The traditional art and culture of the Dutch encompasses various forms of traditional music, dances, architectural styles and clothing, some of which are globally recognizable. Internationally, Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer and van Gogh are held in high regard. The dominant religion of the Dutch is Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant), although in modern times the majority is no longer (openly) religious. Significant percentages of the Dutch are adherents of humanism, agnosticism, atheism or individual spirituality.
In the Middle Ages the Low Countries were situated around the border of France and the Holy Roman Empire, forming a part of their respective peripheries, and the various territories of which they consisted had de facto become virtually autonomous by the 13th century. Under the Habsburgs, the Netherlands were organised into a single administrative unit, and in the 16th and 17th centuries the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain as the Dutch Republic. The high degree of urbanization characteristic of Dutch society was attained at a relatively early date. During the Republic the first series of large scale Dutch migrations outside of Europe took place.