Renaissance humanism is the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The term humanism is contemporary to that period, while Renaissance humanism is a retronym used to distinguish it from later humanist developments.
Renaissance humanism was a response to the utilitarian approach and what came to be depicted as the "narrow pedantry" associated with medieval scholasticism. Humanists sought to create a citizenry able to speak and write with eloquence and clarity and thus capable of engaging in the civic life of their communities and persuading others to virtuous and prudent actions. This was to be accomplished through the study of the studia humanitatis, today known as the humanities: grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry, and moral philosophy.
According to one scholar of the movement,
Early Italian humanism, which in many respects continued the grammatical and rhetorical traditions of the Middle Ages, not merely provided the old Trivium with a new and more ambitious name (Studia humanitatis), but also increased its actual scope, content and significance in the curriculum of the schools and universities and in its own extensive literary production. The studia humanitatis excluded logic, but they added to the traditional grammar and rhetoric not only history, Greek, and moral philosophy, but also made poetry, once a sequel of grammar and rhetoric, the most important member of the whole group.
Humanism was a pervasive cultural mode and not the program of a small elite, a program to revive the cultural legacy, literary legacy, and moral philosophy of classical antiquity. There were important centres of humanism in Florence, Naples, Rome, Venice, Genoa, Mantua, Ferrara, and Urbino.
Some of the first humanists were great collectors of antique manuscripts, including Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Coluccio Salutati, and Poggio Bracciolini. Of the four, Petrarch was dubbed the "Father of Humanism" because of his devotion or loyalty to Greek and Roman scrolls. Many worked for the Catholic Church and were in holy orders, like Petrarch, while others were lawyers and chancellors of Italian cities, and thus had access to book copying workshops, such as Petrarch's disciple Salutati, the Chancellor of Florence.
In Italy, the humanist educational program won rapid acceptance and, by the mid-15th century, many of the upper classes had received humanist educations, possibly in addition to traditional scholasticist ones. Some of the highest officials of the Catholic Church were humanists with the resources to amass important libraries. Such was Cardinal Basilios Bessarion, a convert to the Catholic Church from Greek Orthodoxy, who was considered for the papacy, and was one of the most learned scholars of his time. There were several 15th-century and early 16th-century humanist Popes one of whom, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II), was a prolific author and wrote a treatise on The Education of Boys. These subjects came to be known as the humanities, and the movement which they inspired is shown as humanism.
The migration waves of Byzantine Greek scholars and émigrés in the period following the Crusader sacking of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 greatly assisted the revival of Greek and Roman literature and science via their greater familiarity with ancient languages and works. They included Gemistus Pletho, George of Trebizond, Theodorus Gaza, and John Argyropoulos.
Italian humanism spread northward to France, Germany, the Low Countries, and England with the adoption of large-scale printing after the end of the era of incunabula (or books printed prior to 1501), and it became associated with the Reformation. In France, pre-eminent humanist Guillaume Budé (1467–1540) applied the philological methods of Italian humanism to the study of antique coinage and to legal history, composing a detailed commentary on Justinian's Code. Budé was a royal absolutist (and not a republican like the early Italian umanisti) who was active in civic life, serving as a diplomat for François I and helping to found the Collège des Lecteurs Royaux (later the Collège de France). Meanwhile, Marguerite de Navarre, the sister of François I, was a poet, novelist, and religious mystic who gathered around her and protected a circle of vernacular poets and writers, including Clément Marot, Pierre de Ronsard, and François Rabelais.
Many humanists were churchmen, most notably Pope Pius II, Sixtus IV, and Leo X, and there was often patronage of humanists by senior church figures. Much humanist effort went into improving the understanding and translations of Biblical and early Christian texts, both before and after the Reformation, which was greatly influenced by the work of non-Italian, Northern European figures such as Erasmus, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples, William Grocyn, and Swedish Catholic Archbishop in exile Olaus Magnus.
