The Renaissance period began in the latter part of the 14th century in Florence; many historians cite April 6, 1341, as the beginning of the Italian Renaissance. On that date, the writer and philosopher Francesco Petrarch, the father of humanism, was crowned Italy's Poet Laureate.
The beginning of the Renaissance signalled the end of the Middle Ages and the start of new ways of thinking and looking at the world. Humanist philosophy formed the Renaissance's backbone, recognizing the potential for individual achievement and believing that humans are rational entities capable of truth and goodness.
Renaissance scholars and artists celebrated the classical works of ancient Greece and Rome. Humanists encouraged curiosity, culture and creativity. The Renaissance period gave birth to the achievements of Leonardo da Vinci; the art of Raphael, Donatello and Michaelangelo; the architecture of Brunelleschi; the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli and the scientific discoveries of Galileo Galilei.
Though the Renaissance began in Italy, the artistic and cultural movement eventually spread throughout Europe.
The Renaissance began to end at the turn of the 15th century, as the kings of France, England and Spain warred with the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, for control of the Italian peninsula's many city-states. Some historians cite the sacking of Rome in 1527 as the end, while others mark the beginning of the Roman Catholic inquisition in 1545 as the death of the Renaissance.