Renaissance is the name of the great intellectual and cultural movement of the revival of interest in classical culture that occurred in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries -- a period which saw the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. The inpenetration of Greek and Latin culture that occurred as a result of the formation of extensive Latin dominions in the
The second period of the Renaissance is marked by a continued zeal for
classical study, and by the developmental of a broad learning and the new view
of the intellectual life which is now known as Humanism. By this time the
movement had spread to
History and Politics
The crucial issue that faced political thinkers in the
Renaissance was that of the position of the papacy. This was hardly a new
issue; the question of what worldly powers could be wielded by a pope, and what
powers could be wielded by a king, had long o ccupied
both theorists and propagandists. But the issue was made crucial by the claims
of Boniface VIII, especially in the bull Unam
sanctam, then by the removal of the papal
Most significant of the early writers in our period is Marsilius of Padua, who laid out a thoroughgoing basis for denying political power to the pope and claiming it for the emperor instead. French and English writers contributed to the dialogue over the course of the 14th century, with Wycliff being one of the more important.
The Great Schism catalyzed the discussion, rendering it urgent. Those who argued that some sort of representative body of Christians was in fact superior to the pope in matters not only of faith but even of administration, these are grouped together by m odern historians under the heading of 'Conciliarists' -- which is to say, they argued that a General Concil of the Church was the supreme body in Christendom.
Once papal supremacy in temporal matters had been effectively denied, the way was open for successors to Marsilius to argue that every king was supreme within his own kingdom. That, in turn, opened the very tricky question of the basis for that supremacy . By what right did a king rule?
The relative position of king and pope was more or less settled by the
second half of the 15th century. When Luther came along and shattered the
religious unity of
Tools developed in the Middle Ages for exploration continued to be used during the Renaissance. One of these was the astrolabe, a portable device used by sailors to help them find their way. By measuring the distance of the sun and stars above the horizon, the astrolabe helped determine latitude, an important tool in navigation. Another tool, the magnetic compass, which had been invented in the twelfth century, was improved upon during the Renaissance.
Maps, too, became more reliable as Portuguese map makers, called cartographers, incorporated information provided by travelers and explorers into their work. Shipbuilding also improved during the Renaissance, as large ships called galleons became common. These ships were powered by sail rather than by men using oars.
The Beginning of Trade
Although navigation was still an imprecise science, sailors were able to go farther than they had before. This was important because as the economy of the Renaissance continued to improve, there were ever-increasing demands for imported goods and new places to export local products.
The Renaissance sailor first took to the seas to supply Europeans with the many Asian spices they demanded. Peppercorns, nutmeg, mace, and cinnamon all came from lands to the east. Also from the East came precious gems and fine silk, a fabric especially sought after for women's clothing. These trading voyages were often paid for by investors.
Religion & Philosophy
In this example of Lutheran art Martin Luther holds the interest of a large congregation as he expounds his teachings.
As Professor of Theology at the
'The just shall live by faith.' (Romans 1:17)
Humans can gain salvation through faith, rather than through 'good works' or the dispensations of the Church. Until the Reformation, the Church held an effective monopoly on God's grace, which was dispensed through the sacraments* and guaranteed by the granting of indulgences*. The doctrine of justification by faith alone removed the need for a priestly hierarchy to mediate between God and the individual.
Religious truths can be known only through reading the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. This principle opened the door for 'radical' interpretations of God's Word, bringing those Catholic doctrines and rituals under attack which had uncertain Scriptural grounds*.
'For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.' (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Humans are innately evil, incapable of either knowing religious truth or acting for the good without God's grace. Faith is only in the gift of God, and only through His inscrutable mercy are an elect few granted salvation. The Reformed Churches thus adopted a belief in predestination and the enslavement of the will by the flesh for those not predestined to salvation.
The audience of literate women in Shakespeare's time was not great, but it was large enough to make it worth a printer's time to publish books especially for them: books on cookery, household medicine, religious attitudes, and correct behaviour.
One work which combines many of these subjects was The English Housewife, by Gervase Markham
Containing the inward and outward virtues which ought to be in a complete woman; as her skill in physic, cookery, banqueting-stuff, distillation, perfumes, wool, hemp, flax, dairies, brewing, baking, and all other things belonging to a household.
Like their medieval precursors, Renaissance painters were concerned with meaning and the ideal, but there were several developments that led to a more naturalistic style.
Taking their cue from the simple lines of the architecture of ancient
The style thus created is usually known as Palladian, from the name of its most original practitioner.
Pictured here is the Banqueting Hall at
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