During 15th and 16th century A.D. the European society witnessed tremendous changes. The beginning of Renaissance developed enquiring spirit and scientific outlook among the Europeans. The Reformation movement challenged the medieval religious set up. It was against the Orthodox Church and the abuses of the pope. It gave birth to a new religious order i.e. Protestantism. The age of Enlightenment was the age of reason and science. It enhanced the thought of the artist and scientist. During this age there was growth individualism. The American Revolution of 1776 was against the British colonialism. As a result the independence of thirteen American colonies was achieved. Later on, there was also end of the inhuman practice of slavery. The French Revolution of 1789 overthrew the ancient regime and medieval absolutism from France. It championed the cause of liberty, equality and Fraternity.
Putting an end to the medieval age, the Renaissance marked the transition from middle age to the modern age. In the fifteenth century A.D. Europeans developed new form of literature, art, architecture and culture i.e. renaissance. It started in Italy first, spread over to other countries of Europe. Systematically Renaissance expanded the horizon of human knowledge which reflected in various fields including art, literature and science.
Renaissance means “rebirth” or “revival”. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries are known as period of renaissance. The spirit of renaissance started when many educated men turned from religious speculation to the study of ancient Greek and roman authors. They challenged the religious and philosophical teachings of the medieval church. They were not satisfied with the study of the medieval translation of the famous authors of ancient Greece and Rome. They developed their keen interest in the original works of Plato, Aristotle and others. In fact the writers introduced classical learning into the main stream of the western thought. However, renaissance was not merely a revival of ancient learning. It developed the spirit of enquiry and freedom of thought. Men were no more agreed to accept any teachings, customs and superstition of the past without question. During renaissance people developed a critical attitude towards medieval setup. It is memorable that Renaissance was not started in all parts of Europe simultaneously. Renaissance developed with a small group of educated people in Italy and spread to France, Germany and England etc. In short, Renaissance was a turning point in the history of western civilization. It is often described as a bridge between the medieval period and the modern times in Europe.
Factors of Renaissance
The following causes paved the way for the advent of Renaissance.
1. Downfall of Feudalism
The first and foremost factor of renaissance was the decline of feudalism. The feudal way virtually disappeared from western European countries by the 1500 A.D. The middle class comprising of traders and businessmen provided financial support to the kings and thereby enabled them to reduce their dependence on the feudal lords. Moreover, the development of trade and commerce caused inflation which greatly benefited the craftsmen, merchants and cultivators. However, the feudal lords could not increase their rents and they were forced to depend on usurers. Finally the feudal lords were not able to repay the debts and were compelled to sell off their lands. This gave a serious blow to feudalism and memorial system. Such developments contributed to the growth of individualism and fostered fast the cause of Renaissance.
2. Impacts of Crusades
There were many religious wars in between the Christians and Muslims in 11th and 14th century. The wars ended in the victory of the Muslims. As a result of which the western scholars came in contact with the East which was more civilized and polished. A number of western scholars went to the universities of Cairo, Cardona etc. and learned many new ideas which they subsequently spread in Europe. New ideas and scientific orientations greatly enriched the western mind to give place to Renaissance.
3. Downfall in the influence of church
The church dominated the medieval society. However the Church suffered a setback in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. A number of strong monarchs challenged the temporal power of the Church. For instance, in 1296 A.D… King Phillip IV of France got the pope arrested and made him a prisoner. This gave a serious blow to the power and prestige of the pope. Even Church lost faith of common people due to rise of various rituals. The people gave importance on present rather than future.
4. Contribution of progressive rulers and nobles
5. Geographical discovery
Geographical voyage was a potent factor of Renaissance. The invention of mariners’ compass encouraged the sea adventurers. It enabled them to know the exact direction in which they were sailing. The notions about the shape and size of the world in vogue were also challenged. Later on with the discovery of telescope people were able to scan the sky and started the study of astronomy. They also got knowledge on the real position of earth in the solar system. All this knowledge went against the Church and contributed a lot in the weakening of the authority of the ecclesiastical system.
6. Economic prosperity
There was remarkable progress in trade and commerce during 12th and 13th centuries. This greatly helped in the growth of wealth and prosperity of the people in Europe. So a wealthy class of traders, bankers and manufactures emerged. This class patronized artists and scholars. The class also provided security and protection to the artists and encouraged them to produce outstanding works, which helped in the emergence of renaissance.
7. Invention of Printing press
The invention of printing machine was responsible for Renaissance. In 1454 printing machine printed letters and printed books. William Caxton brought this machine to England in 1477 A.D. With the march of time; printing machines were established in Italy, France, Belgium and other European countries. Thus books could be published very easily with a short span of time. People could easily get books and learnt many things. This galvanized Renaissance.
