It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Renaissance. It was a time in history that was marked by great advances in the arts, sciences, literature, medicine and philosophy, leaving in its wake profound changes to religion, politics, trade, commerce, and globalization.

The effects of the Renaissance were far-reaching and continue to be felt today. And they were not restricted to Europe. The Age of Exploration was a consequence of the Renaissance and it touched almost every part of the world.

So, let’s explore 13 of the most significant effects of the Renaissance!

Understanding The Most Significant Effects of the Renaissance

The Renaissance was a time of tremendous intellectual and artistic growth in Europe. It marked the beginning of the modern era and ushered in a new way of thinking that would change the course of history.

Here are 13 of the most significant effects of the Renaissance that made this change possible:

  1. Effects of the Renaissance on Art
  2. Effects of the Renaissance on the Religion
  3. Effects of the Renaissance on Literature
  4. Effects of the Renaissance on Culture
  5. Effects of the Renaissance on Music
  6. Effects of the Renaissance on Science
  7. Effects of the Renaissance on Education
  8. Effects of the Renaissance on Medicine
  9. Effects of the Renaissance on Intellectuals
  10. Effects of the Renaissance on Finance
  11. Effects of the Renaissance on Politics
  12. Effects of the Renaissance on Trade & Commerce
  13. Effects of the Renaissance on the World

Let’s now analyze each of these effects of the Renaissance, one by one.

#1. Effects of the Renaissance on Art

The Renaissance’s impact on art is by far the legacy that it is most known for. Some of the world’s most famous works of art, such as the Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo, and the statue of David by Donatello are all products of the Renaissance.

Effects of the Renaissance - Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel ceiling
(Image Source)

It was also during the Renaissance that artists focused on realism and perspective, creating deeper and more realistic effects in their paintings and sculptures. Renaissance artists went as far as to study anatomy so that they could better understand the human body to create more accurate and realistic representations.

It was also during the Renaissance that Dutch and Flemish painters like Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden became some of the first artists to use oil paints to create effects of light and shadows in their work.

The late Renaissance also saw the introduction of Mannerism – a deviation from Realism where artists created elongated figures by exaggerating proportions to create a dramatic effect.

Renaissance artists also didn’t feel restricted to drawing religious art or sticking to religious themes. Secularism was taking hold and artists began to focus on everyday life, depicting scenes of common activities that were more relatable. This is one of the reasons why we say that the Renaissance was both religious and secular at the same time.

#2. Effects of the Renaissance on the Religion

The philosophy that had the greatest impact on religion during the Renaissance was Humanism. Humanism believes in human potential and the ability of humans to make their own destinies. This new way of thinking was in direct contrast with the Medieval worldview which saw humans as mere instruments of God’s will.

Humanism was one of the core values of the Renaissance and Renaissance Humanism was the Renaissance’s underlying philosophy.

Renaissance Humanity wanted to turn back the clock to an era before the Renaissance – the bygone “Golden Age” of Classical Antiquity. Renaissance Humanists wanted to change religion by rejecting dogma and blind faith and instead relying on reason and logic to understand the world. This is one of the fundamental ways how Renaissance Humanists differed from Medieval thinkers.

Eventually, Renaissance Humanism would promote secularism and lead to democracy – something that we take for granted in much of the modern world.

The Renaissance’s impact on the Catholic Church was twofold. First, the Renaissance led to reformist movements within the Church. Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin sought to empower individuals by espousing the idea of salvation through faith alone and not through works and rituals. That’s how the Renaissance led to the Protestant Reformation which would be instrumental in creating a permanent schism in Christianity.

Secondly, on the coattails of the Age of Exploration, the Church was presented with geopolitical opportunities as they were able to spread its message to new territories. This is how Catholicism and other branches of Christianity eventually spread to the Americas and the rest of the world.

#3. Effects of the Renaissance on Literature

The Renaissance affected literature in more ways than one. The spirit of questioning and inquiry that characterized the Renaissance led to a new type of literature – humanistic literature. Humanistic literature focused on the potential of humanity and was often imbued with secular and moralistic themes.

The Renaissance also saw a revival of classical literature – works by authors like Homer, Virgil, Ovid, and Plato were rediscovered or newly translated. These rediscovered texts would go on to become the foundation of Western literature in Europe, inspiring new authors.

The Renaissance also saw the birth of modern European languages like Spanish, French and English. Literature was no longer confined to Latin or Classical Greek, and the use of vernacular became common. This sparked a new wave of creativity that was no longer confined by language constraints.

