The Renaissance

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The Renaissance

Renaissance is the period of European history that saw a renewed interest in the arts. The Renaissance began in 14th-century Italy and spread to the rest of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. In this period, the fragmented feudal society of the Middle Ages, with its agricultural economy and church-dominated intellectual and cultural life, was transformed into a society increasingly dominated by central political institutions, with an urban, commercial economy and lay patronage of education, the arts, and music. The term renaissance, meaning literally “rebirth.” Modern scholars have exploded the myth that the Middle Ages were dark and dormant. The thousand years preceding the Renaissance were filled with achievements. Because of the scriptoria (writing rooms) of medieval monasteries, Latin writers, such as Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, and Seneca, were preserved. The legal system of modern continental Europe had its origin in the development of civil and canon law in the 12th and 13th centuries. Renaissance thinkers continued the medieval tradition of grammatical and rhetorical studies. In theology, the medieval traditions of Scholasticism, Thomism, Scotism, and Ockhamism were continued in the Renaissance. Medieval Platonism and Aristotelianism were crucial to Renaissance philosophical thought. The advances of mathematical disciplines, including astronomy, were indebted to medieval precedents. The schools of Salerno, Italy, and Montpellier, France, were noted centers of medical studies in the middle Ages.

The Italian Renaissance was above all an urban phenomenon, a product of cities that flourished in central and northern Italy, such as Florence, Ferrara, Milan, and Venice. It was the wealth of these cities t...

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...rticularly in the higher echelons, patterned their behavior after the mores and ethics of lay society. The activities of popes, cardinals, and bishops were scarcely distinguishable from those of secular merchants and political figures. At the same time, Christianity remained a vital and essential element of Renaissance culture. Preachers, such as San Bernardino of Siena, and theologians and prelates, such as Sant'Antonino of Florence, attracted large audiences and were revered. Moreover, many humanists were concerned with theological questions and applied the new philological and historical scholarship to the study and interpretation of the early church fathers. The humanist approach to theology and scripture may be traced from the Italian scholar and poet Petrarch to the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; it made a powerful impact on Roman Catholics and Protestants.
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