8. Fall of Constantinople
The main cause of Renaissance was the fall of Constantinople. For long it served as the centre of education and culture. Of course it was under the clutches of the Christians However, many Greek scholars and Latin Pandits were very famous in teaching Greek language and literature to the people. In the year 1453 A.D. Muhammad-II of Ottoman Empire occupied Constantinople and devasted it. Out of fear, the Greek and Latin pundits left Constantinople and entered into different cities of Italy like Verztia, Milan, Nepol, Sicily, Rome etc. They taught mathematics, history, geography, philosophy, astronomy, medicine etc. to the people of Italy and thus they paved the way for Renaissance.
Italy as the birth place of Renaissance
Renaissance first began in Italy. Italians first produced masterpieces of literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, music and science which became a source of perennial inspiration to others in subsequent years. According to Prof. Fisher, the renaissance of European art and literature should have taken place in Italy, a land where “the marbles of antiquity still gleaned among the cypresses and Olives and the tradition of humane learning descerding from classical times had never been wholly interrupted.”
Renaissance ushered in Italy on account of number of following reasons.
1. Past Glory of Italy
Italy was the centre of the glorious Roman civilization. All the historical remains and relics of the great Roman Empire lay scattered there. So Italy was an attracted seat for the scholars and artists.
2. Arrival of Greek Scholars
After this fall of Constantinople in 1453, many Greek scholars and thinkers migrated to Italy along with their original manuscripts and art treasures. The scholars instilled a spirit of enquiry among the people of Italy. They encouraged the Italians to study classics.
3. Economic prosperity
Italy had enormous wealth as a result of trade. The economic prosperity of Italy greatly contributed to Renaissance. Wealthy merchants extended patronage to artists. They used their wealth in the revival of classical culture and literature. For instance, Florence which was one of the flourishing cities of Italy became a great center of scholars.
4. Italian contact with Asia
The crusade established newly contact with Asia. This contact broadened their vision. They reoriented their life style. All this provided an impetus to Renaissance.
Renaissance and Literature
The Renaissance literature took its birth in Italy. The first notable work in this direction was “Dante’s Divine Comedy”. The book was written in Italian language for the common people. The subject matters of the book were heaven, hell and the other world. It describes love of one’s country, love of nature as well as the note of individual. Another pioneer of Renaissance thought was Francesco Petrarch. The medieval thought was monastic, ascetic and other worldly. In contrast, Petrarch glorified the secular or worldly interest of life and humanism. He wrote a large number of sonnets and his notable books were ‘Familiar Letters’ and ‘Lovers of illustrious man’.
Renaissance was greatly reflected in art. In the middle age the chief art was essentially Christian. It was intimate with religion. Theartists were bound to draw the pictures of monks, bishops, priests. The church had controlled the artist freedom of thought and action. However, the Renaissance artists developed a growing interest in classical civilization. In fact, the European art underwent a great transformation and became more and more secular in spirit in fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Renaissance had a greater impact in the field of architecture. Great masterpieces of Greeks and Romans were discovered and imitated by the Italian and other European artists. The builders of Renaissance age constructed many churches, palaces and massive buildings on the Greek and Roman style. The pointed arches of the churches and palaces were substituted by round arches, domes or by the plain lines of the Greek temples.
Florence a city of Italy became the nerve centre of art-world. The “St Peter’s church of Rome” the cathedral of Milan and the palaces of Venice and Florence were some of the remarkable specimens of Renaissance architecture. Gradually renaissance architecture spread to France and Spain.
During Renaissance the painters brought excellent painting. Among the painters, Leonardo-da-Vinci had a unique position. The hidden expression in his paintings made them attractive Leonardo has become immortal for his famous painting of “Monalisa”. The smile on the lips of Monalisa is so mysterious that it is beyond the comprehension of man. “the Last Supper”, “The Virgin of the Rock” and “The Virgin and child with saint Anne are his other immortal paintings which are appreciated all over the world. Michael Angelo’s paintings like creation of Adam and the Last Judgment bear testimony of his superb skill. Another great was Raphael. His paintings portray an air of calmness and beauty. His painting Sistine Madonna made him world famous painter. In short, the Renaissance painting bore the stamp of originality in every aspect.
Renaissance and Fine arts
During Renaissance, the fine arts like music also bloomed Italy was freed from the clutches of medieval song. The use of piano and violin made the song more sweet. Palestrina was a great singer, musician and a master composer of new songs. In churches old songs were discarded and new songs were incorporated in prayer. Many other countries of Europe also adopted the same.
Renaissance and Science
In the Renaissance age, science developed to a great extent. The development in astronomy, medicine and other aspects of science made this age distinct.
In the realm of scientific discoveries the name of Copernicus of Poland is chanted with reverence. In his book “On the Revolution of the celestian Bodies, he opened that sun is static. The earth and other planets revolve round the sun. The sun in a circle. His view was contrary to the medieval belief that the earth was the centre of the universe. The Christian priests vehemently criticized Copernicus. However, he remained firm in his faith.
The view of Copernicus was supported by the famous German scientist John Kepler. He slightly changed the view of Copernicus and opined that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun in elliptical rather than circular path. This created a storm in the field of thinking.
