Although generally classified by most scholars as the last century of the medieval era, the 14th century is generally seen as the beginning of the Renaissance and the beginning of a modern state of mind. "Renaissance" means "rebirth" in French and describes the cultural and economic changes that occurred in Europe beginning in the 14th century. Humanism began to replace Schlolaticism as the philosophical foundation of European intelectual thought. The precise time is difficlt to set and of course varied accross Europe. The Renaissance began at Firenze around 1300 and gradually spread north. Even so, the indicators that constitute the Renaissance did not reach other areas of Europe 1-2 centuries. It was during the Renaissance that Europe emerged from the Feudal System of the Middle Ages. The stagnant Medieval economy began to expand. The Renaissance was not just a period of economic growth. It was an age of intense cultural ferment. Enormous changes began in artistic, social, scientific, and political endevours. Perhaps of greatest importance was that Europeans began to develop a radically different self image as they moved from a God-centered to a more humanistic outlook. The Humanist scholars used their clasical work to assess Church practices and Biblical scholarship. The Renaissance is probably most associated with stunning developmens in the visual artse, especially Italian and Dutch-Flemish painting. The Renaissance is also associated with advances in music, especially the brilliant polyphonic music. Another major achievement during the Renaissance was the birth of modern European drama.
After the fall of Rome, the Feudal system developed in Europe. The Feudalism was an economic, social, and economic system based apportionment of land in exchange for the provision of fealty and service. The system was based on the king granting land to his important noblemen who became barons. These land grants became heritary. The king also granted land to the Church. These nobels in exchange pledged loyally to the king and to provide soldiers and supplies in time of war. The great nobels in turn divied their fiefdom among lesser lords or knights who became his vassals. This system ws based on the laborof the lowest rung of the social order. Most Europeans were peasant farmers working on the land of a Feudal nobleman--the lor of the manner. They did not own their land, but allowed to work it in exchange for a hare of the crop and labor when required. As the Feudal system developed, the peasants or serfs became tied to the land, not allowed to leave it without permission of the lord of the manner. The Feudal system began to weaken in Western Europe by the 16th century, but persisted much longer in Eastern Europe. The serfs in Russia were not legal freed until the 19th century and it was not until the Revolution in the20th century that the still essentially Feudal estates were broken up.
The Christian Church developed in the Roman Empire. The supression of Christians was a constant theme during the reigns of many emperors. The early Church fathers (Peter, Paul, and many others) operated in this hostile environmnt. Finally with Constantine, the Church became the official religion of the Empire. Early Church theologiand like Augustine lived at a time that the Church was not only tolerated, but the official religion of the Empire and a rligion that acted to supress other rival creeds. The Church was thus significantly influenced by the Empire. Much of the Church's organization (pope, cardinal, bishop, ect) was a relection of how the Roman Empire was organized, although the modern organization of the Church and the primacy of the Pope only developed over time. The political
structure of the Empire was reflected in how Christian diosceses were set up. Even before conversion, important local officials (Roman, Celtic, and Germanic) might
protect or even endow monastaries and convents seeing it beneficial to have "a powehouse of prayer" in their territory. [Brown] One remarkable aspect of the triumph of Christianity in Europe was the fact that Christianity was the religion of the defeated Empire, yet it was gradually adoped by the victorious barbarians. The story of medieval conversions is a fascinating one. Actual conversion took many forms. Very few European people were Christianized by conquest. Rather conversion occurred by coverting leaders, primarily by persuasion. This process took many forms (missionary zeal, princly fiat, election, and shamanistic vision). Many features of the modern Church were not aspects of the early Church. One of the most important is the cult of the saints. Another is the confessional, intitially only practiced by the most deeply pious. One aspects of the confessional was tariffed penances based on penitentials. Surviving medieval penitentials provide a wealth of information to sociologists concerning the intimate details of everyday life. [Brown]
Although generally classified by most scholars as the last century of the medieval era, the 14th century is generally seen as the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. This can be seen as the beginning of a modern state of mind. "Renaissance" means "rebirth" in French and describes the cultural and economic changes that occurred in Europe beginning in the 14th century. The precise time is difficlt to set and of course varied accross Europe. The Renaissance began at Firenze around 1300 and gradually spread north. The Renaissance was more pronounced and established outside of Italy by the 15th century. Even so, the indicators that constitute the Renaissance did not reach other areas of Europe until 1-2 centuries lter, especially northern Europe. The Renaissance in northern countries was delayed and really didn't get fully underway in England, France, and Germany until the 16th century.
