German Renaissance

The German Renaissance, part of the Northern Renaissance, was a cultural and artistic movement that spread among German thinkers in the 15th and 16th centuries, which developed from the Italian Renaissance. Many areas of the arts and sciences were influenced, notably by the spread of Renaissance humanism to the various German states and principalities. There were many advances made in the fields of architecture, the arts, and the sciences. Germany produced two developments that were to dominate the 16th century all over Europe: printing and the Protestant Reformation.

German Renaissance is a term given to the art, and in particular the architecture, created in the region along the River Weser and adjacent areas in Germany between c 1520 and c 1620. Money earned by noblemen fighting as mercenaries in foreign wars—especially in the Netherlands—and an expansion in agricultural trade were two of the main contributory factors to the spate of new building that occurred in the region during this period The most important architectural undertakings were castles, as well as town halls and town houses, although churches were also built in this style; some of these buildings were decorated with reliefs, statues or ornamental stonework One of the most important architects active in the earliest phase of the Weser Renaissance was Jörg Unkair (d 1552), who probably came from Württemberg He was followed by Cord Tönnis and Hermann Wulff, both from the Weser region; they had a decisive influence on local architectural style between c 1550 and c 1575.

One of the most important German humanists was Konrad Celtis (1459–1508). Celtis studied at Cologne and Heidelberg, and later travelled throughout Italy collecting Latin and Greek manuscripts. Heavily influenced by Tacitus, he used the Germania to introduce German history and geography. Eventually he devoted his time to poetry, in which he praised Germany in Latin. Another important figure was Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522) who studied in various places in Italy and later taught Greek. He studied the Hebrew language, aiming to purify Christianity, but encountered resistance from the church.

The most significant German Renaissance artist is Albrecht Dürer especially known for his printmaking in woodcut and engraving, which spread all over Europe, drawings, and painted portraits. Important architecture of this period includes the Landshut Residence, Heidelberg Castle, the Augsburg Town Hall as well as the Antiquarium of the Munich Residenz in Munich, the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps.

The Renaissance was largely driven by the renewed interest in classical learning, and was also the result of rapid economic development. At the beginning of the 16th century, Germany (referring to the lands contained within the Holy Roman Empire) was one of the most prosperous areas in Europe despite a relatively low level of urbanization compared to Italy or the Netherlands. It benefited from the wealth of certain sectors such as metallurgy, mining, banking and textiles. More importantly, book-printing developed in Germany, and German printers dominated the new book-trade in most other countries until well into the 16th century.

History and Development
Germany was on the threshold of the fifteenth century fragmented into several dozen local powers, without the imperial authority, in fact, being able to impose its power as a whole, as happened in France or England. The vast German-speaking territories were fragmented into practically autonomous principalities, some vast, some tiny, ruled now by a gentleman, now by a bishop, to which were then added the “free” imperial cities, endowed with particular statutes which invested them with important commercial privileges and a wide administrative autonomy. Among the latter, the cities of the Hanseatic League stood out.

The Gothic heritage
Throughout the fifteenth century the German area was dominated by the influence of the Gothic world, managing to develop some characteristics of its own that were highly esteemed even abroad. Among the artistically most active areas, which often coincided with those with the most prosperous economy, the Hanseatic cities (with artists such as Bernard von Minden, Maestro Francke), Cologne (home of the ” tender style ” of Konrad von Soest or Stephan Lochner) stood out.), Basel (with the severe and monumental style of Konrad Witz), Alsace (Martin Schongauer andNikolaus Gerhaert von Leyden).

Opening humanism
The first important German artist who came into contact with Italian humanism was, for the Alpine area, Michael Pacher, painter and sculptor who had worked in the workshop of Francesco Squarcione in Padua (the same from which Mantegna came out), arriving at master a style in which the richness of the typically Gothic ornament is inserted in spaces organized in perspective. His mix of Italian anatomical and spatial rationality and the intense Nordic expressive values gave as a result an atypical style, one of the most singular in European art of the second half of the fifteenth century.

