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Renaissance is a French word meaning “rebirth”. The Renaissance originated in Italy during the mid-14th century and spanned through the 17th century. This “rebirth” was a distinct change from the previous time period, the Middle Ages. The Renaissance was a cultural rediscovery of Greek and Roman ideas, which was demonstrated in art, literature, and religion. It was, generally, a rebirth (some may say revival) of art, literature, and religion. Starting in around the mid-14th century, it was truly a rebirth. Coming off the Black Death and Hundred Years War, there was plenty of room for change.
Around one-third of Europe’s population was ravaged by wars and disease during the end of the Middle Ages, so new generations of ideas were bound to happen. With art, new techniques grew in paintings, sculptures, and architecture. There was finer definition in facial structure and the occurrence of naturalism, as shown in works like David. There was also the creation of three-dimensional painting on a two-dimensional surface. Renaissance artists were recognized and respected as individuals, not as much as a group at this point. David by Michelangelo, was a sculpture of the Biblical hero, created between 1501 and 1504.
The reason this sculpture is so magnificent is that it was built like a Greek god with such fine technique and the beauty of naturalism. The Middle Ages can also be recognized as an Age of Faith. With the great power of the papacy and Catholic Church, one cannot simply deny that this was a church-dominated period of time. The Renaissance, however, was not so much religiously dominated, more so a new way of thinking towards the world. Instead of a religiously run government, it was more of an aristocracy style government. This means families like the Medici family were powerful because of their wealth and history.
Petrarch was an Italian writer, also known as the Father of Humanism, during the Renaissance who admired Greek and Roman style. 1“To put it briefly, we ought to act as a careful guardian of the state, not as its lord. Such was the advice that the philosopher gave at great length in his politics, advice that is found to be very useful and clearly consistent with justice. ” The philosopher to whom he was referring was Aristotle, showing that great thinkers during the Renaissance were looking back to the Greeks for their ideas rather than looking to the church for guidance.
Literature grew emphatically during the Renaissance. The earliest (quite possibly the best) writers were Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Machiavelli. These Italian writers had notable works that spread throughout Europe, ultimately spreading some of the Renaissance style. With the creation of the movable type printing press in the 1450s (Johannes Gutenberg), there was significant encouragement for literacy and the spread of the Renaissance ideas. “It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams… Through it, God will spread His Word.
A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men. ” Gutenberg basically foreshadowed the spread of knowledge with his printing press. In conclusion, the Renaissance was a strong cultural change compared the Middle Ages. The Renaissance brought back Roman and Greek ideas, which modified the layout of European society for many centuries (for better or for worse). This cultural rediscovery was shown in art, literature, and religion for an amazing three hundred years of history.