The Crusades are the series of religious wars launched by the Medieval kingdoms of Europe during the 11th-13th centuries to retake the Holly land from Islamic rulers. Christian pilgrims after the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries had to travel through Islamic lands to venerate the great shrines in Jerusalem and other Biblical sites in the Holy Land. In addition the Ottoman Turks were increasingly encroaching on the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. Islamic scholars often describe the crusades as an example of European brutality against the Muslim world. Today as a result the word "crusade" has a very different connotation in the Muslim and Western worlds. What Islamists never mention is that the Crusades were the first significant Christian reaction to three centuries of Islamic military campaigns against Christian nations in the Middlke East , North Africa, and Europe. The Crusades while bloody and violent had a significant impact on Western intelectual development. Latin kingdoms were established in the Eastern Mediterranean after the 4th Crusade. This resulted in the discovery and translation of classical works long lost to Western scholarship. This inspired an increasred interest in the classics, especially in Italy, but other Western kingdoms as well. Gradually a new philopsophical tradition rose to challenge the increasingly sterile Scholasticism of the Medieval era.
The Renaisance began in Italy and thus the increasingly accurate depictions and the painting of secular scenes appears earlier in Italy than any where else in Europe. Although generally classified by most scholars as the last century of the medieval era, the 14th century is generally seen as the beginning of the Renaissance and the beginning of a modern state of mind. "Renaissance" means "rebirth" in French and describes the cultural and economic changes that occurred in Europe beginning in the 14th century. The precise time is difficlt to set and of course varied accross Europe. The Renaissance began at Firenze around 1300 and gradually spread north. Even so, the indicators that constitute the Renaissance did not reach other areas of Europe 1-2 centuries. It was during the Renaissance that Europe emerged from the Feudal System of the Middle Ages. The stagnant Medieval economy began to expand. The Renaissance was not just a period of economic growth. It was an age of intense cultural ferment. Enormous changes began in artistic, social, scientific, and political endevours. Perhaps of greatest importance was that Europeans began to develop a radically different self image as they moved from a God-centered to a more humanistic outlook.
Increasing interest in Greek classics cause Italian scholars to study Greek so they can read the original clasic texts. Dante's disciple Boccaccio studied Greek and translated Homer into Latin. The University of Florence establisshed a the first chair of Greek (1360). Other Greek scholars were encouraged to come from Byzantium to Italy. Greek scholar Manuel Chrysoloras began to teach in the chair of Greek at the University of Florence (1396). Florence was to become one of the great Italaian Renaissance centers. Italian Humanist scholars traveled to Byzantium to learn Greek and to buy the old manuscripts that had been saved from Barbarian and Crusader pillages. Many original Greek clasical texts were found in Constantinople. Libraries were founded in Italy and other locations. The papacy participated in the search for classical texts. Pope Nicholas V was a strong proponent and helped found the huge Vatican collection. Cardinal Bessarion helped found thee Library of St. Mark at Venice. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 fueled the Renaissance by the number of clasical Greek scholars that dought refuege in Italy, many bring ing priceless texts with them. Temporal leaders also supported the Humanist movement. Cosimo de' Medici in 1462 sponsored the Platonic Academy in Florence.
Father Tomas de Torquemada, the Grand Inqisitor, concluded that if the Jews remained in Spain, then they would influence the Marranos, the new converts to Christianity. He reached this conclusion in part because he had participated in the disputations (debates) with Jews and was frustrated that he could not convert Jews by his arguments. With the fall of Granada (1492), the last Moorish outpost in Spain had been reduced. Father Torquemada advanced the idea with the Catholic monarchs (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella) that the Jewish religion should be banned in Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella obtained financial support for the operation against Geanada from Don Isaac Abravanel and Don Abraham Senior, Senior Comptroller of Castile and Chief Rabbi of the kingdom. The Catholic Monarchs, none the less, were drawn to Torquemada's advice. Queen Isabella in particular was a fervant Catholic. Ferdinand may have been more attracted by the money to be made. Torquemada concinced the two soverigns to expel the Jews. They issued the fateful Edict of Expulsion on March 31, 1492. Don Isaac Abravanel pleaded for mercy, but his pleas were rejected. The order allowed the Jews 4 months to leave Spain. Those who refused to convert had to sell their homes, businesses, and other possessions at low prices. There are no definitive records, but scholars believe that about 100,000 Jews remained true to their religion and fleed fom Spain. The expulsion is today commemorated on the holiday of Tisha B’Av. The expelled Jews became known as Sephardic Jews. They played an important role in the economic success and cultural life in Muslim North Africa, the Ottoman Empire, the Netherlands, and other countries. The descendants of the Jews expelled by the Spanish and subsequently the Portuguese are referred to as Sephardim. "Sephardim" is the Hebrew word term for Spain and it appears in the Old Testament, one suggestion that Jews in Spain predate the Roman era.
