Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Beauty and the Terror (Catherine Fletcher)

Most of us likely know at least a little about the Italian Renaissance from textbooks and have read about Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But underneath the surface, there is much more to Italy in the late 15th and 16th centuries and the role the Catholic church played in guiding Italian politics than just what is in textbooks. Catherine Fletcher’s The Beauty and the Terror provides a very comprehensive, chronological look into what is now Italy during the Renaissance.

You may not remember that Italy wasn’t an actual country in that timeframe - the “boot” of Italy was made up of several city-states, areas under the control of the Catholic church, and kingdoms based in Naples and Sicily. Fletcher covers the political, artistic, religious, and even love lives of the leaders and some of the lesser known individuals of the Renaissance, focusing roughly on a period that coincides with the Italian Wars from 1494 to 1559. Although there are mentions of the artistic and scientific advances of the time, more focus is in the politics and conflicts that flared through Italy then.

I found Fletcher’s book enjoyable, educational, and hard to put down. If you love history and intrigue, The Beauty and the Terror will be very much worth your time.