Renaissance Essay

Example #1

Modern times originated in Italy in the 14th century during the period known as the Renaissance. A rich development of Western civilization marking the transition from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance refers to rebirth, or rediscovery, by scholars (humanists) of Greco-Roman culture. Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically For You!

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The period prior to the Renaissance, the High Middle Ages, was marked by relative political stability, economic expansion, wide contact with other cultures, and flourishing urban civilization. However, the High Middle Ages served only to establish the foundations for change and to develop the background for the new view of the world. The Italian Renaissance was a distinct period in time, noted for ushering in the modern civilization, characterized by the alteration of the political, economic, and social status.

Renaissance civilization revamped the political scene from the Middle Ages into the modern age. The despotism created during the Renaissance bestowed incomparable unity and power upon Europe through the individual (Burckhardt, 509). Leaders such as Viconti displayed tremendous strength and vitality. During the 14th century, people no longer received and respected the Emperors as feudal lords, but as possible leaders and supporters of power already in existence (Burckhardt, 507).

The reverence of the heads of government aroused feelings of patriotism in the hearts of the people. For the first time a modern political spirit of Europe can be detected (Burckhardt, 507). Political support or nationalism is still evident in today s society and can be attributed to the Renaissance.

The Renaissance also harbored secular ideas of the state. The Renaissance marked the transition from the ecclesiastical to secular outlook. The people began to search for answers and a growing emphasis on reason, rather than faith, became apparent. Historian Marsilius of Padua proclaimed that according to the writings of Aristotle the Roman bishop called pope, or any other priest or bishop, or spiritual minister, collectively or individually, as such, has and ought to have no coercive jurisdiction over the property or person of any priest or bishop, or deacon, or group of them, and still less over any secular ruler or government, community, group, or individual (535).

Therefore, the ecclesiastical should not lawfully exercise any political power. Furthermore, Niccolo Machiavelli went to extremes by stating that Christian virtues and politics would result in an unstable form of government. In concurrence with Machiavellian politics, Isaiah Berlin suggests that to choose to lead a Christian life is to condemn oneself to political impotence…if one wishes to build a glorious community like those of Athens or Rome at their best, then one must abandon Christian education and substitute one better suited to the purpose (542). Nevertheless, secular ideas of the state were fostered during the Renaissance and have become one of the most critical components to a successful, modern nation.

Renaissance civilization also marked the birth of capitalism, the economic machine upon which the United States runs today. During the Renaissance, the economy went from feudal based to capitalist based. The revival of trade, urban life, and money economy had a dynamic influence in the midst of the agrarian feudal society of the high Middle Ages (Ferguson, 554).

As Wallace K. Ferguson says, …the historians whose special interest was religion, philosophy, literature, science, or art have all to frequently striven to explain the developments in these fields without correlating them with the changes in the economic, social, and political structure of society (554).

Ferguson went on to explain that medieval civilization, founded as it was upon the basis of land tenure and agriculture, could not continue indefinitely to absorb an expanding urban society and money economy without losing its essential character, without gradually changing into something recognizably different (554). The growth of a money economy brought changes in the whole character of urban economic and social organizations, still evident in modern times.

Into this agrarian feudal society the revival of commerce and industry, accompanied by the growth of towns and money economy, introduced a new and alien element (Ferguson, 554). This element was capitalism. The effect of the new economy was to stimulate the existing medieval civilization, freeing it from the economic, social, and cultural restrictions, making possible the rapid development of the economy.

The rise of capitalism in the Renaissance had measurable effects on the rest of society. For instance, the fall of feudalism gave way to the rise of city-states or centralized territorial states. In addition, the universal authority of the church was shaken by the growing power of the national states, while its internal organization was transformed by the evolution of a monetary fiscal system (Ferguson, 554).

Meanwhile, within the cities, the growth of capital was bringing significant changes in the whole character of urban economic and social organizations. Considering all the changes inspired by capitalism, the result was an essential change in the character of European civilization. This new and extraordinary economic system known as capitalism would develop during the time of the Renaissance and would become the economic clockwork of modern America.

Another distinct characteristic of the Renaissance present in today s society is a strong emphasis on individuality. During the Middle Ages, the common man was marked by faith, illusion, and childish prepossession (Burckhardt, 508). Men viewed themselves only as a member of some general category – race, people, party, family, or cooperation (Burckhardt, 508).

In earlier times, the development of free personality could not be detected in Northern Europe; however, with the onset of the Renaissance, man became a spiritual individual (Burckhardt, 508). Toward the close of the 13th century, Italy was overwhelmed with individuality, a recurring theme of today s society. The time period was characterized by a movement in which human values and capabilities were the central focus known as humanism. The individual spirit was beginning to appear in Europe, and in today’s society, this is a very important, if not, necessary idea.