Here, one felt no weight of the supernatural pressing on the human mind, demanding homage and allegiance. Humanity—with all its distinct capabilities, talents, worries, problems, possibilities—was the center of interest. It has been said that medieval thinkers philosophised on their knees, but, bolstered by the new studies, they dared to stand up and to rise to full stature.
The rediscovery of classical philosophy and science would eventually challenge traditional religious beliefs. In 1417, for example, Poggio Bracciolini discovered the manuscript of Lucretius, De rerum natura, which had been lost for centuries and which contained an explanation of Epicurean doctrine, though at the time this was not commented on much by Renaissance scholars, who confined themselves to remarks about Lucretius's grammar and syntax.
Only in 1564 did French commentator Denys Lambin (1519–72) announce in the preface to the work that "he regarded Lucretius's Epicurean ideas as 'fanciful, absurd, and opposed to Christianity'." Lambin's preface remained standard until the nineteenth century. Epicurus's unacceptable doctrine that pleasure was the highest good "ensured the unpopularity of his philosophy". Lorenzo Valla, however, puts a defense of epicureanism in the mouth of one of the interlocutors of one of his dialogues.
Charles Trinkhaus regards Valla's "epicureanism" as a ploy, not seriously meant by Valla, but designed to refute Stoicism, which he regarded together with epicureanism as equally inferior to Christianity. Valla's defense, or adaptation, of Epicureanism was later taken up in The Epicurean by Erasmus, the "Prince of humanists:"
If people who live agreeably are Epicureans, none are more truly Epicurean than the righteous and godly. And if it is names that bother us, no one better deserves the name of Epicurean than the revered founder and head of the Christian philosophy Christ, for in Greek epikouros means "helper." He alone, when the law of Nature was all but blotted out by sins, when the law of Moses incited to lists rather than cured them, when Satan ruled in the world unchallenged, brought timely aid to perishing humanity. Completely mistaken, therefore, are those who talk in their foolish fashion about Christ's having been sad and gloomy in character and calling upon us to follow a dismal mode of life. On the contrary, he alone shows the most enjoyable life of all and the one most full of true pleasure.
Renaissance Neo-Platonists such as Marsilio Ficino (whose translations of Plato's works into Latin were still used into the 19th century) attempted to reconcile Platonism with Christianity, according to the suggestions of early Church Fathers Lactantius and Saint Augustine. In this spirit, Pico della Mirandola attempted to construct a syncretism of all religions (he was not a humanist but an Aristotelian trained in Paris), but his work did not win favor with the church authorities.
Historian Steven Kreis expresses a widespread view (derived from the 19th-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt), when he writes that:
The period from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth worked in favor of the general emancipation of the individual. The city-states of northern Italy had come into contact with the diverse customs of the East, and gradually permitted expression in matters of taste and dress. The writings of Dante, and particularly the doctrines of Petrarch and humanists like Machiavelli, emphasized the virtues of intellectual freedom and individual expression. In the essays of Montaigne the individualistic view of life received perhaps the most persuasive and eloquent statement in the history of literature and philosophy.
Two noteworthy trends in Renaissance humanism were Renaissance Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism, which through the works of figures like Nicholas of Kues, Giordano Bruno, Cornelius Agrippa, Campanella and Pico della Mirandola sometimes came close to constituting a new religion itself. Of these two, Hermeticism has had great continuing influence in Western thought, while the former mostly dissipated as an intellectual trend, leading to movements in Western esotericism such as Theosophy and New Age thinking. The "Yates thesis" of Frances Yates holds that before falling out of favour, esoteric Renaissance thought introduced several concepts that were useful for the development of scientific method, though this remains a matter of controversy.
Though humanists continued to use their scholarship in the service of the church into the middle of the sixteenth century and beyond, the sharply confrontational religious atmosphere following the Reformation resulted in the Counter-Reformation that sought to silence challenges to Catholic theology, with similar efforts among the Protestant denominations. However, a number of humanists joined the Reformation movement and took over leadership functions, for example, Philipp Melanchthon, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and William Tyndale.
