The Renaissance was a cultural and literary movement that began in Italy (especiallyRome and Florence) and spread to other areas of Europe including France, Germany, and England. The Renaissance Period lasted from the late fourteenth century through the early sixteenth century. The term “Renaissance” means rebirth and signifies the rebirth of European culture after one-thousand years of cultural stagnation. In particular, the Renaissance involved a rediscovery of the previous Greek and Roman civilizations which was viewed as being superior to that of European society during the Middle Ages.
The Renaissance is linked to humanism and its emphasis on human reason and achievement. The Renaissance also stressed that education was for all people, not just the elite. It also placed more emphasis on the physical world and less on the spiritual realm. This can be seen in the art of the period which depicted more natural objects. The Renaissance Era also placed more emphasis on the individual. For example, during medieval times, most works of art depicted religious figures and events, and most of the art of the time was not autographed since doing so was viewed as an act of vanity. During the Renaissance, though, it was not uncommon for artists to mark their works as being their own.
Certain individuals, writings, and achievements are linked with the Renaissance Era. Galileo’s scientific verification that the sun, not the earth, was the center of our solar system is viewed as the pivotal achievement of the Renaissance Period. Niccolo Machiavelli’s work, The Prince, is often viewed as the classical Renaissance treatment of political philosophy in that it discusses how rulers should do whatever it takes to remain in power. Erasmus, a Catholic theologian, is viewed by some as the preeminent scholar of the Renaissance. Other key figures of the Renaissance include Nicholas Cusa, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Giordano Bruno.
The Renaissance is often viewed as a bridge between the Medieval and Modern eras, and its impact ushered in a period that became more man-centered and scientifically oriented.