It was the upbringing of humanism – this unfolding of the treasures of human nature in art and literature (Burckhardt, 508) which encompassed individuality. The contribution of Italian humanism to literature and scholarship made an impact that has remained in all regions of European civilization until the twentieth century (Palmer, 59). W.K. Ferguson comments that at the time of the Renaissance there was the appearance of a growing class of urban laymen who had the leisure and means to secure a liberal education and to take an active part in every form of intellectual and aesthetic culture (555).

To learn and appreciate culture showed the new concept that life was worthwhile to its own sake and not used for sheer preparation thereafter. People wished and were forced to know all the inward resources of their own nature, passing or permanent; and their enjoyment of life was enhanced and concentrated by the desire to obtain the greatest satisfaction from a possibly very brief period of influence (Burckhardt, 508). In accordance with Burckhardt, individualism inspired many people to achieve all that they could in their lifetimes – a very modern belief today where the sky is the limit.

Italy, in the 14th century, was characterized by a distinct period in time known as the Renaissance. The Renaissance was not merely an extension of the Middle Ages, but rather the transitional period in which the increasing lay culture of the cities, the political centralization of the territorial states, and the dominance of the money economy replaced the feudal and ecclesiastical civilization of the modern world (Conlon). The rediscovery of the classical Greco-Roman culture provided the world with great treasures.

The people, inspired by the need for reform, abandoned the Middle Ages and entered into a time of great intellectual, social, political, religious, and economic reform. The humanistic development of individualism, the dramatic change in political ideas and construction, and the introduction of capitalism remained powerful concepts in modern society that originated in the Renaissance. Without question, the Renaissance civilization was the foundation of modern times.


Example #2 – What were the achievements of Renaissance architecture?

The era is known to us as the Renaissance began approximately around the beginning of the fifteenth century, in Florence. The philosophy behind the whole movement is one of rebirth or the re-establishing of ancient classical culture.

Following the collapse of the Roman civilization, much of Europe fell into decline, losing a great deal of information concerning that period. Therefore knowledge concerning the architecture of that age could only be acquired via the classical ruins that litter the Italian landscape; and through the writings of the Roman architect Vitruvius.

Thus one of the greatest (and most fundamental) achievements of the renaissance is the rediscovery of the basic elements of classical architectural design, especially those concerning construction. The results of this achievement can be seen in the construction of buildings such as Florence Cathedral.

Begun in 1294, the Florentine people almost exceeded the limit of their abilities in their enthusiasm to build an impressively large Cathedral, and consequently could find no method to cover it. This problem was left unresolved for over a century before an architect by the name of Brunelleschi was able to find a solution.

Filippo Brunelleschi was born in 1377 and is considered to be the greatest architect of the early renaissance and is credited with the development of Renaissance style with buildings such as the Foundling Hospital. In 1420 he was appointed along with fellow architect Ghiberti to construct a dome over Florence Cathedral.

The main difficulty in this way that the opening was almost 140 feet in diameter and 180 feet off the ground, which made it impossible to build a framework strong enough to support a dome. In truth no tree would have been long enough to provide timbre to bridge the gap, or if there had it would have broken under its self-weight even before taking the weight of any stone.

The solution that Brunelleschi put forward was to build the dome in a series of horizontal courses using a certain herringbone pattern, which would bond together, each course carrying its own weight and supporting the next. There was also the question of the weight of the dome. The drum on to which the dome was to be built was already in place; therefore building the dome out of concrete (in the manner of the Pantheon in Rome) was out of the question, as the weight would crush the existing dome.

As a result, the dome was built with ribs and the lightest possible infill and an outer and inner shell. Such a solution could have only been reached through the intense study of classical ruins. For thousands of years no one had understood the structure of the ancient Roman domes or vaults, this fact serves to heighten Brunelleschi’s s achievement, as he would have had to consider issues that no one else would have thought of contemplating.

Another element of classical antiquity that was reintroduced was the order. The orders consisted of five styles the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and composite, which varied in popularity over the years.

Copying the examples of ancient Rome, Renaissance architects overlaid the orders using a different one for each story of a building. Similarly, the general appearance of different stories in a building took on different facades. An example of this can be seen in Michelozzo s Palazzo Medici in Florence.

There are different degrees of rustication of the stonework within the levels of the building. The ground floor is heavily rusticated in the manner of a fortress; the first floor is characterized by drafted stonework with incised lines, and the second floor features ashlar stonework. This distinguishing of levels, whether it is through columns or brickwork reflects the classical approach of creating logical relationships within a building.

Another achievement of the Renaissance was the development of perspective and the reestablishment of the classical importance of proportion. Throughout the renaissance, the proportions of a building determined its beauty. The great scholar and architect Leon Battista Alberti is quoted as saying,

I shall define beauty to be a harmony of all parts, in whatsoever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered but for the worse.

