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Essay/Term paper: Impact of the renaissance

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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The impact of the

Renaissance on Europe





Jacob Burckhardt best describes the renaissance as the prototype of the



modern world, for it was the period between the fourteenth and fifteenth century



in Italy, when the base of modern civilisation was formed. It was mainly through



the revival of ancient learning that new scientific values first began to overthrow



traditional religious beliefs. People started to accept a new rational and objective



approach to reality and most important of all to rediscover the importance of the



individual. The result in Burckhardt words, was the release of the" full whole



nature of man". However the Renaissance biggest contribution was the way



different important individuals through their logical revelations managed to



diminish the power of the Catholic Church. (Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment,



Turner; The heritage of world civ; pg.493-494)



Medieval Europe before the Renaissance had been a fragmented feudal



society with an agriculturally based economy, and its culture and dominated by



the Church. After the fourteenth century was characterised by the growing



national consciousness and political centralisation based on organised



commerce and capitalism, along with the secular control of thought and culture.



It was in Italy from around the time 1375 to the sack of Rome (1527) that



the distinctive features and impacts of the renaissance era are revealed.



(Internet 1)



Italy having a geographic advantage, laying in the centre of the commerce



between the east and west. Due to this fact rich and urban cities were formed in



Italy. There started to be more Italian cities than there were people in them.



Trade monopolies were formed to ensure profitability of trade and manufacturing,



but only those with sufficient capital could engage in either. For example, in



Florence 10% of the families controlled 90% of the wealth. These wealthy



families established power over these city-states (just like the Greek polis) to



which the people inhabiting inside could say they belonged to. A sense of



competition was formed between families of different cities, and as one knows



competition somehow always leads to development. Each family then tried to be



better by building churches and sponsoring great painters such as Raphael and



Michelangelo (whom will be later elaborated upon). Even the Pope got in on the



competition.



During the era bread remained the most widely consumed foodstuff, but



even subsistence consumers were beginning to supplement their diets with meat



and dairy products. There would be more pork and lamb in the diet of ordinary



people than there would be for the next four hundred years. Therefore one can



argue that the standard of living was quite higher than before. However the



common enemy still remained, that I nature and its diseases. (Kishlansky, Geary,



O"Brien; Civ in the west; pg.329-330)



Although there were outstanding advances made in the renaissance era, it



has to be concluded that the three most important and most developed areas



have to the advances made in art, sculpture and painting. Few renaissance



artists restricted themselves to one area of artistic expression, and many created



works of enduring beauty in more than one medium. Of the many important and



gifted artists of the time, only three will be discussed. (Craig, Graham, Kagan,



Ozment, Turner; The heritage of world civ; pg.499-500)



Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) exhibited the renaissance idea of the



universal person, one who is a master of many talents. Being a great painter he



was also a military engineer, anatomist and scientist. He dissected corpses to



learn anatomy and was an accomplished botanist. His brilliant mind even



managed to foresee such modern machinery such as aeroplanes, submarines



and tanks. However he is most remembered for his great skill in conveying inner



moods through complex facial features, as I am sure that the reader has the



picture of the Mona Lisa whom Da Vinci painted.



Raphael (1483-1520) was famous for his tender Madonnas, the best



known of which resides in the monastery San Sisto in Piacenza. He is also



famous for his other painting being the school of Athens involving all the great



western philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle.



Michelangelo (1475-1564) was renowned for his eight-foot sculpture of



David in which he glorifies the human form. Four different Popes commissioned



him, the most famous being the frescoes for the Sistine chapel painted for Pope



Julius II. His dedication to art was so intense that his work in the chapel left him



almost crippled (since he was lying upside down for about four years).



(Internet 1)



Now from the physical aspect of the renaissance we move to the mental



and idealist influences of the era. During this period scholars and philosophers



searched the works of the ancients such as Homer, Plato and Aristotle so that



they can learn how to improve the way they lived their lives. Thus this is where



the importance of the study of history is most essential, for it provides the base



by which societies can base themselves upon.



These renaissance scholars soon came to be known as Humanists. They



were advocates of the studia humanitatis, which was a liberal arts program of



study that embraced grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, politics and moral



philosophy. Of one of my favourites (and I think most important) figures of the



time was Pico Della Mirandola and his piece Oration on the dignity of man. Pico



believed and emphasised that humans could perfect their existence on earth



because humans were divinely bestowed with the capacity to determine their



own fate. "O highest and most marvellous felicity of man! To him it is granted to



have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills". (Kishlansky, Geary,



O"Brien; Civ in the west; pg.329-330)



Humanists however were not anti-religious, on the contrary most of



them were devout religious men, as Petrarch says "Christ is my lord; Cicero is



the prince of the language I use". Yet there has never been a controversial or



important than Niccolo Machiavelli"s The prince. It"s vivid prose being-" Men



must either be pampered or crushed " “ has not stopped readers through the



centuries devouring its every aspect. With Machiavelli begins the science of



politics. (Internet 1)



Another development was the perfection of the art of diplomacy. Constant



warfare between city-states was aimless, and by the end of the fourteenth



century city-states began the practice of keeping resident ambassadors at the



major seats of power. At the same time this improved communication and



provided leaders with accurate information about friends and enemies.



Diplomacy became both an offensive and defensive weapon. (Kishlansky, Geary,



O"Brien; Civ in the west; pg. 340)



I would like to conclude with mentioning that Renaissance artists and



philosophers did more than construct, adorn buildings or write books. Inevitably



their work expressed ideals and the way their society worked. The emphasis was



more upon the here and now rather than the hereafter; and most importantly,



upon humanity and its capacity for growth and perfection.

 

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