In those years German art developed some devotional models which then spread widely. Among these the Beautiful Madonna, derived from French prototypes but of a more intense, smiling sweetness, the Palmesel, that is, the Christ on the donkey destined to be carried in procession during Palm Sunday, the Crucifixions loaded with pathetic accents, the Vesperbild, or Piety with the Madonna holding the dead Christ on her knees.

Among the key figures of this season are artists such as Hans Multscher, a painter and above all a sculptor who worked throughout southern Germany up to Tyrol and the Alps, and Hans Memling, German by birth but destined to become a star of the first size of painting Flemish.

Carved altars and paintings
Among the most important productions stood out the wooden altars with doors, complicated combinations of painting, sculpture and architectural carpentry, where you can read the signs of the gradual transition from Gothic to a timid Renaissance, up to the threshold of the most radical transformations following the Reformation. Wood, especially lime, soon established itself as an easily available material for religious artistic production, with a development especially starting from the 1470s in south-central Germany. In addition to the altars, other parts of the ecclesiastical furnishings were produced, such as pulpits, tabernacles, portals, carved tombs and choir stalls.

The altars in particular were composed of a chest, almost always carved, and a pair or more of movable doors, which thanks to the mounted hinges allowed to open and close the altarpiece, showing different parts, depending on the liturgical celebration to be celebrated. The doors were often painted or carved in low relief or in any case with figures with a smaller protrusion than the central case. Other complementary elements were usually a predella at the base and a crown of cusps. All these elements, painted, sculpted, polychromed and gilded, were usually made inside the same shops, specialized in these productions that required the use of multiple techniques. Among the best known masters in this activity were Michael andGregor Erhart, Tilman Riemenschneider, Veit Stoss and Michael Pacher himself.

The number of surviving altars is very small today, due to the Protestant iconoclasm and changes in taste, and due to the fragility of the material itself, so the rare intact examples are truly extraordinary pieces.

In the mid-fifteenth century, Jörg Syrlin replaced the splendor of gold and colors of traditional production and replaced the natural colors of the materials and the grain of the wood in the choir of the Cathedral of Ulm.

Northern Humanism
The invention of the printing press in Mainz, the German Johann Gutenberg in 1455, was a real cultural revolution, within a few decades, led to an extraordinary diffusion of the book, cheaper and faster to implement, with consequences in literacy, education and the spread of culture across Europe.

At the end of the fifteenth century, access to a humanistic culture was no longer reserved for a few avant-garde centers, but spread along the commercial routes far and wide across the continent. The Nordic area in general was a land of lively ferment, with multiple contacts with Italian humanism. If on the one hand classical culture was spreading, on the other the references to a more intense and direct religiosity became increasingly urgent, in opposition increasingly open to the scandals of the Roman Curia. The protagonist of this season was Erasmus of Rotterdam, but also Konrad Celtis, Johann Reuchlin, the intellectuals of the University of Vienna, and the various acculturated patrons, such as electors, dukes, cardinals, financiers and intellectuals.

If on the one hand the decline of Hansa began, on the other hand many centers prospered from Alsace to the Rhine, up to the rich and cultured Basel.

The court of Maximilian I
Tied to Italy also through marriage ties, cultured and imbued with humanism, Maximilian I of Habsburg tried to give a new, courtly and classical aspect to his empire rooted above all in the Alpine area, from Switzerland to Trieste. In 1501 he joined the University of Vienna, then still dominated by scholasticism, the humanistic collegium poetarum et mathematicorum, inviting numerous Italian intellectuals and humanists as teachers.

Maximilian established his court in the small but elegant Innsbruck, in the center of Tyrol, where he started important artistic enterprises, such as a series of celebratory engravings and the creation of a procession of colossal bronze statues to be destined for his sepulcher. The greatest talents of his time were presented to him, from Dürer to Altdorfer, from Cranach the Elder to Burgkmair, up to the sculptor Peter Vischer the Elder, the poet Conrad Celtis, the geographer Georg Peutinger, the astronomer Erhard Etzlaub and the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer. If at his court architecture remained tied to Gothic art, the so-called Danubian school developed in painting, based on a greater predominance of the landscape over the figures, which had strong international echoes.

