Have you ever had that feeling where you wake up one morning and suddenly things feel different? The air feels electric. You see things in a different way. Some would say this is what happened during the 400-year Renaissance era. It was during this time that Europe ushered in a wave of artistic vitality, economic prosperity, scientific discovery, and innovative advancements in technology and medicine. So, what exactly was the Renaissance, and why was it important? When was the Renaissance and what were some of the big takeaways from the era? We’ll look at these questions and more in this post.
What was the Renaissance?
The Renaissance was a period of European history marking the transition between the middle ages and the modern era. Renaissance is a French word literally meaning “rebirth”.
During the middle ages, many influential leaders and cultural ambassadors noticed a decline in society’s intellect and progression, and the Renaissance has traditionally been viewed as a break from the past ways of thinking (hence the term, “rebirth”), with a new societal focus on intellect, art, philosophy, and other elements of classical antiquity.
A major element of the Renaissance with the re-emergence of the classical Greek philosophy of humanism. Humanists believed that all citizens should be able to speak and write and engage in civic life. They emphasized the importance of learning, especially the branch of academia today known as the humanities. The Renaissance in Europe lasted for nearly 400 years.
When Was the Renaissance?
The Renaissance spanned from the 14th to 17th centuries, but it is virtually impossible to give the era an exact start and end point. We do know that the Renaissance seemed to have emerged from Florence, Italy, and some have given the start date of 1401. But many scholars would be quick to point out that even in the late 13th century, works by authors like Dante Alighieri and Petrarch were already expressing Renaissance ideals.
Much like trying to find a starting point, there is also little consensus as to why and how the Renaissance started in Italy. There have been various theories to try and explain it, including the peculiarity of Florence at the time, Italy’s political structure, and the migration of Greek scholars and texts to Italy. Whatever the direct cause, Renaissance ideals would soon spread elsewhere in Italy, especially in cities like Venice, Genoa, Milan, Bologna, and Rome.
By the 15th century, the Renaissance had spread across Italy and was beginning to take hold in other parts of Europe. The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg would vastly aid in the dissemination of these new ideas. As the Renaissance began to emerge in other countries, many of the ideas diversified and altered to adapt to cultures in other parts of the continent. Today, it is common to see the Renaissance broken down into more regional movements.
Why Was Renaissance Important?
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that affected intellectual life across multiple fields and areas of study. It was important historically because of all the changes it brought with it. A greater emphasis was placed on learning through studying classical sources. Paintings became more real and lifelike. Diplomacy became more modernized. The scientific method was brought back to the forefront. The arts flourished, as did polymaths, who would inspire the term “Renaissance man”. It was a time of great social and cultural change.
Many of the new ideas and thoughts from the Renaissance would inspire great artistic masterpieces by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. It was also during this time we see an increase in exploration, and much of the world is mapped. We also start to see effects on theology, with humanists like Martin Luther seeking to reform the old ways of religion.
Everything changes over time, becoming new and different depending on various circumstances and situations. If we take anything from the Renaissance era, we can take comfort in the fact that we are meant to change and progress forward. This sometimes means losing parts of our self, but that’s okay. The discoveries and innovation on the other side are greater than that which we lost.
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