After Rome fell, Europe spent a thousand years in its Middle Ages. Its art shows how the light of civilization flickered in monasteries and on Europe’s fringes: Christian Byzantium, Moorish Spain, and pagan Vikings. Then, around A.D. 1000, Europe rebounded. The High Middle Ages brought majestic castles, radiant Gothic cathedrals, and exquisite art that dazzled the faithful and the secular alike.
More to Explore from Rick Steves' Europe
Around 1400, Europe rediscovered the aesthetics of ancient Greece and Rome. This rebirth of classical culture showed itself in the statues, paintings, and architecture of Florence, then spread to Spain, Holland, Germany, and beyond. The Renaissance—from art-loving popes to Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s David—celebrated humanism and revolutionized how we think about our world.
The Romans gave Europe its first taste of a common culture, and awe-inspiring art. From its groundbreaking architecture to its statues, mosaics, and frescos, Rome engineered bigger and better than anyone before. At its peak, the Roman Empire was a society of unprecedented luxury, with colossal arenas for entertaining the masses and giant monuments to egotistical emperors. And then it fell.
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