Renaissance writers wrote about romance and chivalry and composed poetry. They covered various genres including tragedy, satire, allegory and comedy. And, of course, religious works were still popular during the Renaissance.

Ideas spread during the Renaissance in many more ways than ever before. But the invention of the Printing press impacted the Renaissance by truly revolutionizing the dissemination of literature. Now ideas can travel faster and further than ever before, and it was during the Renaissance that the mass printing of books and pamphlets began.

In fact, within 50-odd years of the invention of the movable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, there were more than 20 million books in circulation in Europe.

#4. Effects of the Renaissance on Culture

Culture can be defined as a combination of social values, beliefs, practices, norms, language, and art belonging to a group of people. The Renaissance was culturally important because of its effects on art, education, science, philosophy, etc.

These changes in culture took Renaissance Europe to the bygone era of Greek antiquity where creativity and knowledge were highly valued. This resulted in the emergence of new forms of music, literature, art and architecture – all of which were heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance.

#5. Effects of the Renaissance on Music

Another key accomplishment of the Renaissance was in the field of Music. Prior to the Renaissance, music was often in the form of human voices singing in harmony in religious settings and in choirs.

Instrumental music became much more prominent during the Renaissance, and new instruments were developed. Instruments that became popular include flutes, bass, woodwinds and others. Musicians such as Josquin des Prez and Christopher Tye composed polyphonic (multi-voiced) music for instruments, known for its complexity and beauty.

The effects of the Renaissance on music can also be seen in the compositions of famous composers such as Palestrina, Bach and Handel. The Renaissance style of music is characterized by its melodic lines, grandeur, and its focus on polyphony.

#6. Effects of the Renaissance on Science

The effects of the Renaissance on Science were vast and varied. Polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci blurred the lines between being artists and being scientists. Leonardo dissected cadavers as much to understand human anatomy for medical reasons as to improve the quality of his paintings.

The Renaissance, through its rejection of blind faith and its support for inquiry and questioning, gave rise to the scientific method that we use to this day.

Literacy rates went up. Access to books and ideas, thanks to the printing revolution, went through the roof.

In the field of Astronomy, scientists like Copernicus and Galileo proposed the heliocentric model of the universe with the Sun in the center and the planets revolving around it.

New Universities were founded in cities like Florence, Pisa, Turin, Dublin, Budapest, Edinburgh, Avignon and more. Some of the Renaissance’s greatest scientists graduated from these Universities – Galileo attended the University of Pisa, where he was inspired to conduct scientific experiments. William Harvey, who went on to become ‘Physician Extraordinary’ to King James I of England, graduated from the University of Padua.

It is through such advances in science that the Renaissance contributed to the Scientific Revolution centuries later.

#7. Effects of the Renaissance on Education

The impact of the Renaissance on education can be seen from multiple angles. First of all, the Renaissance revived classical learning. And so Greek was taught alongside Latin so that students could study the works of scholars such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates in the original.

The effects of the Renaissance on education can also be seen in the way students were taught, that is the science of pedagogy itself underwent a change. Critical analysis and interpretation of classical works were encouraged. Trade schools were developed and apprenticeships became popular.

And as we saw in the previous section, many new Universities were established, greatly opening the option of education to more people. And the printing press made it possible to disseminate knowledge faster, giving students access to more information.

And so, a more educated populace was one of the profound effects of the Renaissance on society as a whole.

#8. Effects of the Renaissance on Medicine

One of the many changes that the Renaissance brought about was in our understanding of medicines. During the Middle Ages, the most advanced medical technique was bloodletting which more often killed the patient than saved him.

Ironically, the progress made in understanding the human body, diseases and medicines, was one of the ways in which the tragedy of the Black Death led to the Renaissance. After the Black Death people realized that this was not an act of an angry God and that scientific inquiry was needed to understand the cause of the plague and how to treat infections.

During, the Renaissance people like Ambroise Pare and William Harvey made great strides in the field of medicine. Pare performed surgery on torn veins and arteries using silk threads. Harvey studied the blood circulation system and wrote in detail about how the heart pumps blood to the brain and the rest of the body.

#9. Effects of the Renaissance on Intellectuals

The effects of the Renaissance on Intellectuals and Intellectualism, in general, was that they were able to explore new ideas like never before. They had access to knowledge from different sources.

The Renaissance provided Intellectuals with a platform to challenge beliefs and authority and reject blind faith. They could be more creative with their thinking and experiment with new forms of knowledge and concepts.