Renaissance (or ancient classical) buildings are based on a modular system of proportions, whereby the module is half the diameter of the column base. The whole building will then be designed around that measurement, as the module determines not only the size of the column but the spacing between them. Likewise in the rest of the building, every detail will be related to every other detail.

This fascination with proportion can be seen in Alberti s Florentine church of Sta Maria Novella. The building is divided so that the height of the building is equal to its width forming a square. This is cut through horizontally exactly through the middle. The main doors separate the lower story, which forms two squares, each of which is a quarter of the area of the large square. The upper story, which is crowned by a classical pediment, is also exactly the same size as the lower squares.

Another example is Bramante s Tempietto in Rome. Born in Urbino in (approx) 1444, he was a painter in his early years and is thought to have been a pupil of both Pierro Della Francesca and Mantegna. Certainly, the harmony of the paintings of Piero, and the interest in the classical civilization of Mantegna is evident in his work.

The Tempietto was to be material to St Peter and was intended to be part of a courtyard of concentric circles, but was never completed. The building itself is made up of two cylinders, the peristyle, and the cella. (The peristyle being low and wide, and the cella tall and narrow.) The width of the epistyle is equal to the height of the cella (excluding the dome).

The dome is hemispherical both internally and externally and thus proportionate to the height of the cella. The introduction of the importance of proportion was a great achievement of the Renaissance, but admittedly one that takes a little time to understand and appreciate. As to the finely tuned eye of the Renaissance architects, an opening five inches too wide could be seen as an eyesore and is evidently a skill, which is very sensitive.

The idea of ideal proportions was also being applied to the anatomy most famously in Leonardo da Vinci s Vitruvian man. Similarly, whole buildings were proportioned to the human body, particularly because in ancient times the column was thought of as being in the image of a human body.

Overall it is possible to conclude that the achievements of Renaissance architecture were the revival of both structural and stylistic properties of Ancient architecture.

However, this does not mean that the architects of the Renaissance were satisfied with merely copying the classical style. The Renaissance was a period of great achievement scientifically, artistically, and philosophically and this resulted in supreme confidence and ambition, which meant that architects were constantly struggling for perfection and the ideal form, and would not be content with just copying.

There is also a separate factor, which provides the main difference between the Renaissance and ancient civilizations. The difference was the embracing of the Christian faith throughout Europe during the Renaissance. This can be seen through the importance placed on the concept of

proportion. An example of this can be seen in Alberti s church of S. Sebastian in Mantua. The plan is in the shape of a Greek cross, which is a perfect form and therefore symbolizes the perfection of God. In return the Renaissance architecture also influenced the Christian faith through the introduction of centrally planned churches, banishing the false assumption that religious buildings must be cruciform in plan. Christianity affected the way of thinking of the Renaissance. The French scholar Emile Male summarized it perfectly when he wrote,

Thus, the traveler who made his way from the Colosseum to St Peter s by way of Constantine s Basilica and the Pantheon, who visited the Sistine Chapel and the best of Raphael s Stanze, has seen in a day, the finest things in Rome. He will have learned at the same time, what the Renaissance was; it was Antiquity ennobled by the Christian faith.

This encapsulates the mentality of the Renaissance whilst the very man who so inspired the Renaissance can sum up its architectural achievements.

Architecture consists of Order and of Arrangement and of Proportion and Symmetry and D cor and Distribution-Vitruvius (De Architectura I).


Example #3 – The Renaissance Humanistic Concept of Man

Each century brings something new into this world. Some ages thus become prominent, others don’t seem to contribute a lot to humanity. The Renaissance became the symbol of awakening, the symbol of excellence and rebirth. It gave birth to the doctrines and principles that dominate the philosophy up until nowadays. Humanism developed as one of the principal philosophical concepts of the Renaissance.

What does this concept mean, why is it so crucial to the understanding of the epoch of the Renaissance? With the philosophy of humanism 14th century, Italy obtained the major doctrines of the revival: a study of the classics, importance on learning, and emphasis on human values, concern with a man, and his problems.

The latter is the main difference between the Middle Ages and Renaissance: the Renaissance is man-centered, the other one is God-centered. The problems of free will, virtue, fate are closely connected and broadly discussed by the thinkers of the Renaissance.

From the very beginning of humanistic thought, starting from Petrarch, the idea of an individual’s importance started to develop among the literary philosophers. In his writings, Petrarch expresses a great concern with the ignorance of men towards themselves. “Men go to admire the heights of mountains, the great floods of the sea, the courses of rivers, the shores of the ocean, and the orbits of the stars, and neglect themselves,” he quotes St. Augustine in “The Ascent of Mount Ventoux”.