With the Counter-Reformation initiated by the Council of Trent (1545-1563), positions hardened and a strict Catholic orthodoxy based on Scholastic philosophy was imposed. Some humanists, even moderate Catholics such as Erasmus, risked being declared heretics for their perceived criticism of the church. In 1514 he left for Basel and worked at the University of Basel for several years.
The historian of the Renaissance Sir John Hale cautions against too direct a linkage between Renaissance humanism and modern uses of the term humanism: "Renaissance humanism must be kept free from any hint of either 'humanitarianism' or 'humanism' in its modern sense of rational, non-religious approach to life ... the word 'humanism' will mislead ... if it is seen in opposition to a Christianity its students in the main wished to supplement, not contradict, through their patient excavation of the sources of ancient God-inspired wisdom."
The unashamedly humanistic flavor of classical writings had a tremendous impact on Renaissance scholar.
Ad fontes is a Latin expression which means "[back] to the sources" (lit. "to the sources"). The phrase epitomizes the renewed study of Greek and Latin classics in Renaissance humanism. Similarly, the Protestant Reformation called for renewed attention to the Bible as the primary source of Christian faith. The idea in both cases was that sound knowledge depends on the earliest and most fundamental sources.
This phrase is related to ab initio, which means "from the beginning". Whereas ab initio implies a flow of thought from first principles to the situation at hand, ad fontes is a retrogression, a movement back towards an origin, which ideally would be clearer than the present situation.
The phrase ad fontes occurs in Psalm 42 of the Latin Vulgate:
quemadmodum desiderat cervus ad fontes aquarum ita desiderat anima mea ad te Deus.(In the same way that the stag is drawn unto the sources of water, so is my soul drawn unto you, God.)
According to Hans-Georg Gadamer, there is evidence provided by E. Lledo that Spanish humanists drew the expression from this source.
Erasmus of Rotterdam used the phrase in his De ratione studii ac legendi interpretandique auctores:
Sed in primis ad fontes ipsos properandum, id est graecos et antiquos.
(Above all, one must hasten to the sources themselves, that is, to the Greeks and ancients.)American Renaissance
The American Renaissance was a period of American architecture and the arts from 1876 to 1917, characterized by renewed national self-confidence and a feeling that the United States was the heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism. The era spans the period between the Centennial Exposition (celebrating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and the United States' entry into World War I.Ars historica
Ars Historica was a genre of humanist historiography in the later Renaissance. It produced a small library of treatises underscoring the stylistic aspects of writing history as a work of art, but also introducing the contributions of philology and textual criticism in its precepts and evaluations.Classical tradition
The Western classical tradition is the reception of classical Greco-Roman antiquity by later cultures, especially the post-classical West, involving texts, imagery, objects, ideas, institutions, monuments, architecture, cultural artifacts, rituals, practices, and sayings. Philosophy, political thought, and mythology are three major examples of how classical culture survives and continues to have influence. The West is one of a number of world cultures regarded as having a classical tradition, including the Indian, Chinese, Judaic, and Islamic traditions.The study of the classical tradition differs from classical philology, which seeks to recover "the meanings that ancient texts had in their original contexts." It examines both later efforts to uncover the realities of the Greco-Roman world and "creative misunderstandings" that reinterpret ancient values, ideas and aesthetic models for contemporary use. The classicist and translator Charles Martindale has defined the reception of classical antiquity as "a two-way process … in which the present and the past are in dialogue with each other."De Arte Cabbalistica
De Arte Cabbalistica (Latin for On the Art of Kabbalah) is a 1517 text by the German Renaissance humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin, which deals with his thoughts on Kabbalah. In it, he puts forward the view that the theosophic philosophy of Kabbalah could be of great use in the defence of Christianity and the reconciliation of science with the mysteries of faith. It builds on his earlier work De Verbo Mirifico.Dunce
A dunce is a person considered incapable of learning. The word is derived from the name of the Scottish Scholastic theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus, also referred to as Doctor Subtillis, or "Subtle Doctor", whose works on logic, theology, and philosophy were accepted textbooks in the universities from the fourteenth century.The followers of Duns Scotus were called the Dunses, Dunsmen, or Scotists. When in the sixteenth century the Scotists argued against Renaissance humanism, the term duns or dunce became, in the mouths of the Protestants, a term of abuse and a synonym for one incapable of scholarship. This was the etymology given by Richard Stanyhurst. Samuel Johnson, on the other hand, maintained that the source of the word was unknown.
