Russia between the Great Kremlin Palace and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower. The present structure was built in 1508, replacing a stone church built in 1333.

It incorporated many elements of the Italian Renaissance, but many of those details were lost during various restorations and renovation works. Its exterior is characterized with semi-circular niches, shell-shaped ornaments and gateways with arc-shaped frames, which are coated and decorated with floral ornaments indicating the influence of the Italian Renaissance. However, its interior is typical Russian style churches.

19. Basilica of Sant’Andrea. Mantua, Lombardy, Italy. 1472-1790

It is regarded as one of the major works of high Renaissance architecture in Northern Italy. The Basilica of Sant’Andrea is a Roman Catholic co-cathedral in Mantua, Italy, which was designed by Leon Battista Alberti. One interesting fact about the Basilica is that its construction was started in 1472, but was completed 328 years later in 1790.

18. Cathedral of St. James, Šibenik Cathedral

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The Cathedral of St. James in Šibenik, Croatia is a triple-nave basilica with three apses and a dome in the city of Šibenik, Croatia. The Cathedral is the most important architectural monument of the Renaissance in the entire country. Since 2000, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

17. Convento De San Esteban. Salamanca, Spain. 1610

The Convento De San Esteban is a Dominican monastery, which situated in the city of Salamanca, Spain. According to the history, the Dominicans settled here in Salamanca around 1255. While their original monastery was demolished in 1524, the construction of the new monastery took place in 1610, involving the architects Martin de Santiago and Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón.
According to the legend, Christopher Columbus once visited this monastery, when he came to Salamanca to defend his idea of reaching the Indies by sailing west, against the geographers of the University of Salamanca. Its facade incorporates the front of the church and the monastery portico. The church’s anterior is one of the exceptional examples of the Plateresque style (silver) architecture.

16. St. Paul’s Cathedral. London. 1675-1710

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St. Paul’s Cathedral is one of the major and most recognizable landmarks of London. At an enormous 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1967. Its dome is among the highest buildings in the world. The present church, is dated back from the late 17th century, and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. Sir Christopher Wren was one of the highly respected English architects in the history. His works were highly influenced by the Baroque architecture.

The Cathedral is built in a restrained or improvised Baroque style which represents a rationalization of English medieval cathedrals drawing inspiration from Palladio, the baroque style of 17th-century Rome, and the buildings by Mansart and others that he had seen in France.

St Paul’s has comparatively long width, and has strongly projecting transepts. It has much emphasis on its facade, which has deliberately been designed to expose rather than conceal the form of the building behind it.

15. Jaen Cathedral. Jaen, Spain. 1249-1724

The present-day Jaen Cathedral is a result of not one, but numerous additions and modifications by several architects due to damage over time. The most important of them, was Andrés de Vandelvira, who designed most of its standing structures. Its most conserved and presentable architectural element is its facade.

14. Radziwill Palace, Vilnius. Lithuania.1635-1653

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Radziwill Palace is one of the finest examples of late Renaissance architecture situated in the Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania. It is one of the few surviving Renaissance structures in the country and probably the only one in the city of Vilnius.

The Palace has a perfect blend of the Netherlands Renaissance with Manneristic decorations of the Lithuanian Renaissance architecture. The original layout and symmetry of core elements of the structure was distinctive to Château de Fontainebleau and Luxembourg Palace in Paris.

13. Basilica of San Lorenzo. Florence, Italy. 1422-1470

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The Basilica of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest and largest churches of Florence, Italy. It was the parish church of the most powerful family in Italy. The church was initially designed by Brunelleschi, but it was not completed after his death. Most of the latter work was done by another great mind of the high Renaissance, Michelangelo.

12. Augsburg Town Hall. Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. 1615-1624

Augsburg Town Hall serves as the administrative center of Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany. It is widely considered as one of the most important secular buildings erected in Renaissance style in the Northern Alps. Designed by Elias Holl, this building is of historic and cultural importance to the people of Germany. The Goldener Saal, or Golden Hall, is the most impressive, and one of the most important cultural monuments of the late German Renaissance.

11. Bremen City Hall. Bremen, Germany. 1405-1409

The Bremen City hall represents the senate of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. It is also one of the most important examples of brick Gothic architecture in Europe. In 1545 to 1550, an extension with three floors, containing a new Wittheits-Stube and several offices, was built between the town hall and the archbishop’s palace, showing a Renaissance style gable facing the cathedral.

10. Rosenborg Castle. Copenhagen, Denmark. 1606-1624

The Rosenborg Castle is a perfect example of the Danish Renaissance style. The castle was originally built as a country summerhouse in 1606 under the Danish king Christian IV. It is remarkable for its tall towers and red masonry with sandstone ornaments.

