The unbounded optimism and humanist spirit of the Renaissance could not go on forever. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the quest for human perfection had given way to decadence, cynicism, and an introversion which would stifle creativity for a long time to come. In England, the rise of Puritanism, itself an offshoot of Renaissance philosophy, put the brakes on the pursuit of knowledge and aesthetic endeavors. Another factor leading to the end of the English Renaissance was the failure of Queen Elizabeth to produce an heir. All of England adored their Queen, yet she was literally the end of a line. The power vacuum she left behind was immense, and set the stage for shocking violence and intrigue. In a nation fraught with such political uncertainty, the arts invariably suffered a decline.
Perhaps the greatest immediate impact of the Renaissance was the Reformation, which began in 1517. Although the arguments of the Protestant reformers had been elucidated centuries before, the Reformation could not have happened had the Italian Renaissance not created the climate of passion and intellectualism throughout Europe necessary to allow the challenging of age old values. The Renaissance had seen the behavior of popes come to increasingly parallel the behavior of princes, as they attempted to compete with the gilded city-states around them. The papacy had fallen into corruption on more than one occasion, and the sale of indulgences, essentially pardons for sins, in order to finance the construction of a new St. Peter's basilica, pushed the reformers over the edge and into protest. The Church suffered similarly at the hands of the humanist attack, which through the study of ancient history and documents, had proven many claims made by the Church to be false. The result was a movement that shook the foundations of all of Europe and created a split in Christianity that remains a potent source of conflict even today.