It was during the Renaissance that Europe emerged from the Feudal System of the Middle Ages. The stagnant Medieval economy began to expand. The Renaissance was not just a period of economic growth. The economic growth was the major factor leading to the voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The account of Marco Polo with actual descriptions of China and the Spice Islands fueled a desire by Eurpdeans to establish direct trading links. At the same time Europeans by the 14th century had significantly imroved their navigational and ship building skills. The astrolabe helped mariners determine latitude. (Longitude proved a much more difficult undertaking. The magnetic compass permitted mariners to determine which direction was north. Great improvements were made in maps. Here Portuguese cartographers played a key role. Information provided by travelers was refined by explorers who began to sail south along the African coast. Europeans also made great strides in shipbuilding. Large capacity ships called galleons were adopted. Powered by sail and woth large holds, they greatly reduce the cost of transporting good over distances. These developments permitted Europeans them to begin to make voyages od substantial distances and the goal was to reach the East to develop direct trade contacts with China. Many of the advances were made by the Itlalian mariners of the eastern Mediterranean. It was, however, the western European countries of the Atlantic that would conduct the great voyages of discovery.
One of the vital factors in the Renaissance was the invention by Gutenberg of moveable print and the printing press. This was the most significant development in information technology until the personal computer of the late 20th century. Johann Gutenberg (1400?-68?) working with partners developed the technology for printing (1450-56). The first printing was the Bible which is now known as The Gutenberh Bible. What once took months of ardous labor now could be accomplished within days. While the results were less elrgant, it greatly increased the number of copires of books and the economic level, of those that could own them. This greattly facilitated the spread of Humanist ideas.
It was an age of intense cultural ferment. Enormous changes began in artistic, philosophical, political, scientific, and social endevours. The Renaissance had a profound affect on Europe. It affected
science and art, but even more it affected the way man thought and his outlook on life. Individuals other tha royals and Churhmen begin to play promient
The European Renaissance began in Italy. It involved fundamental changes in the way individuals viewed their world. A central element of the Renaissance was the rediscovery of ancient world of Greece and Rome. The ancient classics of philosophy, literature, and science inspired the development of empirical methods to persue studies in these fields. As Europeans became increasingly aware of classical knowledge some like Galileo began to build on that knowldge actual observation and study of the natural world, even conceiving experiments to test his theories. It is art, however, that is the most vissible indication of the changing outlook of Europeans. The focus on the natural world caused many artists to move away from the Medieval focus on God to an increasing concern with the natural world and more precise depictions of that world. The horrors of the plague had caused many to question their faith in the 14th century, another factor in undermining a God-centered world. As a result, the themes of Renaissance artists are less and lss devote to the glory of God and increasingly to secular themes. Many artists now not only paint Biblical scenes but Greek and Roman history and mythology are depicted. Later in the Renaissance, artists will begin painting genre scenes of contemporary life. The increasingly sophisticated artistic techniques permit artists to create amazingly realistic depictions. The role of the artist also changes in the Renaissance. The Medievl artist was a craftsman whose name, especially in the early Medieval era. was rarely applied to his creations. His task was to Glorify God along guidelines clearly established by the Church. The Renaissance artist was a very diufferent indovidual. He was much more than a craftman. He was a creator. And he was viewed very differently than the mere artisan artists were viewed in the Medieval era. The Renaissance artist was greatly respected in a world still dominated by the airistoracy. Both the airistocracy and the Church and later imn the Mefdieval era wealthy merchants began respecting the artist not only for his technical prowess, but also for his creative powers and imagination--in fact a new development in Western art. The artist was seen as an individual whose personal aesthetic expression was of importance.
