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Historians call the period we live in Modern Times. Modern Times began with the Renaissance, one of the rare periods of genius in the worlds history. Beginning in the 14 th century and reaching its height in the 15 th, the Renaissance was a new age filled with remarkable accomplishments. Meaning rebirth.
The Renaissance refers to the rediscovery by humanists of the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The individualization of man began in this era, and it was during this period that man began to focus on the secular aspects of life rather than hierarchical Christianity, which was the stranglehold of the Middle Ages. The ordered, formalistic medieval society broke down and Europe emerged from the Dark Ages. The Renaissance was a period of discovery in many fields. Advances in science were numerous and contributed to the growth of the era. Beliefs and theories that were common during the Middle Ages were gradually being rejected and scientific investigation during the Renaissance lead to an increased understanding of the natural world.
Along with discoveries in science, the Renaissance proved to be one of the great ages of fine arts, leaving a rich legacy. The art from the Middle Ages was revolutionized in the Renaissance and is one of the most prominent variances between the two eras. The intellectual energies of the Renaissance, however, came from the literature of many masters. Humanism was emphasized, which contrasted the church driven society of the Middle ages. Advances and accomplishments in science, fine arts and literature made the Renaissance a golden period, which flourished far beyond the achievements of the Middle ages. The arts and the inventions, the knowledge and the books, which suddenly became vital at the time of the Renaissance, says the English author, J.
A. Symonds, had long lain neglected on the shores of the Dead Sea which we call the Middle Ages. It was not their discovery which caused the Renaissance; but it was the intellectual energy, the spontaneous outburst of intelligence, which enabled mankind at that moment to make us them. During the Renaissance, discoveries in science, particularly in astronomy, physics, and anatomy exceeded those of the Middle Ages.
Vital to the growth of scientific investigation was a progressive rejection of astrology and magic, creed that was prevalent in medieval times. The scientists of the Renaissance rejected any sort of magic because observation and experimentation did not support it. Scientists of the Renaissance made many breakthroughs increasing their knowledge and understanding of the world. Important inventions were medieval in origin as well. For example, the magnetic compass that directed Renaissance explorers to Asia and the Americas, was innovated in the Middle Ages. But it was the humanism that was brought out in the Renaissance, which separates it from the Middle Ages.
Equally important to the development of science was humanism, for among the ancient writings that the humanists collected were those that inspired scientific research. Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus challenged the ideas of astronomy and forever changed the way Western civilization looks at the universe. At Copernicus birth, Europeans believed that the earth was stationary, at the centre of the universe, and all other heavenly bodies, including the sun, revolved around the earth. Copernicus used observation and mathematical analysis to overturn this concept. After careful calculations and observations, Copernicus realized that the earth both revolves around the sun and rotates about its own axis. The importance of Copernicus discovery was not only that he provided future astronomers with groundwork, he challenged pervious theories on astronomy and the universe.
Studying the heavens, however, was very difficult as the human eye could only see so much. Italian astronomer Galileo constructed a telescope for observing the galaxy. With this device, he discovered that the surface of the moon was covered with craters, mountains and valleys, and discovered other satellites orbiting the planet Jupiter. The rationality and reason promoted by renaissance researchers would become increasingly important not only to science but to Western thought.
Those who came after this period would refine its methods and techniques and open up much more of the natural world to human understanding, but they would always be indebted to the pioneering work of these early scientific thinkers. The Renaissance was also one of the great ages of art. It was an era of artistic experimentation and discovery led by famous painters and sculptors whos works, are perhaps more than any other accomplishments representative of the Renaissance in todays world. The art from the Middle Ages differed tremendously from the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, the arts had reflected that periods deep interest in religion. Paintings for instance, were either portraits of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the saints or illustrations of scenes from the Bible.
In the Renaissance however, art became less religious in nature. Much of it dealt with more worldly subjects: portraits, of living people, landscapes, and scenes of everyday life. Religious subjects did not disappear entirely. Some of the greatest religious art dates from the Renaissance, such as Leonardo da Vinci's 1497 painting the Last Supper, and Michelangelo's 1504 sculpture David. Yet, there was a more secular tone to Renaissance art than to medieval art. This artistic shift came in part because the patrons of artists were often nobles and business and civil leaders rather than, as in the Middle Ages, the church.
A second difference between Renaissance and medieval art was the supreme importance of architecture during the Middle Ages. To the medieval world, architecture was the most sublime of arts because architects were responsible for the design and building of the great churches and cathedrals of the period. At this time, both painting and sculpture were used almost exclusively to decorate these church buildings. Although architecture remained important in the Renaissance, painting and sculpture were the chief arts. Again this change in emphasis had a great deal to do with the rise of the private patron: few, like the Catholic Church, could afford to finance a building but any one of whom could pay for a statue.
Painters and sculptors benefited socially from the attention patrons paid their arts. As Breisach writes: Other changes raised the fine arts to a social and cultural position commanding greater importance. Patrons began to use art for increasing their social prestige and status. As they used works of art for their conspicuous pos...
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