Dunces are often comedically shown wearing paper cone hats, known as dunce caps with the word "dunce" or "dumb", or simply a capitalized "D" on them. Schoolchildren were sometimes compelled to wear a dunce cap and to sit on a stool in the corner as a form of humiliating punishment for misbehaving or for failing to demonstrate that they had properly performed their studies.Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition
Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition is a 1964 non-fiction book by British historian Frances A. Yates. The book delves into the history of Hermeticism and its influence upon Renaissance philosophy and Giordano Bruno.
With the publication of Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, Yates transformed Renaissance historiography. In it, she revealed the hermeticism with which the Renaissance was imbued, and the revived interest in mysticism, magic and Gnosticism of Late Antiquity that survived the Middle Ages. In the face of longstanding conventional interpretations, Yates suggested that the itinerant Catholic priest Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 for espousing the Hermetic tradition rather than his affirmation of heliocentricity.
The book is cited by the bestselling British author Philip Pullman, as a central inspiration for his own writing.Greek scholars in the Renaissance
The migration waves of Byzantine scholars and émigrés in the period following the Crusader sacking of Constantinople and the end of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, is considered by many scholars key to the revival of Greek and Roman studies that led to the development of the Renaissance humanism and science. These émigrés brought to Western Europe the relatively well-preserved remnants and accumulated knowledge of their own (Greek) civilization, which had mostly not survived the Dark Ages in the West.
Their main role within Renaissance humanism was the teaching of the Greek language to their western counterparts in universities or privately together with the spread of ancient texts. Their forerunners were Barlaam of Calabria (Bernardo Massari) and Leonzio Pilato, two translators who were both born in Calabria in southern Italy and who were both educated in the Greek language. The impact of these two scholars on the very first Renaissance humanists was indisputable.Collegio Pontifico Greco was a foundation of Gregory XIII, who established a college in Rome to receive young Greeks belonging to any nation in which the Greek Rite was used, and consequently for Greek refugees in Italy as well as the Ruthenians and Malchites of Egypt and Syria. These young men had to study the sacred sciences, in order to spread later sacred and profane learning among their fellow-countrymen and facilitate the reunion of the schismatical churches. The construction of the College and Church of S. Atanasio, joined by a bridge over the Via dei Greci, was begun at once. The same year (1577) the first students arrived, and until the completion of the college were housed elsewhere.By 1500 there was a Greek-speaking community of about 5,000 in Venice. The Venetians also ruled Crete, Dalmatia, and scattered islands and port cities of the former empire, the populations of which were augmented by refugees from other Byzantine provinces who preferred Venetian to Ottoman governance. Crete was especially notable for the Cretan School of icon-painting, which after 1453 became the most important in the Greek world.Humanism in France
Humanism in France found its way from Italy, but did not become a distinct movement until the 16th century was well on its way.
On the completion of the Hundred Years' War between France and England, the intellectual currents of humanism began to start. In 1464, Peter Raoul composed for the Duke of Burgundy a history of Troy. At that time the French still regarded themselves as descendants of Hector. If we except Paris, none of the French universities took part in the movement. Individual writers and printing-presses at Paris, Lyon, Rouen and other cities became its centres and sources. William Fichet and Robert Gaguin are usually looked upon as the first French Humanists. Fichet introduced "the eloquence of Rome" at Paris and set up a press at the Sorbonne. He corresponded with Bessarion and had in his library volumes of Petrarch, Guarino of Verona and other Italians. Gaguin copied and corrected Suetonius in 1468 and other Latin authors. Poggio's Jest-book and some of Valla's writings were translated into French. In the reign of Louis XI, who gloried in the title "the first Christian king", French poets celebrated his deeds. The homage of royalty took in part the place among the literary men of France that the cult of antiquity occupied in Italy.
