Bruce Morrison » European Renaissance and Reformation, 1300–1600

European Renaissance and Reformation, 1300–1600

Two movements, the Renaissance and the Reformation, usher in dramatic social and cultural changes in Europe.


Section 1: Italy: Birthplace of the Renaissance

Section 2: The Northern Renaissance

Section 3: Luther Leads the Reformation

Section 4: The Reformation Continues


Section 1: Italy: Birthplace of the Renaissance

The Italian Renaissance is a rebirth of learning that produces many great works of art and literature.


Italy’s Advantages


The Renaissance

  • Renaissance—an explosion of creativity in art, writing, and thought
  • Started in northern Italy
  • Lasted from 1300-1600



  • Crusades spur trade
  • Growth of city-states in northern Italy
  • In 1300s bubonic plague killed 60% of population, disrupts economy


Merchants and the Medici

  • A wealthy merchant class develops
  • More emphasis on individual achievement
  • Banking family, the Medici, controls Florence


Looking to Greece and Rome

  • Artists, scholars study ruins of Rome and Latin, Greek manuscripts
  • Scholars move to Rome after fall of Constantinople in 1453


Classical and Worldly Values


Classics Lead to Humanism

  • Humanism—intellectual movement focused on human achievements
  • Humanists studied classical texts, history, literature, philosophy


Worldly Pleasures

  • Renaissance society wassecular—worldly
  • Wealthy enjoyed fine food, homes, clothes


Patrons of the Arts

  • Patron—a financial supporter of artists
  • Church leaders spend money on artworks to beautify cities
  • Wealthy merchants also patrons of the arts


The Renaissance Man

  • Excels in many fields: the classics, art, politics, combat
  • Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier (1528)
  • The book teaches how to become a “universal” person


The Renaissance Woman

  • Upper-class, educated in classics, charming
  • Expected to inspire art but not create it
  • Isabella d’Este, patron of artists, wields power in Mantua


The Renaissance Revolutionizes Art


Artistic Styles Change

  • Artists use realistic style copied from classical art, often to portray religious subjects
  • Painters useperspective—a way to show three dimensions on a canvas


Realistic Painting and Sculpture

  • Realistic portraits of prominent citizens
  • Sculpture shows natural postures and expressions
  • The biblical David is a favorite subject among sculptors


Leonardo, Renaissance Man

  • Leonardo da Vinci—painter, sculptor, inventor, scientist
  • Paints one of the best-known portraits in the world: the Mona Lisa
  • Famous religious painting: The Last Supper


Raphael Advances Realism

  • Raphael Sanzio, famous for his use of perspective
  • Favorite subject: the Madonna and child
  • Famous painting: School of Athens


Anguissola and Gentileschi

  • Sofonisba Anguissola: first woman artist to gain world renown
  • Artemisia Gentileschi paints strong, heroic women


Renaissance Writers Change Literature


New Trends in Writing

  • Writers use thevernacular—their native language
  • Self-expression or to portray individuality of the subject


Petrarch and Boccaccio

  • Francesco Petrarch, humanist and poet; woman named Laura is his muse
  • Boccaccio is best known for the Decameron, a series of stories


Machievelli Advises Rulers


  • NiccolòMachievelli, author of political guidebook,The Prince
  • The Prince examines how rulers can gain and keep power


Vittoria Colonna

  • Woman writer with great influence
  • Poems express personal emotions


Section 2: The Northern Renaissance

In the 1400s, the ideas of the Italian Renaissance begin to spread to Northern Europe.


The Northern Renaissance Begins


Renaissance Ideas Spread

  • Spirit of Renaissance Italy impresses visitors from northern Europe
  • When Hundred Years’ War ends (1453), cities grow rapidly
  • Merchants in northern cities grow wealthy and sponsor artists
  • England and France unify under strong monarchs who are art patrons
  • Northern Renaissance artists interested in realism
  • Humanists interested in social reform based on Judeo-Christian values


Artistic Ideas Spread


Renaissance Styles Migrate North

  • Artists, writers move to northern Europe fleeing war in Italy (1494)


German Painters

  • Albrecht Dürer’s woodcuts and engravings emphasize realism
  • Hans Holbein the Younger paints portraits, often of English royalty


Flemish Painters

  • Flanders is the artistic center of northern Europe
  • Jan van Eyck, pioneer in oil-based painting, uses layers of paint
  • Van Eyck’s paintings are realistic and reveal subject’s personality
  • Pieter Bruegel captures scenes of peasant life with realistic details


Northern Writers Try to Reform Society


Northern Humanists

  • Criticize the Catholic Church, start Christian humanism
  • Want to reform society and promote education, particularly for women


Christian Humanists

  • DesideriusErasmusof Holland is best-known Christian humanist
  • His book, The Praise of Folly, pokes fun at merchants and priests
  • Thomas Moreof England creates a model society in his book Utopia


Women’s Reforms

  • Christine de Pizan, one of the first women writers
  • She promotes education, equal treatment for boys and girls


The Elizabethan Age


Queen Elizabeth I

  • Renaissance spreads to England in mid-1500s
  • Period known as theElizabethan Age, afterQueen Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth reigns from 1558 to 1603


William Shakespeare

  • Shakespeareis often regarded as the greatest playwright
  • Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564
  • Plays performed at London’s Globe Theater


