A term that literally means “rebirth,” the Renaissance brought on a flowering of the arts, architecture, music, literature, philosophy, religion, science and scholarship.
Prefigured in the 12th century, what some call the High Middle Ages, most agree that the Renaissance began in Florence, Italy and spread through Europe from the 14th to 17th centuries. Several factors were involved in its genesis. One of the more prominent was a weakening of the Christian Church’s cultural and economic grip over the lives of men and women.¹
Instead of Europeans following the dictates of authoritarian personalities and their organizational structures, beauty and truth were sought after in fresh new ways.
The clergy had lost its stranglehold on learning and aptitude in languages like Latin, Hebrew and Greek, making any person with means and ability free to study and ask new questions about society, history and Biblical scripture.
Some were severely punished for their new found freedoms. Authoritarians in power rarely enjoy challenges to their rigid mindsets and regimes. Other freethinkers distanced themselves or entirely renounced authoritarian beliefs and structures so as to minimize repercussions. And yet other shrewd figures like Erasmus Desiderius knew how to find balance and equilibrium among competing political forces.
It’s not for us to say whose approach was right or wrong. Each had their own way, just as today some are called to blend in while others stand out.
¹ This entry doesn’t really touch on sex-role stereotypes during the Renaissance. If you are in the know, feel free to add to it.