Greek, which had been completely forgotten in France, had its first teachers in Gregory Tifernas, who reached Paris, 1458, John Lascaris, who returned with Charles VIII, and Hermonymus of Sparta, who had Reuchlin and Budaeus (known variously as William Budaeus (English), Guillaume Budé (French) and Guilielmus Budaeus (Latin)) among his scholars. An impetus was given to the new studies by the Italian, Aleander, afterwards famous for his association with Martin Luther at Worms. He lectured in Paris, 1509, on Plato and issued a Latino-Greek lexicon. In 1512 his pupil, Vatable, published the Greek grammar of Chrysoloras. Budaeus, perhaps the foremost Greek scholar of his day, founded the Collège de France, 1530, and finally induced Francis I to provide for instruction in Hebrew and Greek. The University of Paris at the close of the 14th century was sunk into a low condition and Erasmus bitterly complained of the food, the morals and the intellectual standards of the college of Montague which he attended. Budaeus urged the combination of the study of the Scriptures with the study of the classics and exclaimed of the Gospel of John, "What is it, if not the almost perfect sanctuary of the truth!"
Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples studied in Paris, Pavia, Padua and Cologne and, for longer or shorter periods, tarried in the greater Italian cities. He knew Greek and some Hebrew. From 1492–1506 he was engaged in editing the works of Aristotle and Raymundus Lullus and then, under the protection of Guillaume Briçonnet, bishop of Meaux, he turned his attention to theology. It was his purpose to offset the Sentences of Peter the Lombard by a system of theology giving only what the Scriptures teach. In 1509, he published the Psalterum quintuplex, a combination of five Latin versions of the Psalms, including a revision and a commentary by his own hand. In 1512, he issued a revised Latin translation of the Pauline Epistles with commentary. In this work, he asserted the authority of the Bible and the doctrine of justification by faith, without appreciating, however, the far-reaching significance of the latter opinion. Three years after the appearance of Luther's New Testament, Lefevre's French translation appeared, 1523. It was made from the Vulgate, as was his translation of the Old Testament, 1528. In 1522 and 1525, appeared his commentaries on the four Gospels and the Catholic Epistles. The former was put on the Index by the Sorbonne. The opposition to the free spirit of inquiry and to the Reformation, which the Sorbonne stirred up and French royalty adopted, forced him to flee to Strassburg and then to the liberal court of Margaret of Angoulême.
Among those who came into contact with Lefevre were Farel and Calvin, the Reformers of Geneva. In the meantime Clément Marot, 1495–1544, the first true poet of the French literary revival, was composing his French versification of the Psalms and of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The Psalms were sung for pleasure by French princes and later for worship in Geneva and by the Huguenots. When Calvin studied the humanities and law at Bourges, Orléans and Paris, about 1520, he had for teachers Cordier and L'Etoile, the canonists, and Melchior Wolmar, teacher of Greek, whose names the future Reformer records with gratitude and respect. He gave himself passionately to Humanistic studies and sent to Erasmus a copy of his work on Seneca's Clemency, in which he quoted frequently from the ancient classics and the Fathers. Had he not adopted the new religious views, it is possible he would now be known as an eminent figure in the history of French Humanism.Humanist Library of Sélestat
The Humanist Library in Sélestat is one of the most important cultural treasures of Alsace, France. According to a traditional saying, Alsace has three great treasures: Strasbourg Cathedral, the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar and the Humanist Library in Sélestat.
Actually, there are in fact two Renaissance humanist libraries involved, the library of the Humanist School and the private library of the famous scholar, Beatus Rhenanus (1485–1547).New Learning
In the history of ideas the New Learning in Europe is the Renaissance humanism, developed in the later fifteenth century. Newly retrieved classical texts sparked philological study of a refined and classical Latin style in prose and poetry.
