During the middle ages, when Feudal Europe witnessed a period of intellectual and cultural stagnation, the cities of Italy such as Venice, Florence, and Milan prospered as trading posts connecting Europe to the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world via the Mediterranean Sea. Unlike the rest of Europe, feudalism had not established itself in Northern Italy, where commerce and mercantilism became an integral activity of daily life.
The Black Death that caused widespread devastation in Europe during the 1350's struck Florence hard, causing the loss of almost 90 percent of its populace. This familiarity with death made survivors dwell more on their lives on Earth, rather than on spirituality and the afterlife. The Italian people, especially the educated middle class, became interested in individual achievement and emphasized life in this world, as opposed to preparation for life in the next world. Side by side, the Black Death also prompted a new wave of piety that manifested in the sponsorship of religious works of art.
[...] 1435 Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472), a noted Renaissance writer formalizes perspective as an artistic technique, which was part of a wider trend towards realism in the arts. In 1435, he completes his first major work Painting.” 1440 Lorenzo Valla uses humanist skills to expose Donation of Constantine as forgery. He also exposes other historic hoaxes. 1440 Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, better known as Donatello completes his masterpiece depicting the Hebrew king in the classical style of a Greek god. [...]
[...] The works of ancient Greek and Hellenistic writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, and Plotinus and Muslim scientists and philosophers such as Geber, Abulcasis, Alhacen, Avicenna, and Averroes thus became available to Western Europe, providing new intellectual material for European scholars. An added cause for the growth of ancient Greek and Roman thought in Northern Italy was the constant pressure applied on the Byzantine Empire by the Muslim world. Though Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks only in 1453 C.E., the Byzantine Empire continuously lost territory to the Muslim sultanates for more than a century prior to this event, and each time they suffered a setback, many Byzantium scholars fled and took refuge in the Northern Italian city-states, and slowly Western Europe regained much of its lost cultural heritage. [...]
[...] Perhaps the most influential figure of the entire Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci epitomized the renaissance ideal. He was a talented painter and sculptor, engineer, and scientist. Leonardo was a scientist and not just an inventor. He set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics. He also invented the first underwater warship. In Florence, he became chief military engineer, a position he held until 1513, when he went to Rome in search of a commission from the pope. [...]
[...] The expressions of Renaissance intellectuals often manifest the dilemma between these two sides. Petrarch, one of the earliest Renaissance intellectuals, for instance, was comfortable in the seclusion of pious monastery life, but he also loved to travel. He believed in the Christian ideal of self-denial, but also enjoyed the pleasures of the world. He advocated study and learning, but feared that the accumulation of worldly knowledge might prevent him from achieving salvation. This was a common dilemma for Renaissance thinkers, as the principles of humanism rose up to rival the doctrines of the Church. [...]
[...] The efforts of Alberti and others ensues Italian architecture reaches a high stage of development and Italian architects travel to Russia to aid in rebuilding of Kremlin THE HIGH RENAISSANCE (1486 C.E. -1503 C.E.) Historians often attribute the period 1480 until the sack of Rome in 1527 as the phase of “High Renaissance”, when the artistic and literary efflorescence ushered by the movement reached its zenith. Neo-Platonism sought to reconcile humanism with Christianity by blending the teachings of Plato and other ancient philosophers with the teachings of the Church. [...]
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