A 12th Century Renaissance

Topics: 12th century, Renaissance, Scholasticism Pages: 5 (1879 words) Published: November 25, 2007
Renaissance is defined as "the activity, spirit, or time of great revival of art, literature, and learning." Was there a twelfth-century renaissance? This is a question that still beckons an answer, and is often a topic of debate among modern historians. By definition, one can break it down: Was there a spirit of revival of a classical theme regarding the subjects mentioned above? Surely there was, and with author R.N. Swanson's "The Twelfth-century Renaissance" as a guide, we can investigate just what that revival involved, broken into the subjects of interest. It is often hard to disassociate the word "renaissance" from the 14th-17th centuries, and names like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo often spring to mind. However, we shouldn't base one renaissance solely on another. You can't have cities without first forming towns, and it is important to remember that the 12th century can be viewed as a precursor to the common era idea of renaissance, having a great significance all its own. Ranging from education, to law, to philosophy, the forwarding of ideas during this time definitely deserve the right to be called a renaissance, as they were a monumental step towards forwarding human thinking and living. On human thinking, the educational structures that developed and progressed through this time are important. "Before 1100, the scholarly system was characterized by the existence of a dual pattern of monastic and cathedral schools" (Swanson 13). Popular was "'a handing' on – of both the way of life and its intellectual inheritance" (Swanson 13). This acknowledges the staleness of both life and education before the 12th century, thus being why the era is sometimes referred to as "the Dark Ages." With the changing of religious based ideas and obligations throughout this time, schools evolved, and even higher institutions began to form, a precursor to modern day universities. Swanson tells us that "Hints of change in the traditional northern pattern of education appear from the mid-eleventh century" (Swanson 17). Schools such as Bec in Normandy, the school at St. Victor, Laon, and Chartres under Bernard began to show up, and the locations of these schools show the shifting of learning in locations around France and Germany, the virtual center of the 12th century renaissance if there ever was one. Swanson identifies the crucial role of the evolving educational institutions: "'Handing on,' tradition was discarded as analysis, argument, and debate took its place" (Swanson 23). Questions being asked and answered could continually generate a flow of ideas, and with these new ideas rode the pivotal progressing of human thinking during the time. "While the rise of the non-monastic schools was the main educational transition, the twelfth century is usually cited as marking the beginnings of universities" (Swanson 31). This is an extremely important capping to a growing educational presence during this time. Basically this is the point of why education was so pivotal to the idea of a renaissance, seeing as how universities are even still today the greatest end to higher learning. Seeing the progressions of these institutions being formed helps to identify just how monumental a leap this was for the twelfth century. The rise of educational masters and the organizations that they resided within also indicated the moving of people from rural residences to urban centers, such as Paris. People weren't traveling around as much anymore, and settling down started to become the trend. With these urban centers that were being created, there needed to be an evolution in the ideas of law, politics, and government. "The hollowness of the imperial tradition became increasingly obvious, and new territorial authorities emerged" (Swanson 67). Transitioning to a more local sense of government was not easy to obtain to be sure. But the ideas of how to lead people were there, as indicated: "the concept of the smoothly integrated body politic, with its...
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