With the death of the emperor in 1519 the transfer of power to his nephew Charles V marked a sharp shift in the axis of the empire, with a rapid decline of the Tyrolean court, where however work continued on Maximilian’s mausoleum for decades.

In Innsbruck, however, there was an artistic revival after 1564, when Archduke Ferdinand II of Habsburg inherited the title of Count of Tyrol, moving there. He is responsible for renovating the Ambras castle, where he placed his collections, including a famous Wunderkammer, one of the richest and most intact in Europe.

The art of engraving
Throughout the sixteenth century, the art of engraving spread rapidly, quickly establishing itself as the most effective and rapid means of spreading figurative ideas. One of the first great master engravers, who became famous all over Europe, was Martin Schongauer, based in Colmar, soon followed by the very high expressive climax of the prints of Albrecht Dürer, originally from Nuremberg.

The easy and inexpensive diffusion of the engravings, often attached to printed works by way of illustrations (quickly eclipsing the art of miniature), offers artists and simple enthusiasts a new, potentially enormous, reservoir of iconographic themes from which to draw. In fact, alongside the novelties, the reproductions of great works of art of the past, first ancient and then also modern, which allow an unprecedented and rapid diffusion of artistic novelties, spread quickly.

If in the fifteenth century the engraving had been practiced mainly by painters, during the sixteenth century the figure of the professional engraver was outlined, dedicated to the expression exclusively through the press.

The court of the elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg was an important cultural circle. Visiting Nuremberg in 1496 he was struck by the talent of the young Albrecht Dürer, to whom he commissioned three works, becoming his first, important client: a portrait, made in four and four-eight with the fast tempering technique, and two polyptychs to furnish the church he was building in Wittenberg Castle, his residence: the Dresden Altar and the Polyptych of the Seven Sorrows. Artist and client started a lasting relationship that was maintained over the years, although Federico often preferred the contemporary Lucas Cranach to Dürer, who became court painter and also received a noble title.

The golden years of Nuremberg
Nuremberg, the capital of Franconia, thanks to the flourishing processing of precious metals and commercial privileges, became, with Cologne and Augsburg, one of the richest and most populous German cities, with a conspicuous class of educated and wealthy merchants, who promoted an intense life cultural and artistic. Early and abundant was the presence of printers, with a thriving production of illustrated printed books in multiple languages, which had rivals only in the city of Basel.

The patrician libraries of the city boasted hundreds of volumes, often related to humanistic studies. At the end of the fifteenth century the city presented itself as one of the most cosmopolitan in Europe, in whose streets meet writers, mathematicians, geographers, theologians, artists and merchants, thanks to a commercial network that went from Krakow to Lisbon, from Venice to Lyon.

While the clocks, automata, musical instruments and navigation and astronomy equipment produced in Nuremberg were depopulated throughout Europe, in the city’s architectural sites, based on Gothic canons, the buildings of the churches of San Lorenzo stood out (where they worked the glassmaker Peter Hemmel and the sculptors Adam Kraft and Veit Stoss) and San Sebaldo (where the goldsmith-sculptor Peter Vischer and Stoss himself worked).

Precisely in this effervescent climate the young Albrecht Dürer was formed.

The Danube School
The first thirty years of the sixteenth century represented a pinnacle of German art, with a generation of great artists in continuous dialogue with each other, often traveling to learn about other realities and exchange experiences.

The perception of a vast and varied world, widened within the boundaries, was grafted on an attention to natural phenomena and their lively representation, a theme already deeply felt to the north of the Alps. The flourishing development of cartography, which recorded the discoveries, was fundamental geographical areas in the New World and in the East, thanks to the opening of new commercial routes. From these premises, with the fundamental contribution of Dürer and his renewed landscape sensitivity in watercolor, as well as the tradition of the landscape in Flemish painting of the fifteenth century, the so-called Danubian school developed, with a series of active masters between Passau, Regensburg andVienna, supported by important patrons including the emperor Maximilian I himself.