Among the main attractions of Rosenborg are the coronation chair of the absolutist kings and the throne of the queens with the three silver lions who are standing in front. The Long Hall also contains a large collection of silver furniture, of which are mostly from the 17th century.

9. Antwerp City Hall. Antwerp, Belgium. 1561-1565

In the 16th century Antwerp became one of the busiest trading ports and prosperous cities in Northern Europe. A new bigger town hall was needed to replace the smaller one to compliment the city’s growth. But, war threats prevented that just for the time being. It was finally erected in 1561 and completed in 1565. The structure incorporated a fusion between Flemish and Italian architecture. It is characterized by rusticated stones in low arcade grounds and richly ornamented central section.

8. Poznan Town Hall. Poznan, Western Poland. 13th-14th century

The Poznan Town Hall is one of the historically prominent architectural buildings in Poland. The original town hall was constructed as the administrative building of the city in 1300. It was extended in the late 15th century. Due to a major fire, it was again damaged and in 1560, the city council commissioned Giovanni Battista di Quadro to carry out a major rebuilding. The building currently serves as a museum of the city of Poznan.

7. Krasiczyn Castle. Krasiczyn, Poland. 1580-1631

Krasiczyn Castle Image credit: wikimedia

The Krasiczyn Castle is a Renaissance style castle that had been used as a residence by several royal Polish families. The construction of the castle started in 1580, but it was completed in 1633 by Marcin Krasicki, of Podolia. One of the most precious elements of the complex is the chapel, located in the Divine Tower, which has been compared to the Sigismund’s Chapel in Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral. Among other interesting things, there are richly sculpted portals, loggias, arcades, and unique sgraffito wall decorations.

6. Gripsholm Castle. Mariefred, Södermanland, Sweden. 1537-1709

Gripsholm Castle is situated in Mariefred, Södermanland, Sweden. Until the 18th century, it has been one of a residences of the Swedish Royal Family. Historically, the fort was constructed in the 1370s, which was later sold to Danish Queen Margaret. Then in 1498, it was converted to a Carthusian Abbey. During the Swedish Reformation, it was confiscated by the king Gustav I. The castle is among the few pieces of Renaissance architecture in Sweden. It now serves as a museum.

5. Kronborg Castle. Helsingor, Denmark. 1574-1585

A UNESCO world heritage site, the Kronborg Castle is among important Renaissance castles in Northern Europe. The castle is located in the extreme northwestern tip of Denmark, between Denmark and Sweden. The castle is divided into four different sections namely, the Royal apartment refurnished and richly decorated with ceiling paintings, stone portals, the Ballroom, the little hall and a chapel.

4. Baranow Sandomierski Castle. Subcarpathian Voivodship, Poland. 1591-1606

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The Baranów Sandomerski Castle is an ideal example of the Mannerist style of architecture. It is located in the town of Baranów Sandomierski in southeastern Poland. The castle is commonly known as the “little Wawel”. During 1898, under a Kraków architect, some key changes were carried out. During this reconstruction, one of the chambers on the ground floor was adopted as chapel, which is decorated in art nouveau style. Today, it serves as a historical museum.

3. Schloss Johannisburg. Aschaffenburg, Germany. 1605-1614

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The palace was erected between 1605 and 1614 by the architect Georg Ridinger commissioned by Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg, the Archbishop of Mainz. It is one of the few most symmetrical palace buildings of the German Renaissance. 

The building has three floors, each with the exterior structured only by fascia and a central three-tiered transverse gable in each roof. A tower is located on each the four corners, extending outward beyond the building line. Today, like most of these historical buildings, it serves as an open museum.

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2. Filippo Brunelleschi, Santo Spirito, Florence

One of the most prominent examples Italian Renaissance, the Basilica di Santo Spirito “Holy Spirit” is a church situated in Florence, Tuscany. The present day church was designed between 1428 to 1434 by Brunelleschi.

1. Biblioteca Marciana. Venice, Northern Italy. 1537-1553

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The Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana or the National Library of St Mark’s is among the famous libraries of high Renaissance in Venice, northern Italy. Being one of the oldest surviving manuscript depositories in the country, it holds many of the greatest classical text collections in the world today.

The library is named after St. Mark, who was the patron saint of Venice. It was initially designed by Jacopo Sansovino. Among his works is the first sixteen arcaded bays which were constructed during 1537 to 1553. Sansovino died in 1570, but the work continued in 1588 by Vincenzo Scamozzi, who was responsible for the additional five bays.

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