In the early 1400s, Europe began to emerge from the Middle Ages and enter the period we now call the Renaissance. This time period was marked by a renewed interest in classical learning, art, architecture, and science.

The Renaissance was a time of great creativity and progress, and it left an indelible impact on the world.

The goal of this article is to summarize the Renaissance. We start with a quick 15-Point summary of the Renaissance. This will be followed by an expanded look at each point, for those of you who are interested in learning more.

A Quick Summary Of The Renaissance

  1. Europe, during the Renaissance, had a spirit of inquiry and questioning
  2. The governing philosophy of the Renaissance was Humanism
  3. The Renaissance saw a rejection of Religious Dogma
  4. Internal reform movements within the Church eventually led to the Protestant Reformation
  5. The Renaissance saw a Revival of Classical Antiquity & Learning
  6. Art, Architecture, Music, and Literature flourished during the Renaissance
  7. Patronage of the Arts by the Church and Rulers made amazing works of art possible
  8. The Invention of the Printing Press revolutionized how ideas spread during the Renaissance
  9. The demand for new products and goods started a trade and commerce revolution
  10. The Age of Exploration saw European explorers reach distant lands
  11. The Renaissance saw the start of the Exportation of Religion beyond Europe’s shores
  12. The Renaissance was a time of Scientific Discoveries based on which centuries later, the Scientific Revolution would thrive
  13. Medicine and Understanding of the Human Body expanded during the Renaissance
  14. Our understanding of Astronomy & Our Place in the Universe changed forever
  15. The Renaissance altered European Politics & The idea of the modern Nation-State was born

A Detailed Summary Of The Renaissance

For those of you who’d like to know a bit more about each of these points, here’s a more detailed version of the summary of the Renaissance.

#1. Europe during the Renaissance had a spirit of inquiry and questioning

The Renaissance saw a renewed focus on questioning the world around us and discovering how it worked. This spirit of inquiry led to advances in science, mathematics, medicine, and engineering.

This spirit would continue beyond the Renaissance and become one of the drivers of both the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution. This spirit of inquiry and questioning is seen to this day in modern Universities and research laboratories throughout the world.

#2. The governing philosophy of the Renaissance was Humanism

Humanism was based on the notion that humans are capable of great achievements and should strive to use their talents and creativity to the fullest. This philosophy was embraced by many during this period, and it eventually led to the Age of Enlightenment.

Renaissance Humanism was the revival of the study of Classical Antiquity. Renaissance humanists believed that the great works of Ancient Greece and Rome held the keys to understanding how to live life to its fullest and make the most of one’s talents. This was a fundamental difference in how Renaissance humanists thought compared to medieval thinkers.

Eventually, such thinking would foster individualism, personal independence, and freedom of thought, and in doing so pave the road toward Secularism.

#3. The Renaissance saw a rejection of Religious Dogma

The Renaissance was marked by a rejection of religious dogma and blind faith, seeing both of these as obstacles to progress.

People did not want to rely on religious authorities or the church for all answers but instead sought a more scientific and empirical approach to understanding the world around them. This dissent would mark the beginnings of the reformist movements within the church.

#4. Reform movements within the Church & the Protestant Reformation

The Renaissance had a profound impact on the Catholic Church. Reformist movements which were simmering below the surface finally broke out into the open and led to the Protestant Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation rejected many of the practices of the Catholic Church, such as indulgences and the selling of religious offices. It also rejected the notion that only priests could interpret scripture, leading to the idea of an individual’s personal relationship with God.

This eventually led to the rise of Protestantism and other forms of Christianity such as Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Anglicanism.

#5. A Revival of Classical Antiquity & Learning

The Renaissance influenced education in many ways. It saw a rediscovery of classical learning and thought. This led to a new appreciation for the works of ancient authors, such as Plato, Aristotle, and others.

Greek started to be taught in schools alongside Latin. This allowed people to read and appreciate works of literature such as the Odyssey and the Iliad in their original language. This revived interest in classical antiquity would eventually lead to a new appreciation for art and literature from this era.

#6. Art, Architecture, Music, and Literature flourished

The Renaissance is known for its incredible works of art and architecture, its talented composers, and its masterful writers. Many of the greatest works of art and literature were produced during this period.

Examples include the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Donatello, and countless others. These masters changed art forever by developing new concepts like perspective, the use of light, realism, and using oil for paintings.

