The collection of links given at Cronaca is very enlightening.
I liked the description of the Inquisitions as the fairest, most humane courts in Europe, and the technological advancements of the "high" middle ages. (The great expansion of scientific knowledge began with Copernicus, most people think...but Copernicus used Medieval tools and patterns in his work. And giants like Galileo, Kepler, and Newton used Medieval borrowings and discoveries in the field of algebra to advance their scientific work.)
There is possibly a larger historical disconnect between the early 1700's and the late 1800's (Enlightened philosophy, industrial revolution, spread of democratic ideals) than between the early 1400's and the late 1500's.
But I'm only an amateur historian...