Christian Cyclopedia

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The concept of the Renaissance as a distinct period is largely the creation of J. C. Burckhardt,* who held that the Renaissance marked a rebirth of culture and, with the Reformation, gave rise to the modern world. The Renaissance began in It. in the 14th c., came to affect the rest of Eur. in varying degrees, and was marked by a change in the style of living, a greater degree of individualism, a more secular direction, a new appreciation of the world of nature, and a renewed emphasis on classical antiquity as form and norm for culture and way of life.

One feature of the Renaissance was an increase of learning assoc. with the renewal of classical culture. Humanists, many of whom served as profs. of poetry and rhetoric or as secretaries in city-states characteristic of It. pol. organization in this period, were men of letters mainly responsible for the revival of interest in Lat. and Gk. antiquity. A variety of types and a certain progression in Renaissance humanism is discernible. Literary humanists, e.g., Petrarch* and G. Boccaccio,* felt a sense of distance from the ancient past and tagged the cents. just preceding as the “dark* ages.” Civic humanists, e.g., Lino Coluccio di Piero dei Salutati (1331–1406; b. Stignano, It.; chancellor Florence 1375) and Leonardo Bruni (Bruno; also called Leonardo Aretino; 1369–1444; b. Arezzo, It.; chancellor Florence 1427) helped develop republican consciousness. Metaphysical humanist, e.g., M. Ficino* and G. Pico* della Mirandola introd. revival of Neoplatonism. The Gk. revival, begun, e.g., by M. Chrysoloras* and J. Bessarion.* centered in Florence under Medici patronage and was the most important single element in the gen. expansion of the It. intellectual horizon.

The change from Gothic to neoclassic is indisputable in architecture and other visual art; but the significance of the Renaissance for science, economic hist., and the Reformation is not completely clear. Humanism, e.g., in criticism of abuse, interest in religious enlightenment, rediscovery of important texts, development of critical method, and cultivation of Gk. and Heb. helped prepare the way for the Reformation; but the reformers went beyond humanist emphasis on moral philos. to basic and distinctively Christian affirmations.

J. C. Burckhardt, Die Cultur der Renaissance in Italien (Leipzig, 1860), tr. S. G. C. Middlemore, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, rev. and ed. I. Gorcon (New York, 1960); W. K. Ferguson, The Renaissance in Historical Thought (New York, 1948); The Rise of Modern Europe, ed. W. L. Langer, II: M. P. Gilmore, The World of Humanism 1453–1517 (New York, 1952); D. Hay, The Italian Renaissance in Its Historical Background (Cambridge, Eng., 1961); The New Cambridge Modern History, I: The Renaissance, ed. G. R. Potter (Cambridge, Eng., 1957). LWSj

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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