During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Italian writers Dante and Petrarch, as well as the artist Giotto, created works that celebrated the inherent dignity and beauty of humankind. Their work, coupled with a revival of Italian Classicism, set the stage for the cultural rebirth known as the Renaissance. In the 14th century, sculptors and artists Donatello, Michelangelo, and da Vinci gave life to Humanism, an outlook that treated rhetoric and the Classics as a celebration of human self-respect and preparation for a life of virtue. The optimism of the Renaissance was blemished, however, by the devastation of the Black Death (bubonic and pneumonic plague). Between 1347 and 1352, the plague killed 25 million Europeans.

The Renaissance also fostered the Age of Exploration that began in the 1490s, with the expansion of Spain’s and Portugal’s colonial empires. The period featured England’s oddly-named Hundred Years War with France, which lasted from 1337 to 1453 but saw only 44 years of actual fighting. Although the English won early battles, they were eventually expelled from France. Squabbles within the Roman Catholic Church escalated into The Great Schism, during which multiple popes vied for ecclesiastical power from 1378 to 1417. The election of an Italian Cardinal during the Council of Constance ended the schism, but papal authority was permanently weakened.

THE RENAISSANCE 1350-1550 Photo Gallery

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