In fact, this entire writing is an allegorical description of the struggle within himself that had eventually led to the conversion and elevation to the higher state of mind. The mountain itself can be an allegory for all the knowledge to be mastered in order to obtain the wisdom and virtue of happiness, or it could be a deceitful path to faith in God.

Petrarch believes that our understanding of the world starts with the self-exploration and awareness attained through classical learning, later known as Studia Humanitatis. He probably makes the first humanistic attempt to stress out the significance of the humans in the modern philosophical thought.

The characteristic feature of the Renaissance is the praise of the human mind, first found in ancient Greece.  Nothing is admirable besides the mind; compared to its greatness nothing is great. Man is primarily praised for his reason, for his arts and skills, derived from his own potential through the path of secular knowledge. But human dignity has to be attained and realized through man’s effort.

Only then, as expressed in Marsilio Ficino’s writing in 1468, man becomes a dominant power over all elements and animals, he is the ruler of nature; he is assigned a central place in the hierarchy of the universe. While being extremely religious “Five Questions Concerning the Mind” deals with a system of the universe only because it justifies the glorification of the human soul.

The entire concept of human “dignity” was, in fact, based upon a heroic vision of humanity. The glorification of mangoes further in Vives stories where human is given the power of self-transformation: “A Fable about Man.” The perfect human “determines his own being, has material power over the world, and moral power over himself.”

Man is able to choose his own destiny, to become a sovereign beautiful being. Everything depends on his free will, according to Pico; man’s dignity is based on his “freedom”. The human has to strive for “dignity” by asserting his potentials, by cultivating reason rather than blind feeling within his mind. Only tasks that are morally and intellectually worthwhile can lead us beyond “the narrow confines of his personal interests and ambitions.”

A number of humanistic treatises deal with individual virtues. Some of them are discussed in the works of Neapolitan humanist, Giovanni Pontano: courage, altruism, or discretion. The notion of finding the precise philosophical definitions for them continued with the later literary works.

During the three centuries of the Renaissance in Western Europe, even though it went through some changes, the concept of self did not lose its original importance. The praise of the human mind and knowledge, as well as accent on classical studies, remained consistent even by the end of the era.

The difference between the works of early humanists like Petrarca and the later ones: Ficino and Pico; becomes very clear: they all use the same roots of the classical philosophers and take over from them a profound concern with humanity, but they develop a completely new idea of distinctive human position within the system of the universe.

Furthermore, now his dignity is defined and justified in terms of this position. Through the purification of the soul: obtaining the supreme knowledge, man becomes a central figure in the universal hierarchy. The figure of man becomes equal to God and his authority is almost unquestionable.

The idea of self-fashioning had gradually occupied the place of merely spoken at the time of Petrarch’s concept of a sovereign human being. The self-fashioning doctrine came from the North, developed by Erasmus and Thomas Moore. It was based on the ability of knowledge to shape human personality. And thus the ability of man to make his own choice was re-established in society.

The enthusiasm for the growing importance of the concept of individualism was strengthened with the emergence of civic humanism that brought a concept of man skillful in all the secular professions. Castiglione’s “The Book of the Courtier”creates a perfect picture of the “Renaissance man” of the end of the Renaissance era.

In his book, Castiglione is discussing the issue of the perfect courtier, who has to have all the virtues: kindness, courage, wisdom, knowledge. He is suggesting that knowledge would help someone to attain all those virtues, thus becoming a skillful spokesman, polemicist, writer, and thinker.

Even though, the capacity to grow was obtainable only to the elite, the renaissance, due to its humanistic tendency that allowed a crucial shift towards the development of sciences and arts, philosophy, and literature, became an important era in the history of mankind. And the idea of human importance played a major role in the process of renaissance achievements.

The mere fact of the existence of severe self-criticism of one’s abilities encouraged people to learn and thus evolve, produce masterpieces in art and relics of the modern philosophy. Renaissance has been praised for its magnificent heritage, seen as the first step in an intellectual development that led to Enlightenment and modern secular thought. And Humanism became its major vehicle that allowed people to believe in their aim to achieve a fair measure of human happiness.


Example #4

Renaissance is a term with a variety of meanings but is used widely in the discussion of European history. Renaissance originates from the Latin word rinascere and refers to the act of being reborn. It is believed that during the time from about 1400AD to around 1600AD, Europe was reborn. Originally the term Renaissance only referred to the time when man rediscovered the knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

However, modern historians have realized these rediscoveries were also crucial to the formation of modern culture. The term Renaissance is now used to indicate all the historical developments that have inspired the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern history. Thus, the term Renaissance has now taken on a more significant meaning: not only does the Renaissance mean the rebirth of knowledge, but also represents a step from the past and a leap towards the future.

