There are many influential effects for the arrival of the Renaissance. The initial reason was the result of a change in commerce over the earlier medieval method of a barter economy. The introduction of money and credit initiated an impetus within the economy which created a sense of pride and independence. In turn, this stirred the minds of the people to think beyond “their spiritual and worldly masters.” With this sudden increase in prosperity came an increase in “political and social prestige for the middle classes.” Instead of holding the lowly positions of peddlers, as they had in the Middle Ages, men now became a class of “merchants.” This new class built hospitals, churches, and respect and power. They spent the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries organizing that power. They spent the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries enjoying it. This period of enjoyment was called the Renaissance.
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The Renaissance began in Italy, but eventually spread to the rest of Europe. It followed the vitally important trade routes, and brought with it the growing influences and various aspects of the Renaissance. These included intellectual, artistic, political, religious, and societal enlightenments.
The cultures of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Middle Ages all played a role in the emergence of the Renaissance. Their earlier contributions transcended through the centuries an abundance of philosophies, artistic styles, political intrigues, religious demands, and societal influences. These eventually led to the emergence of a “new dawn”: An illumination of the senses that awoke a “hibernation of the human mind.”
The study of history is vital to understanding our current world, its origins, its reasoning and the possibilities for the future. Renaissance artists were the first in European history to write about art and themselves. The explosion of knowledge during this time brought creation of new techniques in art, poetry, and architecture. This creation led to radical changes in style and material of the arts. The Italian Renaissance is labeled as the beginning of the “modern epoch.” Early Renaissance in Italy was mostly focused on translating and studying classic works from Latin and Greek. The literature and poetry of the Renaissance was influenced by new developments in science and philosophy. Christianity, classical antiquity, scholarship and politics were the four main influences of the Renaissance literature.
Art is the most loved part of the Renaissance. Men and women of all different social levels had a strong appetite for art during this era. The most refined works came to life in what is known as Renaissance Classicism or High Renaissance. The most famous artists of this time were Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Giorgione. Sculpture was the first fine art to evolve. Donatello was the most notable sculptor of the Renaissance. Michelangelo developed architectural structures. Painters such as Da Vinci and Giorgione enhanced their work using new techniques and perspectives, developing portraits during this era. They began using light and dark such as tone and contrast. The center of attention for these artists became focused on human body and natural landscape rather than religious themes. The characteristics of the arts were focused on realism, classical individualism and viewed as philosophy. The social and intellectual position of the artist changed. The artist that used to be a craftsman in a low social position became a creator of original complex arts that then conversed and negotiated with popes, kings, and humanists whereas before they had worked for the local patrons and followed local traditions.
During the musical innovation in the fourteenth century, music was the center and quick development of entirely new techniques, styles, and forms came to life. This influenced many native Italian composers. Generally, written music was used for choirs and instruments were rarely used. Instruments such as the keyboard became valued and by the early 16th century keyboard music was appearing. The invention of the violin came to be perfected in the late Renaissance. By the late 16th century, Italy was the music center of Europe. The term “rinascita” describes the rebirth or the “renaissance of learning”; literature and the arts that evolved after a long, dark Middle Age era. Humanism, a defining intellectual movement of the Renaissance, believed the Ancient Greece and Roman works were the best guides for learning and living. Three terms used during the Renaissance were “studia humanitatis” (humanistic studies), “humanitas” (good quality that make women and women human, and “humanista” (student, teacher, and scholar). The term humanism wasn’t invented until the 19th century. The spirit of the Renaissance is reflected in humanism, an intellectual movement initiated by secular men of letters during the 15th century. Humanism focused developing the full potential of man. Humanism was proposed to be used in curriculum and to teach principles of living a moral, responsible, successful life on Earth. The effect of Humanism was to inspire men to abandon tradition of medieval period and bring about new thought and creation. Renaissance scholars adopted the intellectual views and approaches in philosophy, science, and medicine from the Middle Ages but challenged most of them. The Renaissance is one of the most interesting yet most disputed periods of European history.
Society during the Renaissance was separated by class and focused on the family. The adult male, usually the Father, had absolute authority in the household, and the social status depended on the parents’ ranking and wealth. The poor attempted to improve their position, while the wealthy flaunted theirs by becoming patrons and supporters of artists and intellectuals (Italian). Marriages were arranged to improve status and business relations. Young women from good families were protected from potentially dangerous contact with non-familiar young men by parents and servants as well as customs and moral strictures (Ruggiero). It was during this time that Humanism became institutionalized in society, creating a new form of education with a new curriculum and a new form of teaching (Grendler). A good education was expected of all males in order to become leaders in society.
