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1Renaissance in Europe
RENAISSANCE AND REFORMATION IN EUROPE
Renaissance in Europe
(Faculty of Social Sciences - Department of Media & Communication Studies)
2Renaissance in Europe
RENAISSANCE IN EUROPE
Throughout the history of mankind, human technology and culture has experienced many
advancements and setbacks. As a civilization rises, new technologies are developed, as well as
new types of music, art and literature. Then, years, decades, or even centuries later, as that same
civilization begins to decline, many of these technologies and arts are lost.
During the Middle Ages, much of the great advancements made by the Greeks and the Romans
had been forgotten due to the decline of living conditions in Western Europe. People went from
living comfortable lives with good jobs and educations, to living in very poor conditions, where
there was constant turmoil, war, poverty and hunger. This time period is known as the Dark
The Dark Ages lasted for hundreds of years, as many generations of individuals lived and died in
these terrible conditions. Then, in the mid 1300s A.D., things slowly began to improve. People
began again to discover the arts and technologies of the Romans and Greeks, making life a little
easier. We call this period of time the Renaissance. The Renaissance began around 1350 A.D. in
Italy, and continued until about 1600 A.D.
The term 'renaissance' is derived from the French word meaning 'rebirth'. The period of
European history referred to as the Renaissance, spanned from the 14th to the 16th centuries, was
a time of great social and cultural change in Europe.
The Renaissance was a time of great social and cultural change in Europe. It was a period
characterized by innovation, imagination and creativity. The Renaissance was also a time during
which Europe's classical past was revisited and reinvigorated.
BEGINNING OF RENAISSANCE
The European Renaissance began in Northern Italy in the 14th century. The Tuscan city
of Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance. Gradually, the movement spread
from Italy to other parts of Europe.
3Renaissance in Europe
Italy was the birthplace of the Renaissance for many reasons. First of all, since Italy was the
center of ancient Roman history, it was natural for the Renaissance to start there. Some things
such as architectural remains, antique statues, coins and inscriptions reminded Italians of the
glory of the Roman Empire. Secondly, Italy was different from the rest of Europe in another
During the Middle Ages, many people in Europe lived in terrible conditions. They believed that
life was supposed to be difficult, and that they should not expect to have any comforts. As the
Italians learned about the old Roman and Greek ways, they began to believe, as the ancients had,
that life should be rich and as comfortable as possible. They believed that a person should seek
talents and skills, and that they should work to increase their standard of living, and the standards
of living around them.
The practice of studying ancient works by the Romans and Greeks became known as
humanism. Those who studied these classical works became known as humanists. These
humanists became popular throughout Italy in the mid 1300s A.D.
Humanism was an intellectual movement that was at the heart of the Italian Renaissance. It put
an emphasis on man, his intellect, and his life on earth. It also stated that the Church shouldn't
rule certain matters and it rediscovered ancient items, thoughts, and beliefs. Humanist scholars
hoped to use their wisdom to increase their understanding of their own times. New and important
literary works were published in the languages of the people, helping to spread ideas throughout
Europe more quickly.
The city-state of Florence in Italy was the location where the Italian Renaissance began.
Florence was very much like ancient Athens because it produced a great number of talented
poets, artists, architects, scholars, and scientists in a short period of time.
By the early 1500s A.D., Florence began to decline. Political unrest and uprisings had led
to a loss of power and wealth. In the city-state of Rome, power was held by the Pope and other
leaders of the Catholic Church.
Many of the Renaissance Popes who ruled the city of Rome used their influence to try and
rebuild the city to its former glory. These Popes acted more like kings than religious leaders. By
laying heavy taxes on their people, they were able to build magnificent churches, palaces and
other public and private buildings.
4Renaissance in Europe
They used tax money to hire artists and sculptors to create thousands of art pieces to fill the new
buildings they had created. They also amassed a massive collection of literary works from
ancient Greece and Rome, as well as contemporary works, which they stored in a library in the
Vatican. This library attracted scholars from all over the world.
As a result of these efforts by the popes and other church leaders in Rome, their city attracted
many who had been in Florence, thus becoming the center of the Italian Renaissance.