The Renaissance was an excellent bridge or transition for Intellectualism from the narrow-mindedness of the Middle Ages to the full intellectual freedom of the Enlightenment. Without the freedom of thought that intellectuals enjoyed during the Renaissance, the Enlightenment may never have happened.

#10. Effects of the Renaissance on Finance

One of the interesting side effects of the Renaissance was that some of the elements of modern Finance were born. Take Accounting. The double-entry bookkeeping system, which is the basis of modern accounting, was invented by an Italian Merchant named Luca Pacioli in 1494.

It was a new way of recording profits, losses and debts that made it easier to understand a company’s financial health. This system made doing business more efficient and reliable. It made it easier to attract investors and calculate returns on investment.

The Renaissance was also the time when Joint Stock Companies were born. This meant companies could be owned by a group of investors and funded with money from those investors. This allowed businesses to grow larger while limiting the risk of a single investor. Shareholders were also protected from personal finance losses by the limited liability that these new legal entities offered.

It’s no surprise that some of the most powerful families during the Renaissance came from financial backgrounds. Take the Medicis for example. They started as merchants and bankers, setting up the Medici bank, and ended up as rulers of Florence and produced 2 queens of France and 4 Popes.

The progress in finance, banking, and accounting is one of the main effects of the Renaissance and why this period is still important to us today.

#11. Effects of the Renaissance on Politics

The effects of the Renaissance on politics can be measured in three ways. First, power shifted from the Church to the monarchy and aristocracy. This was a result of the weakening of the Church’s influence as people embraced new ideas, philosophies and freedom of thought.

Second, the notion of a nation-state was born. The concept of a unified country based around a modern language with its own laws, systems and culture was forged during the Renaissance period. Powerful nations like France, England, Spain and Portugal emerged from the chaotic kingdom-building of the Middle Ages.

Third, some kingdoms, most notably the city-states of Italy, saw a non-hereditary shift of power from the nobility to wealthy merchants. This new merchant class had become powerful enough through their wealth and influence to challenge the political structure. This unique political structure is one of the reasons why the Renaissance flourished in Northern Italy.

These changes to politics would create a cultural identity for each nation and set the stage for the creation of modern nations, changing Europe forever.

#12. Effects of the Renaissance on Trade & Commerce

The Renaissance’s impact on Merchants was that a tremendous amount of wealth and power was concentrated in their hands. One of the reasons that the Renaissance started in Florence was because it had the support of the powerful merchant and banking family – the Medicis.

The Renaissance also saw a demand for new products which created incentives for rulers, explorers and navigators to find new trade routes not just to sell their products but to bring back exotic products from distant lands.

The Crusades had already impacted the Renaissance by opening trade routes to the Levant. But rapid advances in maritime technology and navigation during the Renaissance period gave rise to the opening of new trade routes throughout the world eventually leading to a trade and commercial revolution.

#13. Effects of the Renaissance on the World

Even though the Renaissance itself was a European movement, its effects were felt around the world. One of the most famous impacts of the Renaissance was the spread of Christianity and Western culture across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

The effects of the Renaissance on exploration were also immense. The reason the Age of Exploration began, first and foremost, was to find new trade routes and to reach “the Indies” and the New World, and it led to some of the most famous (and infamous) explorers in history like Christopher Columbus, Magellan and Vasco da Gama.

The Renaissance also changed man’s view of the world. Europeans realized that there was a whole world out there with different cultures, new philosophies and discoveries to be made. The effects of the Renaissance on European thought are profound, as it sparked a new way of thinking about the world and their place in it.

In time, monarchs too started to encourage exploration when they realized the benefits to be had. Expanding their empires, their wealth and their influence at home were some of the reasons behind this impetus. Unfortunately, this also led to the commercial exploitation of local populations, colonization and slavery.

The impact of European exploration around the world has not always been good. This is why it is important to realize that the Renaissance was both good and bad and not just a time of leaps and bounds in art, literature and knowledge. It was also a period of great turmoil for many people across the world.

For all these reasons, the Renaissance’s contribution to the Age of Exploration cannot be underestimated and why the Renaissance is often considered a turning point in history.

The Bottom Line

What you can tell from this long article, is that the effects of the Renaissance were far-reaching and have had a lasting impact on the world.

From advances in art, literature and science, changes to politics and religion, to the creation of modern nations, and globalization starting with the Age of Exploration, the effects of this period in history are still being felt today and will continue to shape our future for centuries to come.