The masters of this current, including Albrecht Altdorfer, Wolf Huber, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Joachim Patinir (the latter active in the Netherlands), sensitive to the new borders of the world that affected the collective imagination, were inspired above all by the magic of the wooded, harsh and wild landscape, which comes to take ever more relevant portions of the paintings, evoking an arcane atmosphere full of suggestions, in which the human figures, turning the traditional relationship upside down, appear small and subjugated by natural forces, almost a pretext for representation. Often rich in miniaturistic details, the works of these artists were also characterized by the use of extravagant costumes and the originality of the compositions, sometimes even tinged with humorous accents.

The basin of the Rhine
Starting from the ten of the sixteenth century, the Rhine area, from Franconia to Rhineland, from Alsace to the Black Forest to Basel, has seen a remarkable artistic flourishing, with the contemporary activity of artists such as Dürer, Altdorfer, Hans Baldung Grien and Mathias Grünewald as well as the artistic beginnings of Hans Holbein the Younger.

The client now required mainly entirely painted altars instead of the traditional carved complexes. Among the most significant works there was the Isenheim Altar of Grünewald, in which the painter poured out a dramatic and tumultuous expressiveness, capable of eclipsing the sculpted chest of Nicolas Hagenauer.

While commercial traffic along the river, and cities like Cologne, were in crisis supplanted by the new oceanic commercial powers, the Rhineland was torn apart by the Reformation. Emblematic is the case of the powerful Archbishop of Mainz Albert of Brandenburg, who left the artists without commission by directing their resources to other activities.

The dominance of Augusta
Thanks to the immense financial fortunes of the Fugger dynasty, during the 16th century Augsburg gradually got ready to push Nuremberg off the podium of Germany’s cultural hub. Jacob Fugger the “Ricco” had the Fuggerei built in 1514, a residential area for the poor, while the family chapel in the church of Sant’Anna recorded the introduction of classic and Italian-style elements for the first time. The greatest painters active in the city, capable of synthesizing the cosmopolitan stimuli of the new reality, were above all Hans Holbein the Elder and Hans Burgkmair.

In 1518, a year after the posting of the 95 theses, Jacob Fugger favored the opening of the Augusta Diet to try the way of conciliation between Luther, the emperor Maximilian I and the Dominican canon Tetzel: Dürer attended the meetings, portraying some of participants. The initiative was a religious failure, however it paved the way for first-level political meetings held in the city. In 1530 Melanchthon gave you the doctrinal declaration of the ” Confessio Augustana “, while in 1555 Charles V, several times a guest in the city, he signed the definitive peace between Catholics and Protestants.

The artistic production was based above all on excellence in precision objects, goldsmithery and the typical altars in ebony and silver. At the end of the century the scene was dominated by the adhesion to international mannerism, with the fountains of Adriaen de Vries and the first architectures of Elias Holl and Joseph Heintz. In the 1940s, Titian also stayed here, following Emperor Charles.

Last year Dürer
Returning from Italy, at almost forty years of age Dürer settled again in Nuremberg, painting for the Town Hall and for some churches, works such as the altarpiece of the Adoration of the Holy Trinity (1511), of dazzling wealth. The engraving business also continued, with the Meisterstiche series, the masterpieces: three sheets made between 1513 and 1514 and sold separately, although often considered as a triptych, with The Knight, Death and the Devil, San Girolamo in the cell and Melencolia I. For the emperor Maximilian I he created the extraordinary series of the triumphal arch, consisting of 192 woodcuts to be recomposed into a single large image, and the procession of the eighteen triumphal chariots, ambitious works that were sent throughout the kingdom. As a sign of thanks he received a lifetime annuity from the emperor, which however was suspended with the death of Maximilian in 1519. The artist then embarked on a trip to the Netherlands to meet the new emperor Charles V and have his privilege confirmed.

