The Renaissance is a period from the 14th to the 17th century, considered the bridge between the Middle Ages and Modern history. It started as a cultural movement in Italy in the Late Medieval period and later spread to the rest of Europe. See the fact file below for more information about the Renaissance period. The Renaissance occurred from the early 14th century to the late 16th century. The invention of the Gutenberg printing press in 1450 is a milestone which marks the beginning of the Renaissance. Ideas were able to be spread quicker and farther because of the printing press. It allowed communication to occur through all of Europe. The Renaissance was a time of great beauty and art. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo created greats works of art during this time. Writers like William Shakespeare were producing their own masterpieces. It was also a time of creativity, imagination and curiosity. The Renaissance was the age of exploration. The voyages of many great explorers like Columbus, Vespucci, Ponce de Leon, Polo, De Soto and Balboa occurred during the Renaissance. The word ‘renaissance’ is a French word which means ‘rebirth’. The people credited with beginning the Renaissance were trying to recreate the classical models of Ancient Greek and Rome. The Renaissance was a time when Venice was the world’s busiest seaport and Florence was the heart of great art. At the beginning of the Renaissance, Italy was the center of world culture. Genoa, Milan, Venice, Rome, Verona and Florence were economic, trade and financial leaders for Europe. There were changes in thinking during Renaissance. New ideas in art, science, astronomy, religion, literature, mathematics, philosophy, and politics were developed and advanced. The influence of the Renaissance impacted and shaped the future. The changes that happened led to a modern era. One of the institutions that began to decline was the Catholic Church. Religion was still important, however. New religions and ways of thinking were being discussed. Martin Luther had broken away from the Catholic Church and was spreading the Protestant religion throughout Europe.