Leonardo da Vinci took full advantage of this freedom, traveling to many locales during his career, leaving every place he visited awed by his presence. Leonardo has been hailed as one of the greatest geniuses in all of history, praised both for this artistic talent and his brilliant mind. Da Vinci always carried notebooks with him, which he filled with notes, sketches, and diagrams. His notebooks, recently published, contain ideas for such inventions as the scaling ladder, rotating bridge, submarine, armored vehicle, and helicopter, none of which were built until decades or centuries later. Leonardo keenly observed the natural world around him, seeking to find out how things worked in order to draw more accurately. He deduced that the rings in a cross-section of a tree delineate age, developed a theory on the origin of the earth, and dissected and diagramed the organs of the human body. Leonardo, perhaps more than any other Renaissance figure, demonstrated the spirit of humanism, excelling in a wide variety of fields and continually seeking to better himself through knowledge. In fact, the case of Leonardo da Vinci supports the argument that the humanist values of learning, rationality, and reality rose to truly rival and in some cases overshadow the importance of Church doctrines.

However, during the High Renaissance, the Church maintained control over the psyche of the Italian people, and more tangibly, the arts. The Roman Golden Age under Julius II and Leo X provided constant work for the artists of the High Renaissance, and in fact, the Papacy built up enormous debts in part to finance the commissioning of great artists. Raphael did a great majority of his life's work inside the papal apartments, and Michaelangelo consistently claimed that he had a divine mandate to create art, preferring the Church to all other patrons. Both of these artists played a large part in the rebuilding of Rome, and Michaelangelo, specifically, was heavily involved in the design and construction of the new St. Peter's basilica. Therefore, the art of the High Renaissance remained highly religious in theme, though the extreme humanism exhibited by Leonardo gained strength, portending the further schism between art and the Church, and intellectualism and the Church, which would reach a head in the coming centuries.

Popular pages: Italian Renaissance (1330-1550)