Astronomy in the Renaissance

If we especially remember the quarrelsome debates accompanying the development of the Copernician heliocentric system, the Renaissance can also be distinguished as a great period of passion and enthusiasm for the study of the Sky.

Interest in astronomy and astrology (whose separation has just started) was growing within the aristocracy and the European Courts. They offered protection to brilliant astronomers and started to regularly invite them to present their latest research.

The combined influence of these itinerant astronomers and the Royal Courts had a decisive impact by making possible the construction of the very first observatories of modern astronomy.

The most notable of these observatories were the ones located in Paris and in Greenwich (London), the latter having given its name and position to the famous Prime Meridian.

 

Basilica of Santa Maria Novella

When the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, astronomer Ignazo Danti was appointed by the Grand Duke to build astronomical observation instruments in the architectural structure.

Quadrant and sundials built on the right side of the facade

Armillary Sphere built on the left side of the facade

As Italian cities have been the point of origin for many of the artistic and scientific achivements of this time, it is no surprise that they also played a vital role for the development of astronomical studies.

Many traces of this research are still visible today in Italian churches, often conceived as a place gathering all types of knowledge, arts and crafts. Thus, aristocratic and ecclesiastic patrons that comissioned the building of churches also appointed astronomers so they could be used for astronomical observations.

An inspiring example is the basilica Santa Maria Novella in Florence. When the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, astronomer Ignazo Danti was appointed by the Grand Duke to build astronomical observation instruments in the architectural structure.

Ignazo Danti was later appointed by the Pope to participate in the comission that reformed the calendar and created the current Gregorian Calendar.

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