By the late 1500s A.D., the center of the Renaissance in Italy began to shift from Rome to the
wealthier city-state of Venice.
Venice quickly became world famous for the high quality of art and literature that they were
The Northern Renaissance
By the late 1400s A.D., the Renaissance was in full swing in the Italian Peninsula. As a
result of the Renaissance, the Italian economy had grown stronger, and the living standards of
those in the region had been greatly improved.
As other people in Western Europe visited Italy, they became fascinated with their ways of life,
their culture, art, literary works, and customs.
In 1494 A.D., the French invaded Italy. They brought a number of Italian artists and scholars
back to France. Among them was an artist by the name of Leonardo DaVinci.
The French hired these artists to paint beautiful masterpieces for their palaces and public
buildings. They hired the scholars to teach their children and improve their educations.
Soon many other monarchies, including the English, Spanish, Germany, and even as far away as
the Netherlands, were actively employing humanists in their courts to help improve life. They
adopted many of the beliefs of the humanists in Italy, but also modified them to suit their own
needs and circumstances.
The English Renaissance
One of the last places to be reached by the Renaissance was the English countryside.
England was locked in a bloody civil war known as the War of the Roses. In the late 1400s A.D.,
this civil war ended, and the Tudor family began to rule the nation.
The newly enthroned King Henry VII invited Italian humanists to join his court and teach his
people. The Renaissance in England focused much more on literary works than in other areas.
One of the most famous playwrights during this time period was a man named William
5Renaissance in Europe
Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote immensely popular plays that were attended by thousands of
ARTS AND ARCHITECTURE
The Renaissance was a golden age in the arts and architecture. There were numerous
achievements of works of art that are still very famous today. Many outstanding artists and
architects such as Isabella d'Este of Mantua, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo,
Raphael, Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Filippo Brunelleschi showed their
uniqueness and creativity through what they did. Paintings of the Renaissance used unnatural
shapes, linear prospective, and depth perception.
Writing was also very important during the Renaissance. Two famous books that were
written during this time period were The Book of the Courtier and The Prince. The Book of the
Courtier, a book about ideal men and women, was written by Baldassare Castiglione. The Prince
was written by Niccolò Machiavelli and was information from Machiavelli's personal experience
of politics and his knowledge of the past. It was offered as a guide to rulers on how to gain and
CAUSES FOR RENAISSANCE IN EUROPE
The Middle Ages of European history was a time characterized by conformism. People
who displayed creativity or diverged (moved away) from established methods of thinking and
behaving, were often punished or outcast from society.
The early Middle Ages were a time of fear in Europe and many people believed that mythical
creatures existed in an underworld. The world was thought to consist of only three continents,
and the Earth, not the Sun, was considered to be the centre of the solar system. Many of these
medieval beliefs were proven untrue during the Renaissance.
Until the Renaissance, most Europeans followed the teachings of Catholicism because they had
little exposure to any form of education beyond this. Science was not a well-understood concept
and very little of what the Church taught people about life was challenged. Those who spoke out
against the Church were accused of heresy and labeled a heretic (someone who holds unorthodox
beliefs). Heretics were often subject to extremely severe punishments, such as being tortured or
burned at the stake in front of the townspeople.
6Renaissance in Europe
During the Renaissance, however, things started to change. The 14th through to the 16th
centuries in Europe were a period of questioning and discovery. People started to think
independently and experiment with new ideas and concepts. As more and more advancements
were made in the arts and sciences, the Catholic Church began to lose the overwhelming power
and influence it had once held over people's beliefs about the world.
The Renaissance was very important because it brought Europe out of the abyss that it
was in. It inspired new ideas, cultures, religions, and ways to live by. The Renaissance helped
people change the way that they saw themselves, others, and their world. It helped many people
express their uniqueness and creativity by art, science, writing, and technology. During the
Renaissance many art works and writings became famous and some we still use or see today.
Arts and writing weren't the only thing that we still use today, mathematical advances,
discoveries, and theorems are still applied presently. Other things like the printing press; maps,
compasses, medicines, and the scientific method still play an important role in our life.