The Renaissance seems to be the start of the modern era in the Western world. Before the resurgence of art and literature from the ancient civilizations, the Catholic Church moderated Europe’s society. While the Catholic Church did a great many of things, it did not inspire the exploration of the individual or the idea of aspiring to living in a more elevated state then the current status quo. It was the studying of ancient text and documents from the past that led to a change away from the church; an exploration of the value of a person that was called Humanism.
The Medici Family in Florence was probably not the first but the most successful at using the old to influence the new. After helping Pope John XXIII rise to power, the Medici family became the bankers of the Church, spreading throughout Europe. As their financial grew, they expanded their political power through patronage and the elevation of the arts. The Florence Cathedral was the first of this demonstration of power and at the same time, an example of using the past to help build the future. The Cathedral had been left incomplete for years and no one had been able to finish the structure due to its size. Filippo Brunelleschi solved the issue of the dome by drawing upon Greece architecture and mathematics to resolve the issue. This and many other forms of art expanded throughout Europe thanks to the Medici family.
The Catholic Church was also affected by this modernization of building and art and many Popes strove to beautify the works of Rome with this new artform. From Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel to new sculptures like Pieta, Rome was transforms to a more vibrant and modern city. However, this spurred on the fall from power of the church, as it angered many other religious individuals at this time.
With the innovations that came with the Renaissance, one of the more important ones was the printing press. This help spread and share the knowledge of the old world as well at the new ideas of the times. However, a darker side to this was the Reformation, where dissenters to the teaching and policies of the Catholic Church spread their ideas throughout Europe. Many used this as an political opportunity to undermine the power of the Church (like the King Henry the VIII) and establish their own church.
My opinion on the Renaissance and the revolution in art and architecture was that it was amazing. The world before it had little care about the average man and while it still failed to truly elevate the layperson, they became almost central to the art of the time. Even artwork of religious figures like Mary and Jesus became less supernatural and more human, distinguished only from their surroundings as unique or special by perhaps a halo, if even that. At the same time, the abuses of this expanded knowledge and art is a bit disgusting. King Henry’s break from the church was not founded on loss of faith in the Catholic Church but rather, to divorce his spouse and not lose any political power. Conversely, the fact that the Catholic Church was so embedded in political matters seems repulsive while the most disturbing of these actions are how they manipulate the faith and emotions of the common man to obtain their own person goals; goals that are all hypocritically against the very nature and idealism of the Humanism movement they exploit.