(Latin: re-, again; nasci, to be born)
A comprehensive term used to designate a movement to revive the art and learning of classical antiquity, which became identified with the period of transition from the Middle Ages to modern times.
This transition was effected in particular by
Humanism, the appreciative study of the classics, was the literary manifestation of the movement, which may be said to have begun definitely with the writings of Petrarch and Boccaccio.
Humanism divided into two phases:
- the seizure of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453
- the baneful results of the Western Schism from 1378 to 1417
- the decline of the Empire and the growth of nations, with the resulting concept of national churches
- the decay of chivalry and feudalism
- the rise of the people to political influence in opposition to the aristocracy and clergy
- the inventions and discoveries of the times, e.g., printing, gunpowder, the compass, the astronomical theories of Copernicus, the circumnavigation of Africa, and the discovery of America
The outstanding representatives of the latter are:
Among the pagan humanists may be mentioned:
- pagan, which was characterized by its heathen corruptness and which was patronized by the upper classes who preferred unrestrained pleasure to self-denial and continence
- Christian, which held to the rule of life instituted by Christ and which made use of the classics only as a means to embellish His teachings.
Against the array of pagan thinkers and writers of the Renaissance, the Church offers more than 88 Saints and Blesseds in the years from 1400 to 1520, and the offenders themselves, in the majority of cases, sought the consolation of the Sacraments before their death.
Among the famous architects and sculptors of the period were:
- AEneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II)
- Cambi Masuccio
- Lorenzo Valla
- Poggio Bracciolini
- Poggio Filelfo
The Mother of God became the particular source of inspiration for painters, among whom may be mentioned:
- Luca della Robbia
- Nicola Lamberti
The Renaissance as it manifested itself in the other countries was not a rediscovery of their past, as in Italy.
In Germany and the Low Countries the return was made to the study of primitive Christianity, e.g., to the writings of Saint Paul, and Saint Augustine and other Fathers, and resulted in a rationalistic and free interpretation of the Bible.
The leaders of the movement were
- Fra Angelico
- Fra Bartolommeo
- Fra Filippino
- Rogier van der Weyden
- da Vinci
In France it took the form of a reaction against Scholasticism, headed by
- Von Hutten
In England the humanists
- University of Paris
inaugurated a movement which resulted in what is known as the Elizabethan period in English literature.
Among the various scholars and religious leaders of the Renaissance outside of Italy may be mentioned:
- Saint Thomas More
The Church did not oppose the return to classical literature, for she herself preserved the classics, nor did she oppose the return to the cult of form and beauty.
Her opposition was directed against the return to the pagan spirit with its rationalism, scepticism, and contempt for revealed religion.
New Catholic Dictionary