As the Ice Age glaciers melted, European civilization was born—and with it, so was art. From the Stone Age came prehistoric art: mysterious tombs, mighty megaliths, and vivid cave paintings. Then the Egyptians and the Greeks laid the foundations of Western art—creating a world of magical gods, massive pyramids, sun-splashed temples, and ever-more-lifelike statues.
More to Explore from Rick Steves' Europe
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.
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.
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