Having left on July 12, 1520, he stayed away from home for almost exactly one year, knowing many personalities of the time, from Erasmus of Rotterdam to Christian King of Denmark, from diplomats and merchants to artists such as Quentin Metsys, Joachim Patinier, Luca da Leida, Mabuse. Successful in his purpose, at the end of the journey, however, the artist noted a balance sheet after all, returning to Nuremberg probably already infected by the disease that led to his death a few years later.

The last years of the artist were dominated by a tormented religious reflection. The approach to Protestant doctrine was also reflected in his art, abandoning profane themes and portraits almost completely, preferring more and more evangelical subjects, while his style became more severe and energetic. The plan for a sacred conversation, of which numerous, wonderful studies remain, was probably set aside precisely because of the changed political conditions and the now hostile climate towards sacred images, accused of fueling idolatry. To defend himself perhaps from this accusation, in 1526, in full Lutheran times, he painted the two plates with the monumental Four Apostles, true champions of Christian virtue, which he donated to the town hall of his city.

Reformation and iconoclasm
Symptoms of dissatisfaction with the traditional forms of religious devotion, which seem increasingly imposed by the distant Papal Curia, greedy for money and privileges, date back to the early sixteenth century in central and northern Europe. The best interpreter of these anxieties, addressed to a more direct and empathic relationship with the divinity, can probably be read in the work, expressive to tormented, by Mathias Grünewald.

Starting from this situation, the Reformation broke out, initiated materially by Martin Luther in 1518, with the posting of 95 theses to Wittenberg. The papal response was initially indifferent and unable to predict the magnitude of events, culminating in the excommunication of Luther on 2 July 1520 by Leo X. The public burning of the condemnation bull by Luther officially marked the beginning of the schism (10 December 1520). Outbreaks of revolt began to erupt everywhere, culminating in a serious peasant war, which ended in a bloodbath.

The artists who showed sympathy for the rioters were ostracized or persecuted: Grünewald was fired by the archbishop of Mainz and Tilman Riemenschneider was even tortured and imprisoned.

At first Luther and his circle exploited the images to spread religious propaganda. Dürer showed sympathy for the preacher, attracted by his doctrines, but was unable to meet him. Instead Lucas Cranach the Elder was the main artist linked, also by personal friendship, to Luther. He was responsible for the numerous portraits of Luther, his wife Caterina Bore and Melanchthon who spread throughout the empire the effigies of the protagonists of the Reformation.

Luther rejected the cult of the Madonna and the saints, inciting to “tear the images from the hearts” intended as a renunciation of the classic devotional images, but not “from the altars”. Despite this, his directives were soon confused leading to a real iconoclasm, which saw the destruction of religious images for decades. In fact, German art suffered an abrupt halt, especially after 1528, when both Dürer and Grünewald died, while Holbein the Younger left for England. In fact, after 1530, in the Protestant territories, altarpieces were no longer painted or wooden altars were carved. Only Cranach, with its proximity to the protagonists of the Reformation, continued to produce images, deliberately sparse and concise.

Catholic bulwark with broad political and cultural autonomy, in the 16th century Bavaria did not initially stand out for its artistic dynamism, with its capital, Munich, also surpassed by small towns such as the fortified cities of Nördlingen and Rothenburg (where the sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider worked).

The Munich court entered a particularly active season from the middle of the century onwards, opening up, among the first areas in Europe, to the sophistications of mannerism, thanks to the promotion of the arts of Albert V of Bavaria, client and collector of paintings, sculptures, antiquities, goldsmiths and exotic curiosities, which he kept collected in his famous Wunderkammer. In 1569 he had an Antiquarium created in his Residenz, a room of precise Italian and Mannerist inspiration, decorated by the Dutch Friedrich Sustris., followed by a bizarre courtyard with cave. As proof of the Catholic faith, Alberto had a bronze statue of the “patroness of Bavaria” placed on his palace and had the church of San Michele built with the oratory of a Marian congregation.


