The Renaissance is one of the most important periods in human history. It was a time when new ideas and innovations flourished, and people began to see the world in a different way.

It was a time of great cultural change in Europe. From the 14th century to the 17th century, this period was marked by a revival of interest in classical art, literature, and philosophy.print

But why was the Renaissance important culturally?

We’ll tackle this question by understanding what ‘Culture’ means in the context of the Renaissance and seeing why the Renaissance was important from a cultural standpoint.

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What is Culture?

Before we can understand why the Renaissance was important from a cultural standpoint, we must first define the term ‘Culture’. Only after we are clear about what Culture means can we review each aspect of the Renaissance to see how it affected Culture.

Culture is a term that includes social values, beliefs, practices, norms, language, and art that belong to a group of people. So, culture is the essence of a people, their philosophy toward living, their art, religion, literature, music, language, and education.

Why Was The Renaissance Important Culturally?

It is never easy to analyze the impact of anything on culture. Culture is such an amorphous concept and means different things to different people. So, to best understand the cultural importance of the Renaissance we will review the following aspects which are common to most cultures:

  1. Philosophy
  2. Art
  3. Religion
  4. Literature
  5. Music
  6. Language
  7. Education

Let’s now analyze how the Renaissance impacted each of these aspects of culture. That should help us determine why the Renaissance was culturally important.

#1. Philosophy

Most of all, the Renaissance was a fundamental philosophical change from the Middle Ages. The underlying philosophy of the Renaissance was Humanism. This was the belief that humans are the center of their own universe and that they each have value and importance.

Renaissance Humanism saw the revival of classical antiquity and therefore of classical art, literature, and philosophy. This revival had a significant impact on Renaissance culture and was one of the most important ways that the Renaissance changed Europe. It instilled a spirit of inquiry and questioning in people’s mindsets which were in stark contrast to the unquestioning piety of the Middle Ages.

This spirit of questioning continued to blossom throughout the Renaissance and led first to the Age of Exploration, then to the Age of Enlightenment, and eventually to the Scientific Revolution.

As you can see the Renaissance set the stage and paved the path for our modern world. This is why the Renaissance is often considered a turning point in history.

#2. Art

Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the Renaissance was in art. The Renaissance saw an explosion of artistic expression with classical influences from antiquity, but also a focus on individualism and emotion.

The Renaissance marked the beginning of an artistic revolution that would go on for centuries. Artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael created iconic paintings and sculptures which we still admire today. Just think of the Mona Lisa, the statue of David and the Sistine chapel.

Why was the Renaissance important culturally
The School of Athens – Raphael (Image Source)

Realism was also a big theme of Renaissance art that focused on depicting the world as realistically and accurately as possible. So, it’s no wonder that Renaissance artists studied human anatomy by dissecting cadavers.

Renaissance art had a huge influence on culture due to its unique style which focused on perspective, realism, and the use of light. This artistic revolution changed the way people saw art and beauty and also influenced how they thought about themselves and the world around them.

#3. Religion

Religion was (and still is) an important part of cultures in most parts of the world. Renaissance Europe was no different. But the Renaissance was a shift away from religious dogma and superstition, and instead a move towards an emphasis on logic, reason, and science.

Renaissance humanists wanted to change religion by emphasizing the importance of a personal relationship with God instead of relying on religious tradition and superstition. Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin preached that individuals could talk directly to God, and in doing so, created a more intimate relationship with Him.

This shift away from rigid religious structures and towards the individual exploration of faith had a huge impact on culture, eventually leading to the Protestant Reformation.

#4. Literature

Literature is always an integral part of a culture and any change to literature is a change to culture. The Renaissance affected literature in numerous ways.

Renaissance Humanism, as we saw earlier, brought back Classical literature, resulting in a revival of interest in ancient Greek and Roman authors. Writers also began to write about secular subjects, instead of focusing solely on religious topics.

In addition, the Renaissance also marked a shift from Medieval literature and saw an emergence of genres like satire, comedy, and tragedy which are still popular today.

The Printing Revolution further encouraged the dissemination of literature, making it more accessible to a wider range of people. As we’ll see later in the document, literacy rates shot up during the renaissance, making literature accessible to more people.

The use of vernaculars in writing reduced the reliance of knowing Latin in order to enjoy literature. Authors like Shakespeare and Cervantes wrote using the vernacular, making their works more widely read.

#5. Music

No culture is complete without music and the changes that took place to music during the Renaissance do not always get the recognition they deserve. During Medieval times the focus on music was on human voices and choirs singing in harmony.

But during the Renaissance, composers began to focus on instruments and as a result, instrumental music became more popular. Instruments like bass, flutes, woodwinds, lyres, strings and brass instruments became more popular as musicians explored different sounds with them.

The use of harmony in music was also improved and composers began to experiment with new techniques like dissonance and cadences. All of this changed the way people heard music and made it easier to express emotions through music.

The invention of the printing press also had a large impact on music. Music didn’t need to be hand copied anymore. Compositions could be printed and shared widely. Musicians who spoke different languages could still play together as they could read off of the same sheet music.

This newfound freedom allowed musicians to explore new sounds and create exciting compositions. Music theory also developed during this period, and Renaissance music still serves as the foundation for modern classical music.

#6. Language

When it came to languages in the Renaissance, two changes are most important from a cultural standpoint.

First, the introduction of Classical learning meant that Greek was introduced as a language of study in addition to Latin. This allowed educated people to read and interpret the original texts of Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Horace and others.

The second change came through the use of vernaculars. Writing in languages like English, French, Spanish and Italian – the tongues spoken by the population – was a revolutionary change, allowing people to read and understand literature written in their native language.

The same went with the Bible. An important cultural shift took place when the Bible was translated from Latin and Greek into vernaculars. This allowed people to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, thus giving them more control over the interpretation of scripture and not having to rely on priests.

#7. Education

As we’ve already seen now, the Renaissance had a significant impact on education. With Greek being reintroduced alongside Latin, a more liberal approach to education was adopted. This encouraged the development of humanistic studies in universities across Europe.

Classical texts of antiquity were translated into modern languages, which further enabled more people to access and learn from them.

The Renaissance was also the time when Universities cropped up all over Europe in places like Florence, Padua, Edinburgh, Avignon, Pisa, Budapest, etc. Access to a university education had a tremendous effect on education during the Renaissance with some of the period’s top minds graduating from these universities.

Examples include Galileo from the University of Pisa, William Harvey from the University of Padua, Nicolaus Copernicus from the University of Bologna, and Nostradamus from the Universities of Avignon and Montpellier.

The Bottom Line

So, why was the Renaissance important culturally? Because it affected every cultural aspect of Renaissance society.

It saw the re-emergence of Classical learning, caused a revolution in the arts and music with new instruments, styles, and techniques being developed, and encouraged the development of vernacular languages for writing.

It also saw a shift in education, with universities being established all over Europe, allowing more people to access and learn from Classical texts. All of this combined had a significant impact on the cultural landscape of Europe and still has an effect today.