The Renaissance overlapped the end of a period in European history called the Middle Ages. During this time, the great accomplishments of the ancient Greeks and Romans had been large, though not entirely forgotten. With the ending of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance great cultural movement arose. Beginning in Italy, the new Renaissance spirit spread to England, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Spain, and other countries. In Italy during the 14th and 15th centuries, certain scholars and historians began to display a remarkable new historical self-consciousness.

They believed their own time was a new age, at once sharply different from the barbaric darkness which was imagined had occurred in the centuries before. They grew to believe that there was more to be discovered about mankind and the world than medieval people had known. The Italians are very eager to rediscover what clever Greeks and Romans had known in ancient times, as well as making their own intelligent attempts to understand the world. This renewed interest in the world and in mankind is called Humanism.

Humanism was the most significant intellectual movement of the Renaissance. Humanism during the Renaissance received its name from one of the earliest concerns of the humanists: the need for a new education curriculum that would empathize with a group of subjects known collectively as the Studia Humanitatis involving grammar, history, poetry, ethics, and rhetoric. However, this new education curriculum conflicted directly with traditional education, which involved logic, science, and physics, and often sharp clashes occurred between the two educators. However, more was at stake than the content of education.

Traditional education was intended chiefly to prepare students for careers in medicine, law, and above all theology. To Renaissance humanists, this seemed too narrow, too abstract, and too exclusively intellectual. They proposed a system of education that centered on the general responsibilities of citizenship and social leadership. Humanities essential contribution to the modern world is not found in its concern with ancient knowledge, but in its new attitude of flexibility and openness to all the possibilities in life.

With people receiving education-involving leadership, they began to gain more confidants. More people began to reject ideas about science put forward by the ancient Greeks and began to search for the truth. They realized that the Greek’s ideas were often intelligent, but also often wrong. Many people still did not want the old ideas disapproved, and threatened scientists to stop having new ideas. However, this did not stop many brilliant scientific inventions from being produced at this time.

A great scientist of the Renaissance was the Polish student Nicolaus Copernicus who developed the theory that the earth was a moving planet. He is considered the founder of modern astronomy. In Copernicus’s time, most astronomers accepted the theory the Greek astronomer Ptolemy had formulated nearly 1400 years earlier. Ptolemy stated that the Earth was the center of the universe and motionless. He also stated that all the observed motions of the heavenly bodies were real and that those bodies moved in complicated patterns around the Earth.

As the church supported Ptolemy theory no one dared to challenge it until Copernicus. Copernicus believed Ptolemy s theory was too complicated. He decided that the simplest and most systematic explanation was that every planet, including the Earth, revolved around the sun. The Earth also had to spin around its axis once every day. Copernicus couldn t prove his theory, but his explanation of heavenly motion was mathematically strong and was less complicated than Ptolemy s theory. The later work of later scientists such as Galileo Galilei helped to prove that Copernicus theory was correct.

Galileo was a Florentine physicist, philosopher, and inventor, whose name became the chief emblem of Renaissance science and of an ensuing technological revolution. In 1609, he heard that the rulers of Florence and Venice were searching for someone who could invent an instrument that made distant objects appear closer.

Galileo set to work to construct one, and within a few days, he had finished, naming it a telescope. During the winter, he turned his telescope to the sky with startling results. He announced that the moon surface was quite similar to earth s irregular and mountainous; the Milky Way was made up of a host of stars, and the planet Jupiter is accompanied by at least four satellites.

The electrifying effects of these discoveries were amazing. They showed the human senses could be aided artificially to discover new truths about nature, something that neither philosophy nor theology had previously contended with. However, most importantly Ptolemy s astronomical theory was impossible. Galileo had proven the Copernicus theory correct. Galileo had great importance upon the history of ideas.

The Renaissance produced many important people who invented or theorized very important advances in history. They all became strong symbols of revolt against the forces of authority, whilst the Renaissance flourished with the power of a question. The Renaissance period provided modern culture with a variety of advances in technology, art, science and most importantly it gave mankind confidence.

The ancient civilizations, in particular the Greeks and Romans, laid the foundations for civilizations and the Renaissance added the most important ingredient; the ability to ask why. It is appropriate to use the label Rebirth to describe European history in the 15th and 16th centuries.


Example #5

The Renaissance was a period by which modern scholars consider that between 1350-1600. Abundant in this new age was inventions and individualistic beliefs. Changes in music and cultural behavior were some of the most evident development from its predecessor of the Middle ages.

Period of new inventions, belief, musical styles of freedom, and individuality. It was a period of exploration and adventure from 1492-1519, which saw the likes of Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, and Ferdinand Magellan. This was a drastic difference from the Middle Ages where the church held most of the power. The power was slowly transferred to the artist, musician, and people of high society. The word  “Renaissance” means rebirth. Used by artists and musicians to recover and apply the ancient learning and standards of Greece and Rome.