The concept of the Northern Renaissance or German Renaissance is somewhat confused by the continuation of the use of elaborate Gothic ornament until well into the 16th century, even in works that are undoubtedly Renaissance in their treatment of the human figure and other respects. Classical ornament had little historical resonance in much of Germany, but in other respects Germany was very quick to follow developments, especially in adopting printing with movable type, a German invention that remained almost a German monopoly for some decades, and was first brought to most of Europe, including France and Italy, by Germans.

Printmaking by woodcut and engraving was already more developed in Germany and the Low Countries than elsewhere in Europe, and the Germans took the lead in developing book illustrations, typically of a relatively low artistic standard, but seen all over Europe, with the woodblocks often being lent to printers of editions in other cities or languages. The greatest artist of the German Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer, began his career as an apprentice to a leading workshop in Nuremberg, that of Michael Wolgemut, who had largely abandoned his painting to exploit the new medium. Dürer worked on the most extravagantly illustrated book of the period, the Nuremberg Chronicle, published by his godfather Anton Koberger, Europe’s largest printer-publisher at the time.

After completing his apprenticeship in 1490, Dürer travelled in Germany for four years, and Italy for a few months, before establishing his own workshop in Nuremberg. He rapidly became famous all over Europe for his energetic and balanced woodcuts and engravings, while also painting. Though retaining a distinctively German style, his work shows strong Italian influence, and is often taken to represent the start of the German Renaissance in visual art, which for the next forty years replaced the Netherlands and France as the area producing the greatest innovation in Northern European art. Dürer supported Martin Luther but continued to create Madonnas and other Catholic imagery, and paint portraits of leaders on both sides of the emerging split of the Protestant Reformation.

Dürer died in 1528, before it was clear that the split of the Reformation had become permanent, but his pupils of the following generation were unable to avoid taking sides. Most leading German artists became Protestants, but this deprived them of painting most religious works, previously the mainstay of artists’ revenue. Martin Luther had objected to much Catholic imagery, but not to imagery itself, and Lucas Cranach the Elder, a close friend of Luther, had painted a number of “Lutheran altarpieces”, mostly showing the Last Supper, some with portraits of the leading Protestant divines as the Twelve Apostles. This phase of Lutheran art was over before 1550, probably under the more fiercely aniconic influence of Calvinism, and religious works for public display virtually ceased to be produced in Protestant areas.

Presumably largely because of this, the development of German art had virtually ceased by about 1550, but in the preceding decades German artists had been very fertile in developing alternative subjects to replace the gap in their order books. Cranach, apart from portraits, developed a format of thin vertical portraits of provocative nudes, given classical or Biblical titles.

Lying somewhat outside these developments is Matthias Grünewald, who left very few works, but whose masterpiece, his Isenheim Altarpiece (completed 1515), has been widely regarded as the greatest German Renaissance painting since it was restored to critical attention in the 19th century. It is an intensely emotional work that continues the German Gothic tradition of unrestrained gesture and expression, using Renaissance compositional principles, but all in that most Gothic of forms, the multi-winged triptych.

The Danube School is the name of a circle of artists of the first third of the 16th century in Bavaria and Austria, including Albrecht Altdorfer, Wolf Huber and Augustin Hirschvogel. With Altdorfer in the lead, the school produced the first examples of independent landscape art in the West (nearly 1,000 years after China), in both paintings and prints. Their religious paintings had an expressionist style somewhat similar to Grünewald’s. Dürer’s pupils Hans Burgkmair and Hans Baldung Grien worked largely in prints, with Baldung developing the topical subject matter of witches in a number of enigmatic prints.

Hans Holbein the Elder and his brother Sigismund Holbein painted religious works in the late Gothic style. Hans the Elder was a pioneer and leader in the transformation of German art from the Gothic to the Renaissance style. His son, Hans Holbein the Younger was an important painter of portraits and a few religious works, working mainly in England and Switzerland. Holbein’s well known series of small woodcuts on the Dance of Death relate to the works of the Little Masters, a group of printmakers who specialized in very small and highly detailed engravings for bourgeois collectors, including many erotic subjects.