Literature too underwent dramatic change during the Renaissance. The spirit of inquiry, humanism, the rediscovery of classical works, and the invention of the printing press all had a positive impact on literature.

#7. Patronage of the Arts by the Church and Rulers

The Church and rulers during the Renaissance provided generous patronage to artists, allowing them to produce some of the greatest works of art the world has ever seen.

The Church funded the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Sistine Chapel, as well as a great number of other works of art. Meanwhile, rulers like Lorenzo de Medici in Florence and Isabella of Castile in Spain funded the works of artists like Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

#8. The Printing Revolution

One of the defining inventions of the Renaissance was the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1440s. This invention allowed for books and other materials to be quickly and easily reproduced, allowing ideas to spread much faster than before.

After starting in Florence, the Renaissance spread across Europe and one of the vehicles of this spread was the printing press. By the year 1500, the movable-type printing press, like the one pioneered by Gutenberg, was available everywhere in Europe and more than 20 million volumes of books were in circulation across the continent.

#9. The start of a Trade and Commercial Revolution

The Renaissance also saw an increased demand for new products and goods. People got interested in trading and commerce, which led to the development of new markets for goods such as spices, textiles, and other luxury items.

Spurred by this increased demand, the Renaissance saw growth in mercantilism and capitalism, positively impacting merchants by making them both wealthy and powerful. Some, like the Medici, would even end up ruling city-states.

Furthermore, the creation of modern financial instruments and rapid advances in maritime technology led to a trade and commercial revolution.

#10. The Launch of the Age of Exploration

The Renaissance was the launch pad of the Age of Exploration. The spirit of inquiry we discussed earlier was now firmly established. Plus people were hungry for new products. Technological advances in shipbuilding, cartography, and navigation made long-distance sea travel became possible.

All these changes led people like Christopher Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, and others to explore unknown parts of the world. They eventually reached the Americas, India and China.

#11. The Exportation of Religion beyond Europe’s shores

One of the ways the Renaissance impacted the Catholic Church was through the Christianity of religion to distant lands. Countries like Spain and Portugal sent missionaries to the Americas and Asia, spreading their religion and culture.

The Church also established religious orders in distant lands, including the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). These missionaries and religious orders helped further spread Catholicism.

#12. The Renaissance, Scientific Discoveries, and the Scientific Revolution

The Renaissance was a time of great scientific and technological advancement, paving the way for the Scientific Revolution. This period saw numerous discoveries in fields like astronomy, physics, mathematics, anatomy and biology.

This led to the development of new theories and methods, such as those proposed by Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton. Art followed scientific principles with artists using linear perspective and geometrical shapes to create more realistic works.

The Scientific Method was invented and scientific experimentation was encouraged to further society’s understanding of the natural world. It’s through such changes that the Renaissance laid the foundation of the Scientific Revolution.

#13. Medicine and Understanding of the Human Body

The Renaissance made strides in the understanding of human anatomy. Even though autopsies were banned, the (relatively) liberal attitude of the Renaissance saw people like Leonardo da Vinci dissecting human cadavers and studying them.

These studies helped him to produce detailed drawings of the human body, furthering our understanding of anatomy. French surgeon Ambroise Pare used silk threads to stitch veins and arteries. William Harvey studied the circulatory system and would become the main doctor to the King James I of England.

#14. Astronomy & Our Place in the Universe

Until the Middle Ages, the Ptolemaic view of the universe was accepted. This system placed Earth at its center, with the planets and stars orbiting around it. This concept fit in perfectly well with the Church’s teachings and was thus accepted as the truth.

However, during the Renaissance, Copernicus proposed a heliocentric system, with the Sun in the center and the planets orbiting it. Galileo helped corroborate this view by using a telescope to observe the night sky, finding several moons orbiting Jupiter and other planets.

This fundamentally changed our understanding of the universe and formed the basis for modern astronomy.

#15. The Renaissance, European Politics & the Modern Nation-State

With the rise of Secularism and the spread of knowledge through printing in vernaculars, the idea of a nation-state bound by a common language and a common culture began to take shape.

The Renaissance saw the rise of strong monarchies, such as that of Spain and France. These monarchs would often use a c

ombination of religious, cultural, and political forces to form a unified nation. These would be the precursor to the nations we see in modern Europe.

The Wrap Up

So there you have it – A Summary of the Renaissance – a remarkable period in history that not only changed the face of Europe but also had an immense impact on the rest world. From art and science to medicine, politics, and theology – the Renaissance changed the world forever and laid the foundation for modern society.