Maharashtra State BoardHSC Arts 12th Board Exam
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Renaissance Period in Europe

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Renaissance Period in Europe:

The European renaissance began in the 14th century C.E. and reached its zenith in the 15th-16th century C.E. These three centuries proved to be the foundational stage of a culture based on rationalism and science. This period gave a new direction to human intellect, genius, and way of life. People got more interested in unfolding the mysteries of the universe by adopting the scientific approach. Many people began to write poetry, drama, and fiction, a field that had remained untouched so far. Novel experiments were conducted in the field of science. In the pre-renaissance times, the thought about the existence of the universe revolved around the concept of ‘God’. Now, humans formed the center of this thought. This way of thinking is called ‘Humanism’.

The European rulers of the renaissance period encouraged adventurous seafarers to explore distant lands. They brought back information about the plants, fruits, flowers, trees, unknown species of animals, weaponry, etc. from the distant lands they visited. In 1543 C.E. Nicolas Copernicus told the world that the center of our planetary system is the ‘Sun’ and not the ‘Earth’. In 1609 Galileo prepared a more sophisticated telescope, which enabled further research in the field of astronomy. The theories propounded by Copernicus and Kepler could be supported by the empirical observations made possible by Galileo’s telescope. This facilitated research in the field of physical sciences.

The inventions of gunpowder and printing brought about fundamental changes in the techniques of warfare and the dissemination of knowledge. The first printing press in Germany was started in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg. The first printing press in Italy started in 1451.  A number of modern universities came into existence in Europe in the 18th century. The syllabi in these universities included subjects like the Epics - ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ written by Homer, Greek drama, speeches of great orators, literature, painting, sculpture, ethics, political science, and history, etc. As a result of this people began to think freely.

Roman Church:

In the pre-renaissance period the ‘Roman Church’ not only controlled the religious life of people but also controlled the individual life of people. It exploited common people by issuing mandates for payments of fees. It also put restrictions on free-thinking and its circulation. Anyone who dared to interpret the Bible differently from the conventional interpretation propagated by the Catholic Church was sentenced to death. The humanist philosophy of the renaissance was instrumental in making a ground for resistance against the overpowering Catholic Church.

Renaissance Humanists did not reject Christianity; quite to the contrary, many of the Renaissance’s greatest works were devoted to it, and the church patronized many works of Renaissance art. The new ideals of Humanism, although more secular in some aspects, developed against a Christian backdrop, especially in the Northern Renaissance. In turn, the Renaissance had a profound effect on contemporary theology, particularly in the way people perceived the relationship between man and God.

Modern Science:

Scientists began their search for reality by strictly using the scientific method, which emphasizes the empirical experience. This very approach led to the onset of the modern age of science. Learning mathematics, science and arts gained importance during the renaissance, for example, the works of Leonardo da Vinci.


During the renaissance, the scientific approach influenced the field of arts as well. In this period alchemy began to separate from its mystical roots and later transformed into the scientific discipline of ‘Chemistry’. The advancement of chemistry expanded the knowledge of the sources of metals and elements. A significant change was introduced in the field of paintings. Oil paints and boards painted by using oil paints were made. The scientific method of observation of nature made it possible to paint the natural scenes with minute details. With the same method, detailed diagrams of the human body and its internal organs could be drawn. The work of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo is quite significant in this regard.

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