Humanism in the Renaissance

The Humanism of the Renaissance

Humanism (the philosophy that people are rational beings) became quite popular during the Renaissance.  This movement originated with the study of classical culture and a group of subjects known collectively as the humanities. Humanism is the belief that man has beauty, worth, and dignity and it is against the medieval mentality, which supported the idea of God being the center of humans´ life and thoughts.

Why did Humanism develope?

During the Middle Ages, life and culture were  focused on the Church and religion. However, toward the beginning of the 14th century, the power of the Church began to  decline. This decline is the main reason for the development of humanism, as people became less interested in thinking about God, the afterlife, and the saints and more interested in thinking about themselves, their natural world and their life.

Many historians believe there were two main causes of this decline:

  •  The first being was the bubonic plague which killed over half of many countries’ populations. As the plague devastated, the Church was helpless to stop it. People prayed but the loved ones continued to die. This led to the idea of seeking other explanations for human suffering.
  • The second was the rise of the market economy. As money through trade increased, the power of the Church declined.  City-states and monarchies governed more by economy than religion. Church became too rigid, therefore, it was replaced with the human’s capacity to learn, create, and  enjoy! In short, it was replaced with the idea of humanism, where the study of human progress and human nature is at the center of all things.

How did humanism change people´s life?

  • Humanism radically changed the idea of individual independence. Prior to the 14th century, much of Europe, practiced the feudal system in which  was based on land ownership.  Under this system, people were seen as part of a collective whole it was difficult for them to leave the manor. The only solution for por people was obeying the rules and following them without question. However,  thanks to the plague and the rise of trade, the power of the Church and feudalism shrank.  Man and human nature were no longer seen as in danger of living in sin but instead as independent, beautiful, and individual creations of God. This is particularly seen in the writings of Petrarch, the Father of Humanism .
  • Humanism changed the interests of the individual. In the  Middle Ages anything not centered around the Church was considered sin.  Humanism changed this idea completely. Scholars, artists, and writers began centering their works on man and his experience on earth. Humanists resurrected the ideals of the ancient Greeks, who placed the study and progress of human nature at the center of their interests.


 Renaissancehumanism (PowerPoint presentation)


Humanismactivity (HOMEWORK)

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