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Byline: MARILYN ALVA
It didn't look like Leon Battista Alberti had what it took to get ahead in 15th-century Italy.
Those born into a family of high standing and wealth were assured an easy and comfortable life. Alberti didn't fit that bill. His father's once-powerful family had been exiled from Florence. What's more, he was born illegitimate.
Although his father remained a successful merchant outside Florence, Alberti was left impoverished and without any property when his father died. Alberti was still a law student at the University of Bologna when his father's relatives claimed the inheritance. And they made it clear he wasn't welcome in their fold.
He finished his law degree, but decided he wanted more. The way to do that, he figured, was to find a job that offered room to grow. So he turned to the biggest cultural mover and shaker at the time -- the Roman Catholic Church.
The church was then at the center of the Renaissance, the cultural revolution in the arts and architecture that effectively ended the Middle Ages. It offered …