Renaissance : a Definition

RENAISSANCE is French and translates to re-birth. The expression is applied to describe the art history of the period from ca. 1350 till ca. 1600, and in a wider sense history of that period in all aspects. The philosophers of that period are better known under the expression HUMANISTS.
The BLACK PLAGUE of 1347, which killed roughly a third of Europe's population, was widely perceived as God's punishment for humankind's sins. Both early renaissance writers and theologians, the MYSTICS, quickly recognized the church was to blame - the popes resided in Avignon instead of in Rome (the BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY of the church). Feudal society also was in a crisis.
The MYSTICS, writers, artists and scientists all realized the crisis and that new ways out had to be sought. One such way was to turn back to the CLASSICS - refugees from Greece (Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453) settled in Italy and elsewhere in the west, translated Greek literature. Artists in Florence tried to achieve the level of classic Greek art.
There was a general feeling that things had to be looked at from a new perspective, that the old ways, for which the philosophy of SCHOLASTICISM and church policy largely were to blame, were wrong. Humanists created the expression the DARK AGES for the time in which the studies of classic Greek knowledge was discouraged and facts known to the Hellenistic Greeks were negated. Renaissance intellectuals, in fact, felt, by the study of classic Greek literature, reborn.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
Last revised on May 30th 2001