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During the Renaissance the ideal church plan tended to be centralized; that is, it was symmetrical about a circle, a square, or a Greek cross (which has four equal arms).

Many Renaissance architects came to believe that the circle was the most perfect geometric form and, therefore, most appropriate in dedication to a perfect God. In the Pazzi Chapel (1429–60), constructed in the medieval cloister of Santa Croce at Florence, the plan approaches the central type.

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Knowledge of the Classical style in architecture was derived during the Renaissance from two sources: the ruins of ancient Classical buildings, particularly in Italy but also in France and Spain, and the treatise order, which was a system of traditional architectural units.

During the Renaissance five orders were used, the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite, with various ones prevalent in different periods.

The concern of these architects for proportion led to the clear, measured expression and definition of architectural space and mass that differentiates the Renaissance style from the Gothic and encourages in the spectator an immediate and full comprehension of the building.

The Renaissance was a great moment in the history of architecture for the expression of architectural theory.

The Renaissance might have been expected to appear first in Rome, where there was the greatest quantity of ancient Roman ruins; however, during the 14th and early 15th centuries, when the Italians were impelled to renew classicism, the political situation in Rome was very unfavourable for artistic endeavour.

Florence, however, under the leadership of the Medici family, was economically prosperous and politically stable.

Brunelleschi spent the period between 14 alternately in Florence and Rome.

During this time he studied mathematics intensively and formulated linear perspective, which was to become a basic element of Renaissance art.

Latin cross plan, as at San Lorenzo; the longer arm of the cross formed the nave of the church.

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