The term came to refer to other trends, one being the new formulation of the relationship between the Church and the individual arising from the Protestant Revolution. Contemporaries noticed this: Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk lamented "It was merry in England afore the new learning came up", in relation to reading the Bible.An earlier 'new learning' had a similar cause, two centuries earlier. In that case it was new texts of Aristotle that were discovered, with a major impact on scholasticism. A later phase of the New Learning of the Renaissance concerned the beginnings of modern scientific thought. Here Francis Bacon is pointed to as an important reference point and catalyst.Northern Renaissance
The Northern Renaissance was the Renaissance that occurred in Europe north of the Alps. Before 1497, Italian Renaissance humanism had little influence outside Italy. From the late 15th century, its ideas spread around Europe. This influenced the German Renaissance, French Renaissance, English Renaissance, Renaissance in the Low Countries, Polish Renaissance and other national and localized movements, each with different characteristics and strengths.
In France, King Francis I imported Italian art, commissioned Italian artists (including Leonardo da Vinci), and built grand palaces at great expense, starting the French Renaissance. Trade and commerce in cities like Bruges in the 15th century and Antwerp in the 16th increased cultural exchange between Italy and the Low Countries, however in art, and especially architecture, late Gothic influences remained present until the arrival of Baroque even as painters increasingly drew on Italian models. also a time period with a lot of dirty things, such as the black death
Universities and the printed book helped spread the spirit of the age through France, the Low Countries and the Holy Roman Empire, and then to Scandinavia and finally Britain by the late 16th century. Writers and humanists such as Rabelais, Pierre de Ronsard and Desiderius Erasmus were greatly influenced by the Italian Renaissance model and were part of the same intellectual movement. During the English Renaissance (which overlapped with the Elizabethan era) writers such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe composed works of lasting influence. The Renaissance was brought to Poland directly from Italy by artists from Florence and the Low Countries, starting the Polish Renaissance.
In some areas the Northern Renaissance was distinct from the Italian Renaissance in its centralization of political power. While Italy and Germany were dominated by independent city-states, most of Europe began emerging as nation-states or even unions of countries. The Northern Renaissance was also closely linked to the Protestant Reformation with the resulting long series of internal and external conflicts between various Protestant groups and the Roman Catholic Church having lasting effects.Of Education
The tractate Of Education was published in 1644, first appearing anonymously as a single eight-page quarto sheet (Ainsworth 6). Presented as a letter written in response to a request from the Puritan educational reformer Samuel Hartlib, it represents John Milton's most comprehensive statement on educational reform (Viswanathan 352), and gives voice to his views "concerning the best and noblest way of education" (Milton 63). As outlined in the tractate, education carried for Milton a dual objective: one public, to “fit a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war” (55); and the other private, to “repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love Him, to be like Him, as we may the nearest by possessing our soul of true virtue” (52).Outline of humanism
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to humanism:
Humanism – group of philosophies and ethical perspectives which emphasize the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers individual thought and evidence (rationalism, empiricism), over established doctrine or faith (fideism). Two common forms of humanism are religious humanism and secular humanism.
Humanism, term freely applied to a variety of beliefs, methods, and philosophies that place central emphasis on the human realm. Most frequently, however, the term is used with reference to a system of education and mode of inquiry that developed in northern Italy during the 13th and 14th centuries and later spread through continental Europe and England. Alternately known as Renaissance humanism, this program was so broadly and profoundly influential that it is one of the chief reasons why the Renaissance is viewed as a distinct historical period. Indeed, though the word Renaissance is of more recent coinage, the fundamental idea of that period as one of renewal and reawakening is humanistic in origin. But humanism sought its own philosophical bases in far earlier times and, moreover, continued to exert some of its power long after the end of the Renaissance.Pierre Boaistuau
Pierre Boaistuau, also known as Pierre Launay or Sieur de Launay (c. 1517, Nantes – 1566, Paris) was a French Renaissance humanist writer, author of a number of popularizing compilations and discourses on various subjects.Beside his many popular titles as a writer, Boaistuau was also an editor, translator and compiler. He holds a very special place in literary developments in the middle and second half of the sixteenth century as the importer of two influential genres in France, the 'histoire tragique' and the 'histoire prodigieuse'. He was also the first editor of Marguerite of Navarre's collection of nouvelles that is known today as Heptameron.Platonic Academy (Florence)
The Platonic Academy (also known as the Neoplatonic Florentine Academy) was a 15th-century discussion group in Florence, Italy.Renaissance Latin
Renaissance Latin is a name given to the distinctive form of Latin style developed during the European Renaissance of the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries, particularly by the Renaissance humanism movement.Renaissance humanism in Northern Europe
Renaissance Humanism came much later to Germany and Northern Europe in general than to Italy, and when it did, it encountered some resistance from the scholastic theology which reigned at the universities.
