The Renaissance versus the Reformation
"I feel, sometimes, as the Renaissance man must have felt in finding new riches at every point and in the certainty that unexplored areas of knowledge and experience await at every turn"Polykarp Kusch. Two very critical periods in the history of western civilization involved the eras of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The renaissance evolved mainly in direct result to the medieval times where the people where obedient to authority. The reformation took place right after in the sixteenth century and took the Renaissance a few steps further by trying to reform the Catholic church which had become corrupt and sold indulgences. These two time period each had its own defining ideas which helped to characterize both movements.
When the Renaissance was first becoming to evolve, it was in response to the harsh ideals that were upheld during the medieval times. Of bitter importance in the Renaissance was, "the new spirit of individual self-consciousness that he found in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had both felicitous and horrifying consequences. Breathtaking creativity was shadowed by brutal egotism; freedom from corporate bondage evoked the worst as well as the best in Renaissance personalities" (Barnes). The impact of the Renaissance on its people was to start looking at the world in new angles and the electrifying idea of questioning authority. While people were still rooted in religion and afterlife, people were also starting to become focused on the present or the life that they were living now. Some of the ways the people of the Renaissance differed was the fresh focus being placed on subjects like art, science, and literature (Elton). A major question asked was, "Could art really imitate nature?" (Rocca). One especially talented individual that arose from this time frame was Leonardo Da Vinci who painted Mona Lisa and also The Last Supper (Rocca). Art was being turned into perspective, which in turn contribute to the realism that was starting to sprout from the Renaissance (Elton). Also another key characteristic of the Renaissance was humanism and the returned emphasis on classical works. Humanists would look back at these works and explore the "reasoning and empirical evidence" (Elton). Another important concept of the Renaissance was the decline of scholasticism and increased focus on skepticism (Rocco). This ties in again with the idea of questioning authority and really paved the way for individualism in the renaissance period. If something was banned, especially by the church, it would be revisited and explored. This new type of thinking helped open the minds of the people of the Renaissance and made them embrace "a spirituality based on an interior moral conversion rather than on arbitrary divine law
[and] developed an enhanced sense of human dignity and thus advanced beyond their medieval predecessors" (Barnes).
When the Reformation took place it was similar to the Renaissance in that they were still questioning authority, except this time they really took it to the church. Some of the first few people to take on this new perspective were people such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus who were also burned for the beliefs that they upheld (Elton). Also the humanism that had existed previously in the Renaissance was now being transformed into Protestantism and the move to reform the Catholic Church. People were really opening up to the criticisms against the corruptness of the church. One of the previous practices that really irked people of the Reformation was to pray for the dead in Purgatory (Simpson). The one person who really helped to shape the Reformation and make it what it was, was a man named Martin Luther. One of the most remembered forms of action was when Martin Luther nailed his "Ninety-five theses on the Power of Indulgences" to the door of the church (Elton). Many historians, including G.R. Elton,...
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