Another great scientist of the age was Galileo of Italy. He had joined as a lecturer of Mathematics in the University of Pisa and there he became a professor. He invented Telescope and through that instrument he proved the theory of Copernicus was absolutely true. He also proved that the Milky Way consists of stars. His pendulum theory helped later on for inventing clock.
Progress also made in the field of Chemistry. Cordus made ether from sulphuric acid and alcohol which was another astonishment of science.
Another scientist of that time Holdmont had discovered “Carbon Dioxide” gas. He explained that there are gases distinct in kind from atmospheric air. Later on, this Carbon Dioxide was used to extinguish fire and to prepare cake and cold drinks.
In case of human anatomy, the science of the Renaissance period brought revolutionary change. Veslaius a medical scientist described about various parts of human body like skeleton, cartilage, muscles veins, arteries, digestive and reproductive systems, lungs and brain.
William Harvey of England had discovered the “process of blood circulation”. He pointed out that blood circulates from heart to the arteries and then to veins and back to heart. His contribution was undoubtedly a boon to the modern medical science.
In short, the Renaissance led to the growth humanism increased the desire in men to know more and more. The Renaissance galvanized the development of literature, art and science. It illumined the world with scientific knowledge.
Features of Renaissance.
Renaissance had the following features:-
Renaissance gave great importance on Humanism. In the Renaissance age the scholars took keen interest in the study of humanities. They emphasized the worth of man and tried to project the individual as a free agent. The Renaissance spirit can be best summed up in the words of Leon Battista Alberti, “men can do all things if they will”.
In the Renaissance age the people adopted classical art forms. This age witnessed unparalleled many sided development of art. Almost all the fine arts like architectures, sculpture, music, painting, etc. made tremendous progress during this period. Some of the prominent artists who rendered great service to the cause of classicism were Leonardo da Vinci, Michael Angelo, Raphael, Titan etc.
3. Free culture
The critical approach of Renaissance enabled culture and learning to be free itself from ecclesiastical tutelage .the contemporary society witnessed the growth of large secular literature. So the scholars and artists openly revolted against the ecclesiastical monopoly over culture.
4. Natural and experimental sciences
During Renaissance there was all round development of natural and experimental sciences .Copernicus of Poland challenged the Geo-centric theory i.e. the earth was the centre of solar system. He proved the Hepio-centric theory i.e. the sun is static and the earth moves round the sun. This theory was farther developed by Kepler and he gave his laws of planetary motion. 1.12.5 Growth of Vernacular Literature
The Renaissance age witnessed enormous growth of vernacular literature. The people wrote in the language which could be easily understood by the people. It avoided Latin language which was not easily comprehended by the people. The resulted in the growth of various European languages. In Italy Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio produced outstanding literatures. In England Chaucer rendered great service to the cause of English language. Likewise in Germany Luther preferred to write in German rather than Latin. He translated Bible in German language. In Spain Cervantes produced Don Quixote and in France Rabelais rendered great service to the enrichment of French literature. In short, in almost all the European countries vernacular languages made rapid progress. Latin language lost the predominant position which it once enjoyed.
Importance of Renaissance
The importance of renaissance was very high. The renaissance started in Italy and spread over to other countries of Europe. It left deep impact on art, architecture, science and above all on human thinking. Hence, Renaissance had manifold importance.
1. New form of education
The concept of education also underwent great transformation. The base of education was greatly widened.
2. Scientific outlook
Renaissance developed the scientific outlook. The development of scientific outlook gave this scientific encouraged new discoveries and inventions. It gave a blow to the position of the Church. At that time people became critical of the superstitions and meaningless rituals practiced by the Church. They insisted on the reforms of the Church. This paved the way for the reformation movement which brought many changes in the church. Renaissance encouraged the people to accept the things only if they appeal to their reason.
3. Enriched Vernacular literature
The Renaissance provided an impetus to vernacular literature. The writers began to write in the common languages. They concentrated on topics of common human interest.
4. New form of Arts
In the Renaissance age, a new form of art was developed. Renaissance led to new forms of paintings, sculpture, architecture, music etc. This rendered valuable service to the growth of fine arts.
5. Process of colonialism
Renaissance encouraged new discoveries and inventions. It greatly contributed to the progress of human civilization. The invention of Mariner’s Compass during the renaissance period provided an impetus to navigation. It also paved the way for the process of colonialism. There were races for colonies among various European nations. There also started numerous bloody wars.
6. Evolution of strong monarchy
Another notable contribution of Renaissance was the evolution of strong monarchy in Europe. They gave serious blow to the authority of the Church and the feudal system. The monarchy was able enough to establish peace, security and political stability in their respective nations. All these things greatly enhanced the power and authority of the European monarchs.
7. Prelude to Reformation
The Renaissance paved the way for the reformation movement. The Renaissance was the awakening of Europe from its long period of slumber. Due to Renaissance stagnation gave place to progress intellectual activity replaced unscientific questioning. It challenged the old authority.
The new scientific spirit, the spirit of enquiry, observation, and experiment encouraged the people to go ahead. They also questioned to the authority of the Church. All these factors made reformation Reformation inevitable.