Rich Italian cities, such as Florence, Ferrari, and mainland Venice started the Renaissance Age. Because these cities were very wealthy, people started spending money on different things, such as painting, learning materials, and new systems of government. These were good times for most and because of the ever-changing styles and attitudes towards culture and the church, music was the best buy for the money. This all gave rise to a new type of scholar, called the humanist.

Humanism was a subject concerned with humankind and the culture. Painters and sculptors now used subjects from classical literature and mythology such as characters from Homer epic poems. Painters like Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci were more interested in realism and used linear perspective in creating their subjects. The nude body was a favorite theme of the ages whereas in the Middle Ages was an object of shame and concealment. Artist was no longer regarded as mere artisans, as they were known in the past, but for the first time emerged as independent thinkers.

The Catholic Church was far less powerful now than they had been in the middle ages. The church no longer monopolized learning or the minds of the common worshiper. Aristocrats and the upper-middle-class now considered education a status symbol and music was an intricate part of that status quote. The invention of print accelerated the spread of learning.

Johan Gutenberg was credited with printing the first Bible during this period, which gave this excellent piece of literature a wider audience. The printing press made books much easier to come by which made them cheaper. Now common people could afford a literary luxury, which was once only accessible to the rich. Therefore, literacy became more widespread since common people had access to all forms of print to include music.

With the Renaissance was the idea of the universal man, every educated person was expected to be trained in music. As in the Middle Ages, the musicians worked in churches, courts, and towns. The church remained an important patron of music, but musical activity gradually shifted to the courtyards. King’s princes and dukes competed for the finest composers. With this, newfound fame musicians enjoyed higher status and pay than ever before.

Composers were regarded as higher and held important positions throughout Europe. Many musicians became interested in politics in hopes that their status as a musician or composer would help to foster one’s careers. This was a sharp contrast from most of the Renaissance composers and musicians. Most were from the Low Countries and from families that were not of prominent nobility.

In the renaissance, as in the Middle Ages vocal music was more important than instrumental music. The humanistic interest in language influenced vocal music in a new way. As a result, an especially close relationship was created between words and music. Composers often used word painting, a musical representation of specific poetic images. Renaissance music sounds were more full than medieval music and had a more pleasing effect to the ear.

New emphasis was put on the bass line for a richer harmony. Choruses music did not need instrumental accompaniment. The period was called the golden age of unaccompanied “a Cappella” choral music. This is where the present-day barbershop’s quartet originated. This new technique made renaissance music both a pleasure and challenge, for each singer had to maintain an individual rhythm. This must have been an innovation and refreshing change from the old monotone chanting choruses.

A new style of relating to the counterpoint was now spawning, in which bass voices were given greater independence. This took the average Mass to a different level of complexity and meaning. It created two forms of sacred music of the renaissance, which were the Motet and the Mass. The Motet was a polyphonic choral composition made up of five sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus. Josquin Desprez was a master of renaissance music. His compositions, which strongly influenced others, and were enthusiastic, welcomed by music lovers.

Among the most important Renaissance composers was Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who devoted himself to music for the catholic church. During early 1500?s, Protestants who sought to correct abuses within the structure that occurred in the past challenged the church. This led to the founding of the Jesuit order in 1540, which considered questions of organization within the church. They discussed church music, which they felt lost its purity and wholesomeness that was essential to a place of worship. Church music was attacked because it used tunes, noisy instruments, and theatrical singing portraying the church as being just a place for entertainment.

The council finally decreed that church music should be composed not to give empty pleasure to the ear, but to inspire religious contemplation. Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass was long thought to have convinced the council that masses should be kept in catholic worship. Although it is now known that it did not play a role in the council decision, it does reflect the council’s desire for a clear projection of the sacred text.

During the renaissance secular vocal music became increasingly popular. This was music written for groups of solo voices with the accompaniment of instruments. Composers delighted in imitating natural sounds such as birds or animals that were more serene. Madrigal was important vocal music, which had a piece for secular solo voices set to short poems. Madrigal originated in Italy around 1520 and was published by the thousands in sixteenth-century Italy.

Among many Italian madrigalists were Luca Marzio and Carlo Gesualdo the prince of veno who had his wife and her lover murdered after finding them in bed together. In 1588 the year of the defeat of the Spanish armada, a volume of Italian madrigals was published in London. This triggered a spurt of madrigal writing by English composers, and for about thirty years, there was a steady flow of English madrigals and other secular vocal music.