The outstanding achievements of the first half of the 16th century were followed by several decades with a remarkable absence of noteworthy German art, other than accomplished portraits that never rival the achievement of Holbein or Dürer. The next significant German artists worked in the rather artificial style of Northern Mannerism, which they had to learn in Italy or Flanders. Hans von Aachen and the Netherlandish Bartholomeus Spranger were the leading painters at the Imperial courts in Vienna and Prague, and the productive Netherlandish Sadeler family of engravers spread out across Germany, among other counties.

In Catholic parts of South Germany the Gothic tradition of wood carving continued to flourish until the end of the 18th century, adapting to changes in style through the centuries. Veit Stoss (d. 1533), Tilman Riemenschneider (d.1531) and Peter Vischer the Elder (d. 1529) were Dürer’s contemporaries, and their long careers covered the transition between the Gothic and Renaissance periods, although their ornament often remained Gothic even after their compositions began to reflect Renaissance principles.

Renaissance architecture in Germany was inspired first by German philosophers and artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Johannes Reuchlin who visited Italy. Important early examples of this period are especially the Landshut Residence, the Castle in Heidelberg, Johannisburg Palace in Aschaffenburg, Schloss Weilburg, the City Hall and Fugger Houses in Augsburg and St. Michael in Munich, the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps.

A particular form of Renaissance architecture in Germany is the Weser Renaissance, with prominent examples such as the City Hall of Bremen and the Juleum in Helmstedt.

In July 1567 the city council of Cologne approved a design in the Renaissance style by Wilhelm Vernukken for a two storied loggia for Cologne City Hall. St Michael in Munich is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. It was built by Duke William V of Bavaria between 1583 and 1597 as a spiritual center for the Counter Reformation and was inspired by the Church of il Gesù in Rome. The architect is unknown. Many examples of Brick Renaissance buildings can be found in Hanseatic old towns, such as Stralsund, Wismar, Lübeck, Lüneburg, Friedrichstadt and Stade. Notable German Renaissance architects include Friedrich Sustris, Benedikt Rejt, Abraham van den Blocke, Elias Holl and Hans Krumpper.

Influential people

Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398–1468)
Born Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden, Johannes Gutenberg is widely considered the most influential person within the German Renaissance. As a free thinker, humanist, and inventor, Gutenberg also grew up within the Renaissance, but influenced it greatly as well. His best-known invention is the printing press in 1440. Gutenberg’s press allowed the humanists, reformists, and others to circulate their ideas. He is also known as the creator of the Gutenberg Bible, a crucial work that marked the start of the Gutenberg Revolution and the age of the printed book in the Western world.

Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522)
Johann Reuchlin was the most important aspect of world culture teaching within Germany at this time. He was a scholar of both Greek and Hebrew. Graduating, then going on to teach at Basel, he was considered extremely intelligent. Yet after leaving Basel, he had to start copying manuscripts and apprenticing within areas of law. However, he is most known for his work within Hebrew studies. Unlike some other “thinkers” of this time, Reuchlin submerged himself into this, even creating a guide to preaching within the Hebrew faith. The book, titled De Arte Predicandi (1503), is possibly one of his best-known works from this period.

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528)
Albrecht Dürer was at the time, and remains, the most famous artist of the German Renaissance. He was famous across Europe, and greatly admired in Italy, where his work was mainly known through his prints. He successfully integrated an elaborate Northern style with Renaissance harmony and monumentality. Among his best known works are Melencolia I, the Four Horsemen from his woodcut Apocalypse series, and Knight, Death, and the Devil. Other significant artists were Lucas Cranach the Elder, the Danube School and the Little Masters.

Martin Luther (1483–1546)
Martin Luther was a Protestant Reformer who criticized church practices such as selling indulgences, against which he published in his Ninety-Five Theses of 1517. Luther also translated the Bible into German, making the Christian scriptures more accessible to the general population and inspiring the standardization of the German language.