Thank you for another very interesting question.
Wikipedia - Humanism
"Humanism is an active ethical and philosophical approach to life,
focusing on human solutions to human issues through rational
("reasonable") thought, without recourse to supernatural entities,
such as a God or gods, or to sacred texts, traditions or religious
"Renaissance humanism was a cultural movement in Europe, beginning in
central Italy (particularly Florence) in the last decades of the 14th
century. It revived, and refined the study of ancient language (first
Latin, and then the Greek language by mid-century); and caused the
resultant "revival" of the studies of science, philosophy, art and
poetry of classical antiquity. The "revival", or "re-birth" was based
upon interpretations of Roman and Greek texts. Their emphasis upon
art, and the senses marked a great change from the contemplation upon
the Biblical, medieval values of humility, introspection, and
passivity, or "meekness". Beauty was held to represent a deep inner
virtue, and value, and "an essential element in the path towards God".
As a result, the production of art in this period is particularly
The Renaissance Humanism
"A person who studied the classics was called a humanist. Humanists
recreated classical styles in art, literature, and architecture.
Humanists believed that by studying the classics, they could
understand people and the world better."
"The humanists emphasized the importance of human values instead of
religious beliefs. Renaissance humanists were often devout Christians,
but their promotion of secular, or non-religious, values often put
them at odds with the church."
Living and Dying Humanism and US History
"The `Age of the Renaissance' has no clear beginning but historians
usually recognize the mid 1400's as the Renaissance period. The
essence of the Renaissance was the questioning and testing of the
authority of the church in secular affairs. It was the first stage of
the cultural evolution which led to the scientific revolution of the
Enlightenment. The prime quality of the Renaissance has been defined
as "independence of mind". Its ideal was a person who, by mastering
all branches of art and thought, need not depend on any outside
authority for the formation of knowledge, tastes, and beliefs. Such a
person was considered '`the complete man."
The principle product of the Renaissance was the reestablishment of
humanism, the ancient Greek conviction that humanity is capable of
mastering the world in which it lives. It was a decisive break with
the middle ages when men and women were considered to be helpless
pawns of supernatural Providence and universal sin.
Renaissance humanism was marked by a fundamental shift from the
theocratic or god-centered world view of the middle ages to the
anthropocentric or man-centered view."
The Renaissance in Europe: 1300 ? 1600
"The Renaissance in Europe looks, at first glance, like a period of
instability and chaos. For that reason, it is often difficult to
understand why so much of cultural importance was created during the
period between 1300 and 1600. In fact, I would argue that the very
chaotic nature of the Renaissance ? its position as a transitional
period in the intellectual, cultural, and political life of Europe ?
was the cause of that creativity. In fact, the Renaissance was a
period characterized by competition on every level of society, and
that competition led to a synthesis of past ideas with the needs of
the time. That synthesis was the basis for creative problem solving
that resulted in the literature, art, and socio-political changes that
we associate with the Renaissance."
"... starting in 1348, the continent was racked by the Black (Bubonic)
Plague, and other diseases including most probably anthrax. With
little or no medical knowledge, the people living in 14th century
Europe were devastated by the plague. It killed between ½ and 2/3 of
the population, depending on the region, and various factors such as
population distribution, public sanitation practices (which were
universally rather poor), and proximity to centers of trade and
contact with travelers, etc. The continued popularity in our own time
of the children?s rhyme, "ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies,
ashes, ashes, we all fall down" shows how pervasive exposure to this
disease was. The rhyme refers to its symptoms, the need to carry
flower petals in a handkerchief and cover one?s nose with it when
passing through a village, and the sense that perhaps all would
succumb to the disease. Images of skeletons were rampant in religious
and secular art. People turned increasingly to the church with a sense
of an urgent need to find salvation before a potentially immediate
"Art was used by those who wanted power, or wanted to advertise the
power they had, during the Renaissance as well. However, these
requirements could not be met by the reigning painting and sculpture
styles of the High Middle Ages, whose subjects were almost universally
Christian and allegorical, and commissioned by the Church. These
paintings told the stories of characters from the Bible, and
admonished viewers to be moral and devout. Commoners rarely played a
role in such art, and when they did, they were only a small
(literally) part of a painting. Such a role in a painting was not what
subjects like Lorenzo Di Medici wanted when they paid a painter to
immortalize them. Instead, they wanted to be the center of attention ?
a place they saw as fit for successful, intelligent leaders of a
community. Thus the style of art had to change to suit their needs.
Painters took at least some of their inspiration from Roman and Greek
artistic ideals, and added observation of the real world to their
arsenal of talents. Painting the real world, these artists soon became
obsessed with the idea of perspective and attempted to make everything
in their paintings look as real as possible ? to capture the life in
the moment. This led, ironically, to an almost scientific view of
perspective and geometry in paintings that were intended to eliminate
the science, and emphasize the human in their message and subject.
In all, the renaissance was a time of renewed interest in life, and
looked back to those who had been, from the 14th century point of
view, most successful in understanding the conditions of human life:
the Greeks and Romans, for its inspiration. Rediscovery of Greek and
Roman ideas of the value of the study of humanity combined with a new
need to provide for tomorrow that resulted in a reduced concern for
spiritual issues and a growth of interest in the secular. The
rediscovery of humanism, combined with the interest in the secular
made study of humans and their environment the great interest of the
age ? for practical reasons that understanding humanity helped to
improve ability to conduct business, and understanding self helped to
support ethical behavior ? which was also good for business. Thus, a
new outlook on culture, politics, and society was ultimately driven,
at least in part, by economic concerns."
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renaissance art humanism religion 1400's 15th century