April 6, 1341: Francesco Petrarch is Crowned Poet Laureate Many historians cite this date as the beginning of the Renaissance.

1397: Giovanni de Medici Moves to Florence Giovanni de Medici, the papal banker, headquarters his business in Florence and becomes involved in Florentine public life and patronage of the arts, laying the groundwork for the rise of his son Cosimo de Medici to power.

1401: Ghiberti Wins the Right to Sculpt the Northern Doors of The Baptistry Ghiberti is commissioned and takes 28 years to sculpt the bronze doors of the Florentine church. The doors remain one of the most valued treasures of the Renaissance

1420: The Papacy Returns to Rome The Papacy, having been located in Avignon since 1305, returns to Rome, bringing with it the prestige and wealth necessary to rebuild the city.

1423: Francesco Fosari Becomes Doge of Venice Fosari assumes the position of doge and attempts to usurp great political power, to the distaste of the Great Council, Venice's oligarchic ruling body, which asserts its power over the doge and torments him until his resignation.

1429: Cosimo de Medici Takes Over his Father's Business Cosimo de Medici becomes head of the bank after his father dies, using his economic power to consolidate political power. Within five years he runs the city without question.

1447: Pope Nicholas V Ascends to the Throne Pope Nicholas V takes the first steps toward turning Rome into a Renaissance city, undertaking many construction projects and strongly encouraging the arts.

1450: Francesco Sforza Seizes Control of Milan After a short experiment with republican government, Milan returns to monarchy when Francesco Sforza takes control of the city. His most prominent successor is Ludovico Sforza.

1453: Constantinople Falls The center of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks, provoking an exodus of Greek people and works of art and literature into the Italian city-states.

1454: Johann Gutenberg Prints the Gutenberg Bible Gutenberg is credited with the invention of the printing press in Europe, and ushers in the age of printed books, making literature more accessible to all Europeans.

1464: Lorenzo de Medici Ascends to Power in Florence After Cosimo's death in 1464, his son Piero rules until his death in 1469, when power falls into the hands of Lorenzo, who rules until 1491, raising Florence to its greatest heights of the Renaissance.

1471: Sixtus IV Becomes Pope Sixtus IV becomes pope, undertaking many successful projects in Rome, but disgracing the Church through his corruption and practice of nepotism.

1486: Pico Publishes His Collection of 900 Treatises Pico's philosophy often conflicts with that of the Catholic Church and he is declared a heretic. He is saved from demise by the intervention of Lorenzo de Medici.

1492: Rodrigo Borgia becomes Pope Alexander VI Alexander VI is widely known as a corrupt and manipulative pope, scheming for his family's benefit. Many claim that the Papacy reaches its greatest moral decline of the Renaissance during his pontificate.

1494: The Medici are Ousted from Florence by Girolamo Savonarola Savonarola, preaching a return to simple faith, leads a popular uprising against the Medici, who are forced to flee. Savonarola's rule is short-lived, and he is burned as a heretic in 1495.

1494: Ludovico Sforza Permits the French Invasion of Italy In an attempt to weaken his enemy, the King of Naples, Ludovico invites the French to invade Italy, granting them free passage through Milan. Though this invasion fails, the French return in 1499, turning on Ludovico and taking Milan, and opening an era of foreign competition for Italian land.

1503: Pope Julius II Assumes the Papal Throne The ascension of Pope Julius II begins the Roman Golden Age, during which the city and Papacy both prosper. Julius II reverses the trend of moral degradation in the Papacy and takes great steps in the rebuilding of Rome.

1513: Pope Leo X Succeeds Julius II Pope Leo X, the son of Lorenzo de Medici, continues the trend of the Golden Age, proving himself a gifted administrator and intelligent patron of the arts. Rome prospers.

1513: Niccolo Machiavelli Publishes The Prince Often considered the most influential political book of all time, The Prince outlines the argument that it is better for a ruler to be feared than loved.

1517: The Reformation Movement Begins Martin Luther posts his 95 Theses on the door of a church in Wittenburg, Germany, igniting a movement which provokes an enormous split in the Roman Catholic Church.

1519: Leonardo da Vinci Dies Leonardo, perhaps the most remarkable individual of the Renaissance, dies in France, having established himself as a painter, sculptor, engineer, and scientist.

1523: Pope Clement VII Ascends to the Throne Pope Clement VII comes to power in difficult times, following Pope Leo X. He soon proves himself an incompetent politician, and his poor decisions lead to the sack of Rome.

May 6, 1527: The Sack of Rome After Pope Clement VII refuses to grant the imperial army a ransom, it attacks the city of Rome, taking the city in just over twelve hours. The sack of Rome symbolizes the downfall of Renaissance Italy, much of which is subjugated to Imperial-Spanish rule by the settlement of Bologna in 1530.

Popular pages: Italian Renaissance (1330-1550)