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The Rennaissance

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Autor:   •  January 10, 2018  •  Essay  •  1,150 Words (5 Pages)  •  159 Views

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The Renaissance:

The Renaissance, Italian for “Rebirth”, was the revival of the art and knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome in the European countries during the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. The Renaissance was directly preceded by the Middle Ages, an era characterized by superstition and uncertainty. During the Middle Ages the Church was an all-powerful entity in all the European countries, which dictated every detail of the lives of its congregants, including education, finance, politics. The economy of the Middle Ages was the Feudal system; an economy based on the exchange of services. The lord of the manor provided protection from the elements and bloodshed, and the pheasants and serfs who lived on his manor worked the land and served him. In this strictly hierarchal society there was but a tiny middle class of craftsmen, who were slightly higher on the social ladder than the peasantry, but vastly inferior to the nobles. At the height of power stood the Pope, a figure more powerful than the kings of the age, who could not tax and had no armies. Social mobility was unheard of; the way you were born was the way you died. Questioning an idea or activity of the Church was unheard of, and would result in severe consequences. The Church provided a limited theological education of Church doctrine to very few; the vast majority of the people, including the nobility, were ignorant and illiterate. Art and philosophy were not much encouraged during this age, as when it is a struggle to simply get through a typical brutal day in the Middle Ages, no one has time or energy for such matters. And then in the mid 14th Century the Black Death hit Europe, devastating between a third and a half of Europe’s population. This devastating plague tore through Europe killing thousands and thus making human life so much more valuable. On the heels of this devastation came the Renaissance, a whose social, economic, academic, and political landscape contrasted greatly with the preceding age. Importantly, Italy was the country that witnessed the start of the Renaissance as various key factors made it the ideal place for a “Rebirth”.  However, infighting between states and ruling families for power in Italy caused the Renaissance to move to the European continent in the 1500 and 1600s. As mentioned before, the Black Death led to the increased value of human life, as people were needed for the services they could provide. Such a climate led to a small increase of social mobility, and the creation of a middle class comprised of businessmen, bankers, doctors, and lawyers. While it was not likely that one could rise above the station they were born into, if one acquired enough wealth it was now possible. The Medici family of Italy are the prime example of this, as although they started out as pheasants they gained wealth through trade and then commerce, eventually becoming one of the most influential families in Italy. In addition, money, rather than the exchange of services had become the economic model. An ever-increasing importance is placed on wealth and its accumulation, as money buys status, and status power. This economic shift led to the growth of towns and cities, as people needed to interact on a greater level for finance and business. Some of these towns were the five towns of Italy – Florence, Venice, Rome, Genoa, and Milan. Florence, specifically, was well placed for this purpose as it had access to trade routes, wealth, commerce, and a stable supply of food. In addition, Absolutism, the belief that a strong king made a strong nation was on the rise. European kings began to gain power and strengthen their countries by taxing their subjects and building strong armies. England, France, Austria, and Spain are all examples of countries made powerful during the Renaissance. But perhaps more than these economic and political changes, the Renaissance is characterized by the spread of knowledge, art, and critical thought. During the middle ages the Church buried the philosophy, art, literature, and science of the Classical periods, as they contained heresy to Church views. But with the Renaissance came the spread of Humanism, a study not based on the spirit and religion, but on humans and their lives. Early humanist philosophers such as Petrarch got hold of and studied classical works by the likes of Socrates and Plato. It was the beginning of a new age, people had begun to think, to question, to not take everything the Church espoused at face value (although it was still very dangerous to oppose the church). This led to the start of the Scientific Method; to hypothesize, observe and come up with theories based on objective study. Literacy increased dramatically, mainly as a result of the invention of the printing press by Johan Gutenberg. In this climate, many important scientific discoveries in fields such as physics, anatomy, and mathematics were made. One of these was the development of the Heliocentric model by Copernicus. Galileo mathematically quantified the Heliocentric model through observations through his telescope, and published his works. Galileo’s model ran in direct contrast to the Church’s Geocentric model. For this, Galileo was prosecuted and placed under house arrest until he recanted his claims, however, his theory still holds true until today. In addition, both the economic climate of the day and the quest for knowledge and science led to widespread explorations of heretofore unchartered territories. Monarchs, such as Ferdinand of Spain sent out explorers to discover new trade routes, claim lands, and increase the country’s wealth and consequence. Noted explorers include Cristopher Columbus, Magellan, and Ponce de Leon. And, the Renaissance is perhaps most famous for its artists, such as Michelangelo and DaVinci, who painted and sculpted awe-inspiring and novel masterpieces. These artists were sponsored by wealthy and influential patrons of the arts such as the Medici family. These humanist artists did not depict, as Middle Ages artists had, only the spiritual, but rather focused on the human aspect.  Many Renaissance artists studied cadavers to gain a deeper understanding of human anatomy and thereby more accurately depict it. In fact, one of DaVinci’s most celebrated work is a painting entitled the Mona Lisa, a simple portrait of a young women. Literature too began to expand beyond the confined walls of the monastery to include Humanist works by authors such as Shakespeare. Shakespeare in particular plays on human thought and emotion, at its best and at its worst. The Church’s stronghold over people’s thoughts and emotions grew weaker as a result of the ideas and progress of the Renaissance. And while it was still powerful, the Church was no longer as mighty as it had been during the Middle Ages. This lay the groundwork for the Reformation of the Church by people like Martin Luther, who questioned and stood up to the immoral teachings and practices of the church.


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