To top the cathedral in Florence, Filippo Brunelleschi (broo nay LAYS kee) created a majestic dome, modeled on the dome of the ancient Pantheon in Rome.

Like so many other Renaissance artists, Brunelleschi had many talents. He had studied sculpture with Donatello and was an accomplished engineer, inventing many of the machines used to construct his dome.

Leonardo da Vinci

Florence was home to many outstanding painters and sculptors. Among the most brilliant was Leonardo da Vinci (DAH VIHN chee), who was born in 1452. His endless curiosity fed a genius for invention. He sketched objects in nature and dissected corpses to learn how bones and muscles work. Today, people admire Leonardo's paintings for their freshness and realism. Most popular is the Mona Lisa, a portrait of a woman whose mysterious smile has baffled viewers for centuries.

Photo of a cathedral with a dome and a spire at the top. Exterior has mosaic panels and circular windows with thick frames.

The Duomo, a dome atop a cathedral in Florence, was designed by Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi. Completed in 1496, it was modeled on the dome of the Pantheon, built in ancient Rome.

Another masterpiece, The Last Supper, which shows Jesus and his disciples, is a deceptively simple painting and a brilliant example of the use of perspective. To create it, Leonardo used a new type of paint, which decayed over time. However, the painting has been restored.

Although Leonardo thought of himself as an artist, his interests extended to botany, anatomy, optics, music, architecture, and engineering. He sketched flying machines and undersea boats centuries before the first airplane or submarine was built. His many notebooks filled with sketches are a testament to his genius.


Like Leonardo, Michelangelo was a many-sided genius. He was a sculptor, engineer, painter, architect, and poet. Born in 1475, he came under the wing of the Medicis in Florence. As a young man, he shaped marble into masterpieces like the Pieta, which captures the sorrow of Mary as she cradles the dead Jesus on her knees. David, Michelangelo's statue of the biblical shepherd who killed the giant Goliath, recalls the harmony and grace of ancient Greek sculptures.

In 1508, Michelangelo started a new project, painting a series of murals on the vast curved ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. During the next four years, he worked to complete scenes from the biblical book of Genesis along with figures of prophets who had foretold the coming of Jesus.

Upper walls and ceiling of a building interior, with tall windows and arches. Painted frescoes show classical figures in groups portraying various human and religious events in Christianity. These include war, the passion of the Christ, love, family life.

Analyze Information

Ceiling frescoes done by Michelangelo in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel in Rome. How do the paintings show aspects of Renaissance humanism?

Later, as an architect, Michelangelo drew a design for the enormous dome of St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome. Although he did not live to see it, the dome was completed based on his exact design. The dome served as a model for many later structures, including the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments