The Renaissance Period marked a great cultural change and is considered as the bridge between the medieval and modern ages. Derived from the word for ‘rebirth’, this term correctly describes the changes that took place from the 14th century onwards. Italy was not the country we know now. It was made up of many city states, with each state having its own ruler.
Many incidents helped in hastening the Period called the ‘Renaissance.’ The ‘Dark Ages’ lasted more than a thousand years after the downfall of the Roman Empire. Much of Europe followed a land ownership and rental formula and although this worked very well for a millennia as the population grew, the fact that Italy did not follow this strategy worked in her favour. The population of Europe had grown in leaps and bounds, and cities and towns grow to hold them. But the living conditions weren’t great (to put it mildly) and in time the Black Death raised its ugly head to rampage through Europe. Decimating over 50% of Europe’s population, it brought about several significant changes in the worlds of finance, art, literature and religion.
Italy became the focal point of the new change due to her central location in Europe, her strong trade routed to Venice and with Florence having a wealthy merchant class that did not depend on rental income; they were safe from the backlash of the plague. Florentine patrons found sculptors, artists and other talented individuals to invest their money in and this helped in nurturing the growth of the new Era. This is due to there being fewer laborers; the existing workers could charge more bringing more wealth to the common class. Business men could not expand their businesses due to the sharp decline in population, and this freed them to spend their money on the Arts. A great example is of the Medici family who were patrons of Michelangelo.
Another reason why Italy flourished is because the city states were not united under one roof. They were left to grow individually and the four city states of Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice grew powerful in their own right. Florence had the wool trade that made her rich, Milan had a strong monarchy, Rome had the Papal church funded states and Venice was powerful in sea trade.
Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press allowed books to be reproduced on a scale never imagined before. The availability of books to the common man was vital to the intellectual development during this time.
As more and more contributors to the Renaissance gained prominence, this movement snowballed into something larger. Sometimes it just takes a few people to start something new. The Medici family played a pivotal role in encouraging the Renaissance era.
There were great advancements in all fields, but especially in the fields of Art as the patrons encouraged gifted artists to unleash their creativity. The Renaissance Age spread to other parts of Europe thereby increasing its popularity.
Never before has a period affected so much change in civilization as the Renaissance has. Called the Golden Age by some, this period produced some of the best works of art the world has ever seen.