10 Most Famous Renaissance Buildings

The Italian Renaissance was one of the most prolific periods in human history from an artistic expression and creation standpoint.

Many of the greatest minds in Italy joined together and worked to attain a mastery of painting, sculpting, literature and especially architecture.

Some of the most famous structures from the Renaissance continue to stand today as the greatest buildings in the history of Europe.

In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous Renaissance Buildings and the architects or designers behind their creation, as well as their overall purpose.

Famous Renaissance Buildings

1. St. Peter’s Basilica

St Peters Basilica

There is little dispute among historians, scholars and critics who have extensively studied the Italian Renaissance era that the most famous building from this time period is St. Peter’s Basilica.

This magnificently-designed church is located in Vatican City and was built during the height of the High Renaissance period that took place near the beginning of the 17th century in Italy.

The building was designed by a team of some of the brightest architectural minds that the Renaissance period had to offer in Donato Bramante, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Michelangelo.

Construction on St. Peter’s Basilica began in 1506 and work on the project spanned the remainder of what many critics and scholars consider to be the Renaissance period in Italy.

The basilica sits along the banks of the Tiber River and has long been the most-visited destination for tourists who travel to Rome or Italy for decades now.

St. Peter’s Basilica was finished in 1626 and dedicated to the Apostle Peter, who is said to have been the first Catholic pope, according to Catholic historians.

2. Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

Christianity was a major part of the driving force behind many works during the Italian Renaissance and it’s easy to understand why the Florence Cathedral is among the greatest buildings from this era.

Also Read: Famous Buildings in Florence

Located in the heart of the city of Florence, this church has long been one that many consider to be the greatest architectural wonders from the Renaissance time period.

Construction on the Florence Cathedral began in 1296 and the project would take well over a century before it was completed in 1436.

While the overall design of the building was accomplished by Arnolfo di Cambio, the massive brick dome was designed by famous Italian architect and engineer, Filippo Brunelleschi.

The cathedral is one of the largest churches in Europe and is known as the largest brick dome in the world.

3. Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord

Another one of the most famous buildings from the Italian Renaissance movement is one that was not constructed in Italy, but instead was built in a nation that many believe to be the greatest rival of Italy in terms of art and architecture.

The Château de Chambord is one of France’s most famous buildings from the Renaissance time period and is a structure that features all the hallmarks of being designed by prolific architect, Domenico da Cortona.

Many critics and even scholars believe that Cortona may have worked alongside Leonardo da Vinci to develop the design of the Château de Chambord, but this has not been established as fact.

The structure is one of the more magnificent buildings in northern central France and features a moat that stretches around the entire Château, which was undoubtedly a major form of security during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Construction on the Château de Chambord began in 1519 and it was completed in 1547.

4. Hospital of the Innocents

Ospedale degli Innocenti

One of the hallmarks of the Italian Renaissance era was the heightened state of productivity across all aspects of civilized life for many parts of Italy, especially its largest and most populated cities.

Another famous building from this time period is known today as the Hospital of the Innocents. The building was originally called Spedale degli Innocenti or the Ospedale degli Innocenti, which translates in Old Tuscan and Italian to ‘Hospital of the Innocents.’

This massive, beautiful structure is one of Florence, Italy’s most historic buildings. It is said to be one of the greatest works of Filippo Brunelleschi, who is recognized as one of Italy’s most famous architects from the Renaissance movement.

The hospital was built from 1419 and was completed in multiple phases, which ended in 1445 when the building finally opened.

The hospital was owned by the Guild of Florence, which was an extremely wealthy organization in Florence during this time and was devoted to philanthropy projects like the Hospital of the Innocents.

5. Basilica di San Lorenzo 

Basilica of San Lorenzo

The Basilica di San Lorenzo, or the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, is one of the largest churches in Florence, Italy. It is a building that is full of historical value as the existing structure sits on a site that dates back to 393 A.D., according to many scholars and historians.

The church is known as the burial site of the famous Medici family members from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III and is one of the few Renaissance buildings that was built to maintain the Romanesque style of architecture it originally had.

Construction on the project lasted multiple centuries and the Basilica di San Lorenzo was finally finished in 1470 during the early decades of the Renaissance movement.

Some of the more prominent names from the early Renaissance era have been connected with the Basilica di San Lorenzo; the building is one of the most-visited churches in Italy today.

6. Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

Among the various churches on our list of the most famous buildings of the Renaissance, the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one that the people of Florence point to as the most historic building in the city.

It is one of the oldest Dominican churches in Italy and was designed by Fra Sisto Fiorentino and Fra Ristoro da Campi, two Dominican friars who were not as well-known as many of the other architects on our list.

Construction on the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella began in 1279 and work proceeded until it was finally finished in 1420.

Both the interior and exterior of the building are distinctly Dominican in their architectural style and is said to have been built on the Santa Maria delle Vigne, which was an oratory that dates back to the 9th century.

7. Pitti Palace

Pitti Palace

One of the most unique buildings that dates back to the Renaissance era is known as the Palazzo Pitti, or the Pitti Palace in English.

This building was one that had been built to serve as the home of a wealthy Florentine banker, but actually became a prominent destination for some of the most famous individuals in Italian and even European history.

The Pitti Palace’s construction began in 1458 after it was commissioned by Luca Pitti, who was a friend and close associate of Cosimo de’ Medici.

The Pitti Palace was finished by 1549 when it was sold to the Medici family and the structure became a residence for the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

8. Antwerp City Hall

Antwerp City Hall

It’s no secret that the art and architectural style from many of the Italian Renaissance’s members stretched well outside of the boundaries of Italy during this era.

One of the most famous buildings from the Renaissance time period is the Antwerp City Hall, which is located in Antwerp, Belgium.

This building was designed by Cornelis Floris de Vriendt, a prolific Renaissance architect who incorporated Flemish and Italian styles into the structure during its production.

Today, the building is recognized as one of the most historic in Antwerp and its interior features various paintings and other Flemish artworks.

9. Palace of Charles V

Palace of Charles V

One of the most well-known Renaissance buildings located in western Europe is the Palace of Charles V. This magnificently-designed building sits inside the Alhambra, which is an ancient Nasrid complex in Grenada, located in southern Spain.

The Palace of Charles V was designed by Pedro Machuca, a highly-celebrated Spanish architect who lived and worked during the Renaissance era who trained under Leonardo da Vinci while he lived in Italy.

The project began in 1527, but due to a range of outside circumstances, it dragged on for more than 300 years before the palace even had a roof installed on its walls as it was abandoned in 1637.

The building was finally completed in 1967 and today, the structure is home to the Alhambra Museum on its ground floor and the Fine Arts Museum of Granada on its top floor.

10. Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Our list of the most famous Renaissance buildings would not be complete without mentioning the Sistine Chapel.

This building is mostly famous for the fact that Michelangelo painted the ceiling and altar wall of the chapel. However, it is an architectural masterpiece that was designed by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV.

The Sistine Chapel began to be constructed in 1505 and it would take just three years to be completed and opened.

The chapel’s exterior is rather modest compared to the intricately-detailed interior that includes Michelangelo’s work titled The Last Judgment.