The word “Renaissance” is the French word for “rebirth.” The Renaissance refers to the rebirth of humanism during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. The Renaissance period was a time of rebirth of humanism and new discoveries in fine arts, music, literature, philosophy, science and technology, architecture, religion and spirituality.
Sculptors such as Donatello and later Michelangelo went back to classical techniques like contrapposto, and classical subjects like the unsupported nude. Painters began to utilize methods of realism by improving skills in three-dimensional perspective. Painters began to veer away from religious themes and focused more on people and landscapes. Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo Buonarroti were some of the most prominent Renaissance painters.
In the early Renaissance, particularly in Italy, writers focused mostly on translating and studying classic Latin and Greek works. Many writers attempted to take the styles of ancient writers like Aristotle or Homer and apply them to their own works. Literature of the Renaissance focused largely on religion, classic antiquity, scholarship and politics. Sonnets also became a popular style of poetry. Some of the most famous Renaissance writers were William Shakespeare, Giovanni Boccaccio and Christopher Marlowe.
Science and Technology
The innovative technology of the Renaissance was sparked by Johann Gutenberg’s reinvention of the printing press in the 1450s. Some of the other significant inventions during the Renaissance period were the cast-iron pipe, portable clock, rifle barrel, shotgun, screwdriver and wrench. Italian physicist, astronomer and philosopher Galileo Galilei improved the telescope and made important astronomical observations. Nicolaus Copernicus also discovered that the sun seemed to be in the center of the universe. Christopher Columbus became the first explorer to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to North America.
Religion and Spirituality
During the Renaissance, Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Luther was distraught over the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church, and he set up the Ninety-Five Theses on the door of Castle Church Wittenberg in 1517. It was also during the Renaissance that Pope Paul III created the Council of Trent. New denominations such as the Church of England and the Jesuit Order of Roman Catholic Priests originated during the Renaissance.
For sport, jousting was popular during the Renaissance era. Jousting was a sport that consisted of two knights on horseback trying to knock the other off his horse. Theater was also popular during the Renaissance. Whereas earlier theater had often focused on morality plays, comedy became a popular genre during this time. One of the most well-known Renaissance-era poets and playwrights, William Shakespeare wrote several dozen plays and over 150 sonnets before his death in 1616.
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