Traditionally instrumentalists accompanied voices or played music intended for singing. During the sixteenth century however instrumental music became increasingly emancipated from vocal models. Renaissance musicians distinguished between loud outdoor instruments like trumpets and the shawm, which was a double reeded ancestor of the oboe, and soft indoor instruments like the lute and the recorder (an early flute). Large courts might employ thirty instrumentalists of all types. On state occasions such as Royal wedding, woodwinds plucked bowed strings, and keyboard, instruments all playing would entertain quest together.

In conclusion, the renaissance gave way to a new generation of music, musicians, and composers. During the Renaissance, music was no longer regarded as a merely skilled craftsman, as they had been in the medieval past, but for the first time emerged as independent personalities. The Renaissance was a time of new awakening in Europe.


Example #6

Renaissance which is also referred to as rebirth is the period that started in the 14th century and ended up in the 17th century. The period was marked by increased interests and development in Art, literature, politics, science, religion, and music.

The period was characterized by a surge of interest in classical learning and values. Renaissance is usually taken as the bridge that linked the medieval era and modern civilization. Although Renaissance resulted in great changes in many intellectual undertakings such as political and social upheaval, it is mostly remembered for its great contributions to art and music.

This period is marked by the discovery of new continents, great growth in commerce and invention, and applications of innovations such as paper printing, gunpowder, and use of the marine compass. The era is regarded as a period of the revival of classical learning after a long time span of cultural stagnation and decline (Brotton, 2006).

The rebirth of the Renaissance is believed to have started in Italy as early as in the 14th century. The resurrection of the Renaissance in Italy is believed to have been influenced by a number of factors among them a favorable language. During this period, the Latin language was considered as the language of scholars.

Due to its complexity, it was not a common language to many people by then and thus not a very appropriate language for the learning process. Many people required a simpler language to understand higher knowledge that was associated with the Renaissance. This resulted in the growth of national vernacular language all over Europe that greatly facilitated the spread of the ideology of the new scholars.

Italy was the first nation to produce great writers in the Renaissance period. England on the other hand developed Standard English that was highly influential during the Renaissance in the learning process. Germany also took the opportunity to translate the bible into Germany language which greatly helped many Germans to read and understand the bible better (Guisepi, n.d).

The great scientific growth and development during this period boosted the Renaissance period greatly. The interactions of Christians and Arabs as they traded helped the Christians learn mathematics, chemistry, and experimental science from the Arabs who were more knowledgeable in these concepts.

The new knowledge they received from Arabs enabled them to become more critical with issues. Equipped with scientific knowledge, people started to accept and apply only what seemed logical to them. Thus, this learning transformed the views of many people who started to question some traditional beliefs which they had learned from the church about the certain national phenomenon (Guisepi, n.d).

Some scientific inventions such as the invention of the art of printing helped greatly in transmitting knowledge during the Renaissance process. This is because the printed materials were distributed and accessed more easily by many widely and by a large number of people.

This strategy was widely intensively used to educate people about the new and modern concepts that were related to modern civilizations. Similarly, the invention of magnetic compasses helped in the discovery of new continents such as the Africa continent. This, in turn, amplified the European trading routes which enabled them to make more profits.

The invention of gun powder transformed the politics in Europe greatly. Formerly, the Middle Ages were characterized by the supreme monarchy in Europe where nobles were the ones who was summoned to provide military support to the king during crisis instances. With the invention of gun powder, European politics greatly changed as kings started to assume the political power that was being exercised by the nobles. This, in turn, promoted the establishment of centralized governments in many parts of Europe.

The growth in trade and commerce also greatly helped in the Renaissance. New trading routes and cities emerged. The merchants were known to travel a lot and thus were greatly instrumental in the spread of the ideas of the modern civilizations as they traded in the new cities established.

The Renaissance influenced Europe culturally, politically, and economically. The renaissance was really very instrumental in the areas of scholarship, art, music, and architecture. The renaissance was associated with revisiting the knowledge of Greece and Rome to rediscover this knowledge and apply it in the contemporary context.

This facilitated many universities being established in many parts of Europe where many politicians were educated on classical knowledge under Guicciardini. The impact of the Renaissance on art was great. By the use of Humanism which focused on humanity, the modern concepts that were learned enabled the artist to break from art- dictated art of the Middle Ages and embrace the secular worldview.

In addition, architecture developed greatly which enabled the traditional architecture of the middle ages to be replaced by more modern human-centric architecture that was highly embraced all over Europe. Similarly, the Renaissance resulted in enhanced growth and development in trade and commerce that resulted in the emergence of banking facilities in many parts of Europe.

Enhance trade in turn resulted in the emergence of urban centers and cities such as Florence and Venice cities that eventually transcended to become empires.

Other European nations such as England and Spain followed suite to establish their own cities. The establishment of cities resulted in a great change in European politics which necessitated the idea of diplomacy. Many people in Europe and especially Italy studied diplomacy during the Renaissance period.

