Under Spanish domination the Italian states enjoyed a period of relative internal peace, in part because they directed their energies primarily against the threat of Ottoman invasion. In 1571 the Holy League—an alliance of the Papal States, Spain, Venice, and Genoa—defeated the Ottomans in the Battle of Lepanto. This victory brought Ottoman expansion to an end in the eastern Mediterranean, but not in the Balkans.
Spain championed the Counter Reformation, the response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The Counter Reformation brought about reforms in the institutions and doctrine of the Catholic Church and reasserted the spiritual power of the church. Baroque religious architecture, which reached its peak in Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries, celebrated the glory of the church.
The Counter Reformation war on heresy brought to an end the artistic freedoms of earlier times. Many Italian freethinkers became victims of the Holy Office of the Inquisition; philosopher and poet Giordano Bruno, for example, was burned at the stake. The church also took the offensive against scientists, forcing Galileo Galilei to renounce the Copernican theory that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The intolerant religious and political climate of the Counter Reformation also encouraged political absolutism, although the republics of Venice and Genoa continued to be governed by patrician oligarchies. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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