Medieval Ages to Renaissance
Historic events especially in Europe have been categorized into four broad periods. These are; the ancient time, the medieval period, the renaissance period and modern times. Medieval period was the period in history between the 5th century and the 15th century. There are specific events that characterized this period in Europe. One of them is the dominance of the church that prevailed and controlled most aspects of life during this period. This period was seen as primitive and full of restraints for individual exerted on them by rulers who were mostly the Catholic clergy. The medieval period was immediately followed by the renaissance period. The transition from the medieval to the renaissance age was marked by so many changes. However, the most significant of these changes was the significant reduction on the influence of the church and rulers on subjects and the increased emphasis on individual freedom and humanism. The setting in of the renaissance period was seen as a period of rebirth and rediscovery as the concept of humanism arose.
Differences in the Medieval and Renaissance Period
The medieval period was a period marked by ignorance among the public and a lot of superstition and coercion. The only learned people were the clergy who were considered the source of authority in all spheres of life. The clergy controlled the spiritual, social and political aspects in the society and imposed their views on their subjects. They were regarded as the supreme authority and their action was not questioned by any civilian. At this time, the Catholic Church was the most dominant religious entity in Europe and therefore the pope became the highest symbol of authority. During this time the power bestowed on the papacy drastically grew and the clergies were able to dominate over all aspects of life including in the political realm. Political figures were forced to adhere to the decree of the popes or else be disbanded. This is clearly revealed in the struggle that transpired between Pope Gregory VII (1080) and King Henry IV. In his letter Second Banning and Dethronement of Henry IV, the pope accuses King Henry IV of going against the popes set values and of conspiring with stray bishops to bring the pope down. In Gregory VII own word.Henry whom they call king, son of Henry the emperor, did raise his heel against your church and strive, by casting me down, to subjugate it, having made a conspiracy with many ultramontane bishops. The pope was believed to be exercising the powers of God which are absolute and should not be questioned.
fathers and most holy princes, in such way that all the world may learn and know that, if ye can bind and loose in Heaven, so ye can on earth take away empires, kingdoms, principalities, duchies, margravates, counties and all possessions of men, and grant them to any man ye please according to his merits.
Henry IV (1076) in his letter to the Pope Gregory VII accuses the pope of undermining the bishops and the clergy and subjecting them to his thinking as if they were not aware of themselves. In this letter Henry accuses the pope of considering himself as the only being who know all things and of crashing other figures that try to go against his believes. Henry IV (1076) says in his letter, .not only hast thou not feared to lay hands upon the rulers of the holy church ¦..but thou hast trodden them under foot like slaves ignorant of what their master is doing. Henry went a head to defy the popes directives saying that he is only answerable to God. After this incident pope Gregory proceeded to ban and dethrone Henry IV as the king in Germany and Italy. According to the powers he had bestowed upon himself he ordered his followers not respect Henry IV and his throne.
Lack of individualism and self freedom to make decision is also portrayed during the announcement of the crusade war by Urban II (1095). Urban II is easily able to convince catholic faithful that it was the will of God for them to go to war with the nations Urban II termed as a cursed nation. The citizens at that time were also convinced that they could not have direct communication with God and must receive messages from the clergy and the pope. This is exposed in Urban II speech at Claremont where Urban easily convinces his audience that it was the will of God for them to go to war. â€œIt is the will of God! I It is the will of God Urban II request the audience to utter this words.
What the Catholic Church was exercising in the middle age is in line with Niccolo Machiavelli argument of founding of republics (1513). The catholic clergy seem to have shared the belief that in order to form a republic with desirable values you must be alone. Therefore, the Catholic Church trampled on institutions and individuals who presented views contrary to theirs in order to propagate the Catholic values, which according to them were the most suitable for the wellbeing of the society.
Aristocratic rule over peoples lives and high handedness by rulers was what characterized the middle ages. Individualism was viewed and human body were viewed as sins. God and Christianity were viewed as the core of knowledge and life and people were not allowed to think outside these lines. These medieval beliefs grasped all capability of humans to think and learn. The renaissance period began when members of the society began to search for individual freedom and more control of their beliefs and destiny. People began investigation of knowledge of nature. The first individual that is believed to have recorded and given rise to the concept of humanism is Patriarch (1336). In the letter The Ascent of Mount Ventoux he describes his individual experience during the few days he ascended the mountain. Ascending the mountain was aimed at achieving the highest human eminence. He equates the journey to the peak of the mountain to a person spiritual journey which is also characterized by difficulties and misleading paths created by others. He notes that the ways to a blessed life is straight and only an individual is responsible for determining his own path.
Another personality that attempted to propagate the humanistic principle was Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola (1476). He organized debates in major Italian and French university to criticize the theses at Rome. However, the supremacy of the church and the papacy is also demonstrated in this case where the Pico (1476) debates are stopped by the church and he is persecuted. He wrote various epistles to advance his concept of humanism. Pico believed in the value of individualism; that every person is a unique being with unique abilities. In one of his writing he has stated that.At last it seems to me I have come to understand why man is the most fortunate of creatures and consequently worthy of all admiration. Pico claim to have discovered that God gave man a unique gift known as free will. According to his interpretation of the scriptures, he explains that God who is the architect of man and all creation did left man to decide in their action and destiny. He further states this about the nature of man as intended by God, Thou shalt have the power to degenerate into the lower forms of life, which are brutish. Thou shalt have the power, out of thy soul’s judgment, to be reborn into the higher forms, which are divine.
Pico became a significant contributor to the renaissance with his emphasis on the capacity of human achievement. This capacity was being limited by archaic rules, being exercised by the clergy, which limited individuals abilities to think and express themselves. The renaissance period also saw many people become exposed to the field of knowledge which was hindered by the church rule in the medieval time. Humanistic philosopher, Pico, argues that man quest for knowledge was Gods own idea from the time of creation. He claims that before the creation of man, God had created every creature, from the angel to the insects filling the entire chain of nature. When God created man, the chain was full and therefore he gave man the ability to learn and emulate any being in the chain. With learning man is able to progress from the lowest chain until when he ascend to the highest point of the chain, which according to Pico, compose of the angels.
After enduring massive resistance from the traditional forces, renaissance finally came to being when the sense of humanism and individualism was achieved in the society. The period after the 1500 AD was characterized by a lot of individual freedom to pursue knowledge, ideals and beliefs that that appear right.
Medieval King Henry IV, Letter to Pope Gregory VII, 1076, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/henry4-to-g7a.html
Niccolo Machiavelli, â€œFounding a Republic, 1513, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/machiavelli-disc1-9.html
Pico Della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, 1486, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/med/oration.html
Pope Gregory VII, Dictatus Papae ( The Dictates of the Pope), 1090, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-dictpap.html
Pope Gregory VII, Second Banning and Dethronement of Henry VI, 1080, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/g7-ban2.html
Pope Urban II, Speech at Clermont, 1095, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/urban2a.html
Renaissance Petrarch, The Ascent of Mont Ventoux, 1336, retrieved on February 25, 2011, from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/petrarch-ventoux.html
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