It was from Italy that the concept of permanent, resident ambassadors originated during the Renaissance period. The concept of diplomacy enables Italy to maintain very important international relations up to date (Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, & Turner, 2009).

The Protestant Reformation was a European Christian reform movement that resulted to the establishment of Protestantism as a constituent part of contemporary Christianity. The movement was initiated as a protest towards certain catholic rituals, doctrines, and ecclesiastical structures of the Catholic Church.

The protest resulted in a Counter-Reformation movement which was headed by the Jesuit order. The Counter-Reformation resulted in the reclamation of many parts of Europe which include Poland, parts of England back to the Catholic faith.

The reason that motivated the reformation to initiate in Germany is that Germany was the first nation that translated the bible into Germany language which enhanced the Germans to understand the bible when they read it more effectively. Well, understanding of the bible prompted Germans Christians to start questioning some Catholic rituals and doctrines which they considered to contradict Christianity teaching as expressed by the bible.

The scientific discoveries that accompanied the Renaissance enlightened people greatly. One the great discovery is the Copernican theory which suggested that the sun and other planet rotated around a central sun. This discovery faced a lot of resistance from many scholars and also from the theologians who contested with this discovery as they claimed it contradicted what the bible stated.


Example #7

Renaissance, French for rebirth, perfectly describes the intellectual and economic changes that occurred in Europe from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century. This intellectual movement developed in Italy, more specifically Florence. It is meant to imply a rebirth of the way of life of antiquity or a new set of attitudes that use Ancient Rome and Greece as models.

During this period, in Italy, the breakdown of the Roman Empire is taking place- Northern Italy is being overrun from the East. There is a continuation of urban life on the Italian Peninsula, contact and trade exist with countries outside of Europe. Politically, Italy is not as decentralized as the rest of Europe. The papacy behaved more like the state than the church. The papacy controlled land fielded armies and played the role of leader. The major city-states during the Renaissance were Naples, Florence, Milan, Venice, and the Papal States.

The Renaissance brought us many discoveries. Tools were developed for exploration. One of these tools was the astrolabe, a portable device used by sailors to help them find their way. The astrolabe measured the distance of the stars and sun above the horizon, which played a role in finding the latitude, which was important in navigation. The magnetic compass was also improved during the Renaissance. Maps became more reliable as cartographers began to incorporate the information of travelers and explorers into their work and shipbuilding improved. Large ships called galleons became common. These ships were powered by sail rather than by men using oars. Although navigation was still not a precise science, sailors were able to go farther than they were before, returning with imported goods from the East. The slave trade begins to flourish and Europeans are discovering more of the world.

In 1445, Gutenberg invented the printing press, forever changing the lives of the people in Europe and eventually people around the world. Before the printing press, books were hand-written. By 1500, twenty million books had been printed in Europe. Standard editions of texts like the Bible and religious texts are available. Books could be purchased by urban dwellers. Education expands when more people can afford to buy books.

The ability to draw a contrast between the past and the present is a new age. The Renaissance leads to a view that society has come out of the darkness. Nature had previously been viewed negatively. During the Renaissance, nature is perceived as something beautiful and worth studying. Plants are studied, which results in botanical gardens, cultivation, and breeding. The Renaissance also brought about the systematic collection of animals, exotic animals, people (slavery), and the use of studs in breeding horses.

Naturalism was also evident in the arts. Artists were trying to portray life as it was. In the past, drama often included personified moralities. A more naturalistic portrayal of humans begins in the Renaissance, drama includes jokes and obscenities, what you saw on stage is what occurred in life. Literature begins to use vernacular or the popular spoken language. Less is being written in Latin. Stage and canvas give an illusion of reality. There is a more realistic use of space.

Rationalism was very evident. An application of reason expanded to a wide range of human affairs. Space is broken down mathematically in architecture and painting. Space is intended to give an illusion of reality. Double-entry bookkeeping is used. During the Middle Ages, wealth was inland. In the Renaissance, the currency is standard. Profits can be made in buying and selling. An economic process is established.

Individualism also plays a role in the Renaissance. Biographies become popular. The lives of humans were worthy of artistic recreation. There is an emergence of celebrities, rulers, artists, and other well-known people. Artists began to sign their works. If a child showed promise in a particular area he was sent to learn and study the style of a master.

Humanism emerged. This placed an emphasis on classical authors and classical studies. This included studies of grammar, rhetoric, moral philosophy, poetry, and history. Humanism taught us that no man was above criticism and that in order to truly learn you would have to return to the original text. People studied and returned to their countries with their new thinking and teaching methods.

Renaissance society believed that the world could be studied, molded, and changed. People could create a world that they truly wanted. The people of the Renaissance no longer wanted only the recognition of God for their deeds. They now believed that deeds should bring them wealth and reputation.

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