Stunning advances in music were made during the Renaissance, especially the brilliant polyphonic music by such great composers as Palestrina (Italy), Tallis, Byrd, and Gibbons (England), and Victoria
The great drama of Renaissance Europe is concentrated in two countries--England and Spain. England is by far the most important. This leads us to wonder why theatrical plays were so much more advanced in England and why boy characters emerged in England and not in other countries. Lope de Vega, of course, was the Spanish Shakespeare, and he wrote hundreds of plays. But they are much more formal and less realistic than Shakespeare's plays, and they don't feature the same kind of comedy as we have exemplified in characters such as Falstaff. Boy characters are very rare and quite insignificant when they do occur. There was virtually no professional theatre in 16th-century Germany--only ad lib farces and knock-about comedy performed by schoolboys and town amateurs who had regular non-theatrical
jobs. The French produced a rather sterile academic kind of drama based on
classical models, and had almost no boy characters. The Italians went in for
commedia del arte--a kind of street theatre with stock characters that was
mostly improvised and didn't have set plots and certainly not written-out
scripts. The English actors became famous on the continent, and we know that
they travelled to Germany and performed English plays (untranslated
apparently) for German audiences. But this was an exotic import rather than a
native dramatic tradition. Tradition such as it was in Germany involved quite a
primative sort of drama. The English theatre was by far the most advanced and
sophisticated in all of Western Europe. And the tradition of sophisticated
plays being performed by companies of men and boys (for the women's parts) and
designed for a cross-section of the middle-class public was almost uniquely an
English phenomenon as was the tradition of dramatic blank verse (sometimes
intermingled with prose for the lower-class or lower-toned scenes) which
developed as the medium of dialogue.
Perhaps of greatest importance was that Europeans began to develop a radically different self image as they moved from a God-centered to a more humanistic outlook. Humanism began to replace Schlolaticism as the philosophical foundation of European intelectual thought. Humanism was a revival of classical thought, both classical learning and the spirit of inquiry expressed in the great classical writers oif Greece and Rome. Humanism was fueled by both the Crusades and fall of Constantinope (1453) which helpec unearth long lost clssical texts and revive classical scholarhip. Humnaism first appeared in Italy. It was generated by a revival of interest in classical literature and the classical ideals. Humanism was a rejection of the Medieval mindset and world view and the intelectual constraints of Scholasticism. Humnist scholars reveled in the intellectual freedom cultural riches of the classical pagan world. A hintb of Humanist thought can be seen in the Medievel poet Dante (1265- 1321) who selected Roman poet Virgil as his model. Petrarch (1304-1374) was the first poet to truly reflectthe spirit of the Renaissance. His poems were penned in Latin hexameter as did the classical Roman poets. It was Petrarch who virtually rediscovered which was virtually unknow in the West. The Medieval Church had endorsed Schlasticism which became the doiminant philosophical tradition of Western Christendom during the Medieval era. The rise of Hunanism ended the Church's monoploy on learning. Laymen began reading the ancient texts which because of the printing press were available in inctrased quantities. The new ideas first appeared in Italy, but gradually circulated throughout Europe. Humnists scholars appeared in most important countries with the possible exception of Portugal and Spain where the Soanish Inquiisition imhibited scholarly discussion. Important Humnist scholars included: England (John Colet and Sir Thomas More), France (Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples), Germany (Reuchlin), and the Netherlamds (Desiderius and Erasmus).
The Humanist scholars used their clasical work to assess Church practices and Biblical scholarship. Important improvements in developing a more accurate understanding of the Holy Scriptutres. The work of the Humanist scholars in many ways laid the foundatiin for the Protestant Reformation. Luther, Calvin and other leading figures of the Redormation were to claim that it was the Holy Bible and not the pope and Roman Catholic Church that was the ultimate religious authority in Christendom.
The rising sence of inquiry resulted in Western minds for the first time in a millenia actively observing and studying the natural world. The cklassical workls fueled assessments of thoise observations and the development of actual experiments to test conclusions rather than resorting to searhes of Scholastic philoopsophical works and Church dictrine. In debates with the new inquiring minds, such as Copernicus and Galileo, the Church fared poorly. Only the punative authority of the Holy Inquisition silenced Galileo, but hardly his ideas--at least in northern Europe.
One interesting aspect of the Renaissance is fashion. Fashion changed slowly in the Medieval era. With the Renaissance, the pace of fashion quickened. The painters of the era provide us a fascinating record of contemporary fashion. We have not yet begun to develop information on clothing during the Renaisance overall. There is already information on the specific centuries which made up the Renaisance (1400s, 1500s, and the 1600s). We have also begun to develop some overall garment pages. A very important element of Renaissance dress was hosiery. One style of footwear that we have noted are strap shoes.
We notice many communities throughtout Europe have local celebrations dating back to the Renaissance. They seem to be more popular than medieval celebrations. We re not sure that many sctually date back to the Renaissance, but some do. They seem to celebrate all kinds of local traditions. Sometimes only a few participants dress up in Renaissance costumes, but in some instances quite a number of people do. Some of tge celevrations include religious components. We have seem some images that we can not identify. The costuming of course helps us to date the period intended in the various festivals if we do not have the actual details. The costuming is often elaborate.
Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000 2nd edition (Blackwell paperback: 2003), 625p.
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