The Renaissance refers to an era of intellectual excitement when art, literature, and science blossomed and groundbreaking humanistic ideas started to make way. The impact of the Renaissance was powerful and has endured for centuries. This important era changed the concept of what it means to be human and emphasized the beauty and intelligence of the individual forming the principle of the Italian Renaissance, the philosophy known as “humanism.” However, what did change man’s view of man in this bonanza of innovation and rebirth? Quite frankly, humanism was the most effective in changing man’s view of man. Humanism encouraged people to be curious and to question received wisdom, especially that of the Catholic Church. Humanism even brought changes in subjects such as art and science. As a result, changing man’s view of man, unlike developments such as technological advances or the creation of Italian City-States.
Yet, to further understand how humanism changed man’s view of man, it helps to review what European society was like before.To begin with, the period of European history before the Renaissance, from the fall of the Roman Empire in the West to the fall of Constantinople, or, more narrowly, from c. 1100 to 1453, is usually called as the Middle Ages. The Roman Catholic Church and Pope were the supreme power during the Middle Ages, causing many people to believe in spiritual icons, such as Jesus. But, in the 1300s, humanism changed man’s outlook on religion. During this century, important changes began to happen, serfs were now able to gain their freedom, no longer depending on lords. Some freed serfs migrated, where they took up the craft of trade. The number of merchants and bankers increased. Literacy then spread, with the goal of educating workers so, they could effectively carry on their work. Eventually, educated people began to question teachings of the Church. This early movement evolved into the philosophy known as “humanism” and was an outlook that attached prime importance to human rather than religious matters, making people of the Renaissance secular. Because of this new outlook, halos, which were worn by saints in paintings, seemed to gradually faint and eventually disappeared during the Renaissance. Moreover, the hieratic scale was disregarded, and ordinary people grew to be the same size as saints in paintings, and saints began to look more like ordinary people. However, humanism did not only change man’s view of religion but as well as the subject of science and medicine.
Subsequently, the philosophy continued and worked its way, into the sciences and medicine. As a result, many Renaissance intellectuals focused on trying to define and understand the laws of nature and the physical world. Firstly, the scientist and mathematician, Galileo Galilei investigated astronomy, only to discover that the universe was not geocentric, but indeed heliocentric! As the article “The Italian Renaissance” adapted by Newsela staff, states in paragraph 8, “Galileo also built a powerful telescope. He used it to show that Earth and other planets revolved around the sun and not, as religious authorities argued, the other way around. For this, Galileo was arrested and threatened with torture and death, but he refused to deny what he knew to be true. ‘I do not believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use,’ he said.” Galileo focused on trying to define and understand the structure of the universe but was overrun by religious authorities because of his humanistic ideas. Galileo serves as a prime example of how humanism changed man’s view of man. Yet, another major example is Andreas Vesalius, an anatomist, and physician. The Middle Ages believed that each sign of the zodiac governed a certain part of the body, for example, the constellation, Aries the Ram, controlled the head. Despite that, he believed the zodiac theory of anatomy was a false representation of the human body. Vesalius, when on and dissected human corpses to better explain the human to his medical students.
Evidently, humanism was the most effective in changing man’s view of man, unlike technological advances and Italian City-States because it turned away from medieval religious beliefs and revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought. Which resulted in Italian City-States and technological advances, making humanism the root of the change. For example, Renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci applied many humanist principles to his work. Instead of focusing on symbols, Da Vinci tried to show people as they would appear in real life. He also tried to show people’s emotions. In the famous work “Mona Lisa,” Da Vinci used the technique of perspective and chiaroscuro, which changed the essence and emotion in the art itself. According to, “Document A: The Individual in Art,” it states, “[It] was the essence of the Renaissance…. One begins to know the names of the artists … feel stronger emotions in the subjects … see well-defined landscapes, natural folds in drapery, and three-dimensional figures; and one begins to notice the emphasis on symbolic representation giving way to depictions of recognizable scenes … the new artistic styles would echo the broader movements and interests of the new age.” Humanistic ideas affected the view of artists changing art so neither the techniques nor the forms of artistic expression would be the same again. As said many times before, humanism was the most effective in changing man’s view of man.Many different scientific, artistic, and cultural achievements played a role during the time of the Renaissance, especially the ideas of humanism. In summary, humanism was the most effective in changing man’s view of man and encouraged people to be curious and to question received wisdom. And brought changes in subjects such as art and science. As a result, changing man’s view of man, unlike developments such as technological advances or the creation of Italian City-States. In conclusion, thanks to humanism, people started to look at themselves in a new way.