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Renaissance

is the name for the cultural epoch in the Early Modern that followed on the Middle Ages in Europe. The French word means Rebirth. Since the 14th century Italian humanists such as Francesco Petrarca believed that the superior culture of Antiquity had been driven out by the Middle Ages. To return to true culture one had to take Antiquity as a model. Albrecht Dürer first spoke of the “ the present reawakening” in 1523. In 1756 Voltaire used the word Renaissance to characterise the style of the epoch.

From 1350 on the influence of Antiquity made itself felt in northern Italy. In architecture one began to revert to the classical order of columns. In paintings, instead of using gold to create the background typical of the Middle Ages painters depicted reality. In literature and philosophy the works of ancient authors were rediscovered. Roman Law gradually displaced medieval concepts of law.

The Renaissance is characterised by an intensive exchange of cultural ideas between the European princely courts. Their far-flung connections contributed to the rapid spread of the new ideals. The inventions of book-printing and copper-plate engravings encouraged the transfer just as did the world-wide trade connections of merchants and seafarers.

North of the Alps the new ideas were first encountered in profane architecture, in particular in the castles built by sovereign princes. The semicircular gable, known after its country of origin as the Welsche Giebel or italian gable is characteristic for the new style and derives from Venice. In the region of the River Weser, Neuhaus Castle near Paderborn is the earliest building to testify to the spread of this new architectural feature. From 1560, on the theory of architecture that traced back to the Roman Vitruvius gained influence. With his printed Vitruvian model designs, Hans Vredeman de Vries put his stamp on the building style of the second half of the 16th century.