Humanism may be dated from the invention of the printing press about 1450. Its flourishing period began at the close of the 15th century and lasted only until about 1520, when it was absorbed by the more popular and powerful religious movement, the Reformation, as Italian Humanism was superseded by the papal counter-Reformation. Marked features distinguished the new culture north of the Alps from the culture of the Italians. The university and school played a much more important part than in the South according to Catholic historians. The representatives of the new scholarship were teachers; even Erasmus taught in Cambridge and was on intimate terms with the professors at Basel. During the progress of the movement new universities sprang up, from Basel to Rostock. Again, in Germany, there were no princely patrons of arts and learning to be compared in intelligence and munificence to the Renaissance popes and the Medici. Nor was the new culture here exclusive and aristocratic. It sought the general spread of intelligence, and was active in the development of primary and grammar schools. In fact, when the currents of the Italian Renaissance began to set toward the North, a strong, independent, intellectual current was pushing down from the flourishing schools conducted by the Brethren of the Common Life. In the Humanistic movement, the German people was far from being a slavish imitator. It received an impulse from the South, but made its own path.
In the North, Humanism entered into the service of religious progress. German scholars were less brilliant and elegant, but more serious in their purpose and more exact in their scholarship than their Italian predecessors and contemporaries. In the South, the ancient classics absorbed the attention of the literati. It was not so in the North. There was no consuming passion to render the classics into German as there had been in Italy. Nor did Italian literature, with its often relaxed moral attitude, find imitators in the North. Boccaccio’s Decameron was first translated into German by the physician, Henry Stainhowel, who died in 1482. North of the Alps, attention was chiefly centred on the Old and New Testaments. Greek and Hebrew were studied, not with the purpose of ministering to a cult of antiquity, but to reach the fountains of the Christian system more adequately. In this way, preparation was made for the work of the Protestant Reformation. This focus on translation was a feature of the Christian humanists who helped to launch the new, post-scholastic era, among them Erasmus and Luther. In so doing, they also placed biblical texts above any human or institutional authority, an approach that emphasised the role of the reader in understanding a text for him or herself. Closely allied to the late medieval shift of scholarship from the monastery to the university, Christian humanism engendered a new freedom of expression, even though some of its proponents opposed that freedom of expression elsewhere, such as in their censure of the Anabaptists.
What was true of the scholarship of Germany was also true of its art. The painters, Albrecht Dürer, who was born and died at Nuremberg, 1471–1528, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1472–1553, and for the most part Hans Holbein the Younger, 1497–1543, took little interest in mythology, apart from Cranach's nudes, and were persuaded by the Reformation, though most continued to take commissions for traditional Catholic subjects. Dürer and Holbein had close contacts with leading humanists. Cranach lived in Wittenberg after 1504 and painted portraits of Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and other leaders of the German Reformation. Holbein made frontispieces and illustrations for Protestant books and painted portraits of Erasmus and Melanchthon.The Book of the Governor
The Boke named the Governour, sometimes referred to in modern English as The Book of the Governor, is a book written by Thomas Elyot and published in 1531. It was dedicated to Henry VIII and is largely a treatise on how to properly train statesmen. It also discusses ethical dilemmas in the education system of the time. The Book of the Governor is evidence of the impact that Renaissance humanism had on prose writing.