What Elements Were Revived by Renaissance Architecture?


The Renaissance was a philosophical, intellectual, and artistic movement that began with Italian humanists in the 14th century AD. Architecturally, the Renaissance revived many elements of classical Roman buildings. These include columns, arches, facades, pediments, domes, basilicas and more. The revival of Roman themes was due, in part, to the Italian birthplace of the Renaissance.

Columns and Arches

  • The Renaissance gave rebirth to the column styles from ancient Rome. The three orders revived were Corinthian, Ionic and Doric. Corinthian Columns are the most intricate, topped with decorative leaves arranged in two rows. Ionic columns are plainer, topped with simple scrolls The Doric order is plainer still. It has a basic cylindrical top called a capital. Renaissance columns often supported arches, also styled after Roman architecture.

Planar Classicism

  • Planar classicism is a term describing the flatness of Renaissance architecture. Renaissance facades did not make frequent use of curves or dramatic depth. Rather, architects used relief to imitate classical Roman architectural elements on the walls of their buildings. This gave Renaissance buildings a flattened appearance both inside and out. It also allowed for using small flattened pediments as architectural motifs, especially above windows. This is in contrast with their appearance in ancient Rome, where pediments were large three-dimensional objects that rested on heavy columns.


  • One of the most striking features of Renaissance architecture was the dome, which builders borrowed from ancient Rome. The hemispherical structures of the Renaissance were larger and more looming than the ancient Roman structures. Renaissance domes still had the oculus, or circular opening, that they had in Ancient Rome. However, Renaissance architects built lanterns above oculi to protect the interior of the building from sun and rain. Domes top many of the Renaissance churches that still stand today.


  • Romans in ancient days used basilicas in conjunction with civic life. They housed courts within and featured semicircular courtyards, called apses, at their entrances. Architects still designed basilicas during the Renaissance era, but they were places of worship rather than hubs of civic life. Basilicas were longer than they were wide, with high facades and domes in their middles. Their large size made them ideal for the large crowds of pilgrims that gathered for worship.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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