Culture during the Renaissance was as varied as the social standings. It focused on Sculpture, literacy, writing, music, art and the Enlightenment of the great thinkers. It was the intellectual movement known as Humanism that may have expressed most fully the values of the Renaissance and a ‘classics’ based education that gave the Renaissance considerable cultural and intellectual unity (Introduction). The movement created a varied individual known as the ‘Renaissance Man’. Humanism encouraged the natural curiosity of humans, which lead to questions and experiments and the study of nature and the discovery of the world. The highest cultural values were usually associated with active involvement in public life, in moral, political, and military action, and in service to the state (Introduction).
Both society and culture were greatly influenced by the Catholic Church during the Renaissance. Political changes were taking place and religious thought challenged. A great divide was forming within the Catholic Church. A new people, known as the Protestants, formed from this division. These were people who no longer believed in the authority of the Catholic Church. The Protestants were active in translating literature, including the Bible, into the vernacular languages of the different countries across Europe so the layman could read them (Introduction). Small, devotional images were massed produced by enterprising merchants. Their secularism, their appreciation of physical beauty, and especially their emphasis on man’s own achievements and expression formed the governing intellectual principle of the Italian Renaissance.
The Roman Catholic Church is under the authority of the bishop of Rome, the pope, and by the priests of each church. Roman Catholics believe their church to be the one, holy catholic and apostolic church. While attending a Catholic Church mass, you will hear the congregation reciting the words “one holy and apostolic church” in a prayer. The faith of the Church is taught by Christ and his apostles and contained in the bible and tradition.
European missionaries and explorers spread Catholicism to the America’s, Asia, Africa, and Oceania through the late 15th century and early 16th century. As humanism started to evolve and people started to change, people looked for answers pertaining to religion rather than just relying on god or religious institutions.
During the Renaissance, the demands of society changed: it became based on money instead of allegiances. People began to live more extravagantly, had illegitimate children, and started to become more interested in secular power than church affairs. One of the main reasons for people leaving the Roman Catholic Church was the amount of taxation Europeans had to pay to Rome: People began to resent it.
Eventually, the Catholic Church began to decline. Once people began to break from the Roman Catholic Church, other Protestant religions started to evolve such as Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian and many more. The world was changing. Growth and Enlightenment were expanding the beliefs and ideals of the masses. The Roman Catholic Church was losing its “hold” on the people and they were finding new religions and philosophies to follow. The “old practices” and fractures within the Catholic Church began to change with the introduction and enlightenment of the Renaissance.
The Renaissance was an era of social and cultural modification. This era introduced new ways of thinking with creativity and innovation. Before this time, the Roman Catholic Church was the most powerful entity. It had influence over the people and their beliefs. People who opposed the Church’s teachings were accused of heresy and considered heretic. These people were exposed to severe punishments, such as getting burned in public.
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The Roman Catholic Church was controlled by the pope. The pope was known as the representative of God and Earth. Locally, the priest had a lot of power on behalf of the Church. People would pay money to the church and because of this the church was very wealthy. The rich made arrangements to buy superior positions in the church because this would be their salvation and their way to heaven. The Catholic Church charged to have a child baptized. If a child was not baptized they would not go to heaven. You also had to pay to get married and to honor the departed and bury them in holy ground.
People also gave one tenth of their income to the church. If they did not, “all mighty God would know they deceived him.” It was also expected for the people to work in the church without pay. At the same time, you could not work in your own land the days you were working at the church.
The church had may other means of raising profits. They would sell a memento or a relic believed to a piece of Jesus. People would buy believing they were honoring God. Another item the Catholic Church promoted to sell was a pardon or indulgences. These documents were signed by the pope and were believed to pardon your sins and gave you a path to heaven because God’s representative certified it. People that sinned waited for these documents to be sold in their region. Eventually, it was acceptable for people to purchase them for their deceased relatives and save them from hell. The church considered this as a Christian act and God would consider you when your soul departed.
As advancements were made in the arts and sciences, the church’s doctrines began to be questioned. Spiritual excellence was not primary for the church’s leader. The religious establishment developed into a political organization. People believed the church had become corrupt and they desired change. The Renaissance offered the change the people were seeking.
