The Renaissance

  • © Flickr - CC Etienne Valois

  • © Flickr - CC Cristian Bortes

The Renaissance

Late 15th-16th century

At the end of the 15th century and throughout the 16th, the Renaissance blossomed after the troubled times of the Middle Ages. The cultural, intellectual and artistic revival of this period was marked by artists from Italy who accomplished the masterpieces of the French Renaissance style. The early days of printing marked a decisive turning point.

So what happened in France at the beginning of the 16th century? Victory over England, a re-unified kingdom, we are already a long way from the miseries and famines of the Hundred Years War. The kingdom flourished once more. The population grew and the economy expanded rapidly. Charles VIII set off to war in Italy, to the conquest of Milan and Naples. First Louis XII, then François I continued to fight on Italian soil. The victory at Marignan in 1515 was to mark these conquests which enabled the king to marvel at the artistic beauties of Italy. He then summoned the greatest artists to France, including Leonardo da Vinci, to Fontainebleau, to the Louvre Palace and the banks of the Loire. Châteaux, including Chambord, Azay-le-Rideau, Amboise and Blois were built in the Loire Valley.

François I soon came into conflict with Charles-Quint [Charles V], the powerful Holy Roman Emperor, and with the English. In the second half of the 16th century the "Lutheran heresy" sowed the seeds of problems within the Church. The king was Catholic and repressed the Protestants ruthlessly. His son, Henri II continued the repression of the Calvinists [known in England as the Huguenots] with the bloody Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572. The Duke of Guise was assassinated in 1588 and King Henri III in 1589. It took the coronation of the Protestant King Henri IV to calm these Wars of Religion. "Paris is worth a mass!".