The term “Renaissance” means rebirth, in a narrow sense it is used to describe the revival of interest in the classical civilizations of Greece & Rome. Renaissance was marked by a series of new developments in the field of art, literature, religion, philosophy, science & politics. The period served as a bridge between medieval & modern western Europe.
Renaissance began with the rediscovery of Greco-Roman civilization which had been neglected during the middle ages. It emphasized reason, a questioning attitude, experimentation & free inquiry. This is contrasted with medieval concern with faith, authority & tradition. It glorified the individual & approved worldly pleasures, viewing life as worthwhile for its own sake, not chiefly as a preparation for the after-life. The era focused attention upon secular society rather than the medieval preoccupation with the church & religious affairs. In the 15th century, Renaissance ideas began to spread from Italy to France, the German states, Holland & England.
The chief characteristic of the Renaissance way of thinking was humanism. Humanism is a system of thought holding man to the ethical, giving dignity to man. Humanism controlled man stressed his essential worth & dignity expressed invincible faith in his tremendous creative potential & proclaimed freedom of the individual & his inalienable rights. It was centered on a nation of man that did not reject earthly joys, recognized the beauty & dignity of the human body, opposed religious asceticism & defended man’s right to pleasure & satisfaction of earthly desires & requirements.
The humanists urged man to seek joy on this earth rather than an after-life. Their works were permeated with the faith that a man with an active mind & body was capable of knowing & controlling the world, & fashioning his own happiness. These ideas increasingly narrowed the domain of the divine & extended the domain of man.
The great transformation of thought that had taken place from religious ‘other-worldliness’ to humanistic this-worldliness. The humanist is more interested in the material world around, in the content of the physical universe than in Gods, Angels & Demons. Whereas the medieval men of religion were more interested in Gods, Angels & Demons. The humanist is concerned to make the most of his brief life, whereas the medieval men regarded life as a painful preparation for a happier life which, they thought, would come after death. This transformation which the Renaissance inaugurated may be termed as marking the passage from religion to secularism. The new intellectual & cultural climate which the Renaissance created influenced even the church hierarchy, particularly its upper levels, who were wealthy.
Art & architecture during Renaissance was influenced by classical Greece & Rome. Renaissance painting emphasized realism, attention to detail & a desire for perfection Leonardo Da Vinci was one among the popular artists of the Renaissance period. There were many other popular writers & artists who made their names in the history during the Renaissance.