The years preceding the period of the Renaissance were, for the most part, wrought with endless conflict. Powerful, wealthy and influential men continually connived, fought and killed to hold onto their power, influence, lands, and money. Marriages were constructed for the sole purpose of alliances to support the struggle. The primary reason and focus of the factions were the vitally important trade routes in Italy for commerce, as well as those who controlled the strings, purses and people of the church.
The Renaissance is recognized as beginning in Italy. However, as the Renaissance spread, other cities became part of this “enlightenment” of the time. As with any changes, there comes conflict. The main areas of conflict included that of the Roman Catholic religion. Catholicism held a tight grip over all aspects of life throughout the Middle Ages. However, with the Renaissance came a new “liberty” that “exerted a deep and fruitful influence on all areas of human activity.” Some suggest the period of Renaissance-thought or “humanism” was a response to the “heretical inclinations inherent in the thought of the Middle Ages.” The shortcomings of the Catholic Church and its activities of the time were its undoing. The Church became rife with corruption of the mind, body and soul. Through the illumination brought on by the Renaissance, the people discovered a new vision that allowed them to discover a new path for themselves, separate from the teachings of the Church.
Other areas of conflict, and enlightenment, of the time were philosophy and writings. Due to greater political stability and enhanced economic life, intellectual and artistic endeavors ensued. With the Renaissance, the “wisdom of the classical world, of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, had been sifted, refined, and adjusted to modern necessities.” With “the new skills of philology”, the humanists hoped to “lay bare Christianity in its purest and most historical form and thereby strengthen the Church.”: As the Church attempted to reclaim its declining deference, the writer Erasmus, as well as others, attacked contemporary religious practices. They offered “textual presentations” to illuminate and perpetuate a “true dawn of a new age, to the rebirth of Christianity as Christ preached it.” Subsequently, this introduced opportunities for the emergence of new Protestant faiths. In addition, new writings of prose and lyric poetry emerged. These new forms of writings focused more so on individualism and the “education of character”: A key element of the Renaissance period. The Renaissance presented “the importance of a dominating image of man” and also brought an emergence of man that required society to become more “ordered”. Thus, “the image of a gentleman” became extremely important during the period of the Renaissance. Profound changes occurred in manners, social customs, education, and religion. The spirit and conflicts of the Renaissance produced a “path that man could traverse.” It will forever be a link between “the ages of feudalism to modern times.”
The principles of Humanism were first brought to light in the west during the Renaissance period. It was used to denote the revival of interest from artists and scholars in the ancient writings of Greek and Roman philosophers. During the conversion of religion to Christianity, the Roman Catholic Church had completely denied all alternative views and this included the ancient writings. There were some exceptions however; a few Christian theologians (St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, etc.) had used some ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle to support some of Christian beliefs. However, in general, the more critical and liberal aspects of the classical writings were suppressed (Gunasekara). During this time, there was very little to no advancement for European civilization and is commonly referred to as the Dark Ages. The attempt by artists and scholars to backtrack to a time prior to the ruling of Christianity in Europe may be recorded as the first attempt to find an alternative to the strict rulings of Christianity. However, many of these early Humanists could not free themselves from Christianity and refocused their interpretation of Christian teachings in a way they considered to be in a more humanistic light.
Because of these controversies, the prestige of the church suffered because some church leaders sold their services, violated the biblical laws they were entrusted with upholding, and lived no differently than secular merchants and political figures. This was due to the pressure from the people to turn away from the church’s views. Furthermore, the leaders of the growing city-states, as well as the new monarchs, had much less need of an alliance with the Catholic Church to maintain power than they had in the past.
Humanism progressed from this early start and by the nineteenth century, was able to adopt a new form completely free from the Christian religion and indeed combated the set of principles of this religion. Science greatly assisted in this by the growth of both the physical and biological areas. Early scientists like Galileo had realized the conflict between the discoveries of science and Christian teaching. Because of this, they were often persecuted by the Church. In conclusion, the controversies between the people and the Catholic Church were never resolved rather; a new belief emerged and developed the separation from the Church.
There were many influences that precipitated the arrival of the Renaissance. Most importantly, as the population and prosperity increased, “a spirit of change” evolved. The Renaissance produced a period of new thoughts, ideas, religions, arts, politics, economics, education, science, society, and culture. It was truly a “rebirth” of the human spirit: The arrival of humanism. A newfound optimism heartened the people and changed the world.