The court of Francis I was the largest and most magnificent France had ever seen. During the Renaissance, French culture blossomed and flowered, producing beautiful chateaux, painting and sculpture, and classic writers like Montaigne and Rabelais. But all this was achieved against the background of apparently unending war, which tested the finances of the crown and the loyalty of the people to breaking point. When Henry II died, religious tensions surfaced and France was plunged into a bloody civil war. The economy, which had flourished in the 16th century, declined dramatically, tearing the very fabric of society.