Again as in its companion volume, The Florentine Renaissance (1967), the author provides a variegated smattering of information and anecdote concerning artistic, social, theological, scientific movements in 16th century Italy and indulges in some pointed moral derivations. Covering the period from 1500-1616 in Rome and-Venice, a-period, which he considers to be critical as a challenge to ""Christian humanism,"" Mr. Cronin devotes considerable attention to the careers of Pope Julius II and Leo X as fulcra of artistic and literary efforts, and as patrons of Michelangelo, Raphael, poets and historians. However it is the advent of Lutheranism which shook the delicate balance between the pagan and Christian cultures and that caused the tragic and ""unnecessary"" results of the rigors of thought and doctrine evolved from the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Mr. Cronin suggests that the repressive drives against heretics initiated, at the Council was due in part to a natural reaction to similar methods used by the founders of Protestantism. (Certainly, a controversial view.) His statement that Italy's scientific achievements were not ""great enough"" to meet the theological artillery of Lutheranism seems a bit ambiguous. Also without a more strenuous theological groundwork it is difficult to accept his bland assumption that in ""The Prince"" Machiavelli ""opted for paganism."" However, Mr. Cronin writes with ease and enthusiasm and there are lots of illustrations.