Printing Spreads Renaissance Ideas


Chinese Invention

  • Around 1045 Bi Sheng of China inventsmovable type
  • It uses a separate piece of type for each character


Gutenberg Improves the Printing Process

  • Around 1440 JohannGutenbergof Germany develops printing press
  • Printing press allows for quick, cheap book production
  • First book printed with movable type, GutenbergBible(1455)


The Legacy of the Renaissance


Changes in the Arts

  • Art influenced by classical Greece and Rome
  • Realistic portrayals of individuals and nature
  • Art is both secular and religious
  • Writers use vernacular
  • Art praises individual achievement


Changes in Society

  • Printing makes information widely available
  • Illiterate people benefit by having books read to them
  • Published accounts of maps and charts lead to more discoveries
  • Published legal proceedings make rights clearer to people
  • Political structures and religious practices are questioned


Section 3: Luther Leads the Reformation

Martin Luther’s protest over abuses in the Catholic Church lead to the founding of Protestant churches.


Causes of the Reformation


Church Authority Challenged

  • Secularism, individualism of Renaissance challenge Church authority
  • Rulers challenge Church’s power
  • Printing press spreads secular ideas
  • Northern merchants resent paying church taxes


Criticisms of the Catholic Church

  • Corrupt leaders, extravagant popes
  • Poorly educated priests


Early Calls for Reform

  • John Wycliffe and Jan Hus stress Bible’s authority over clergy’s
  • Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More are vocal critics of the Church
  • Reading religious works, Europeans form own opinions about Church


Luther Challenges the Church


The 95 Theses

  • Martin Lutherprotests Friar Johann Tetzel’s selling of indulgences
  • Indulgence—a pardon releasing a person from penalty for a sin
  • In 1517 Luther posts his95 Thesesattacking “pardon-merchants”
  • Luther’s theses circulate throughout Germany
  • Luther launches theReformation—a movement for religious reform
  • Reformation rejects pope’s authority


Luther’s Teachings

  • People can win salvation by good works and faith
  • Christian teachings must be based on the Bible, not the pope
  • All people with faith are equal, can interpret Bible without priests


The Response to Luther


The Pope’s Threat

  • Pope Leo Xissues decree threatening to excommunicate Luther (1520)
  • Luther’s rights of Church membership are taken away
  • Luther refuses to take back his statements and is excommunicated


The Emperor’s Opposition

  • Charles V is Holy Roman Emperor
  • He issuesEdict of Worms(1521), declaring Luther a heretic
  • Luther and followers begin a separate religious group—Lutherans


The Peasants’ Revolt

  • Inspired by Reformation, German peasants seek end to serfdom (1524)
  • Princes crush revolt; about 100,000 people die

Germany at War

  • Some princes side with Luther, become known as Protestants
  • Charles V fails to return rebellious princes to Catholic Church
  • Peace of Augsburg (1555)—each prince can decide religion of his state


England Becomes Protestant


Henry VIII Wants a Son

  • Henry has only daughter, needs male heir to rule England
  • Henry wants a divorce; Pope refuses toannul—set aside—his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon


The Reformation Parliament

  • Parliament passes laws ending pope’s power in England
  • Henry remarries, becomes official head of England’s Church
  • Thomas More refuses to go against Catholic Church and is beheaded


Consequences of Henry’s Changes

  • Henry has six wives and three children
  • Religious turmoil follows Henry’s death (1547)
  • Protestantism under King Edward, then Catholicism under Queen Mary


Elizabeth Restores Protestantism

  • Henry’s second daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, forms Anglican Church
  • Anglican Church is acceptable to moderate Catholics and Protestants


Elizabeth Faces Other Challenges

  • Some Protestants and Catholics oppose Elizabeth
  • Phillip II, Catholic King of Spain, threatens England
  • Elizabeth’s need for money brings conflict with Parliament


Section 4: The Reformation Continues

As Protestant reformers divide over beliefs, the Catholic Church makes reforms.


Calvin Continues the Reformation


Religious Reform in Switzerland

  • Swiss priest Huldrych Zwingli calls for Church reforms (1520)
  • War breaks out between Catholics, Protestants; Zwingli killed (1531)


Calvin Formalizes Protestant Ideas

  • John Calvinwrites Institutes of the Christian Religion (1536):

-we are sinful by nature and cannot earn salvation

-God chooses who will be saved—predestination

  • Calvinism—religion based on Calvin’s teachings


Calvin Leads the Reformation in Switzerland

  • Calvin says ideal government istheocracy—rule by religious leaders
  • Geneva becomes a strict Protestant theocracy led by Calvin


Calvinism Spreads

  • John Knoxbrings Calvinism to Scotland, followers are Presbyterians
  • Church governed by laymen called presbyters, or elders
  • Calvin’s followers in France calledHuguenots
  • Catholics massacre Huguenots in Paris (1572)


Other Protestant Reformers


The Anabaptists

  • Anabaptists believe in separation of church and state, oppose wars
  • Forerunners of Mennonites and Amish


Woman’s Role in the Reformation

  • Marguerite of Navarre protected Calvin in France
  • Katrina Zell also protects reformers
  • Katherina von Bora, Luther’s wife, promotes equality in marriage


The Catholic Reformation


A Counter Reformation

  • Catholic Reformation—seeks to reform Catholic Church from within


Ignatius of Loyola

  • Leading Catholic reformer
  • His Spiritual Exercises (1522) calls for meditation, prayer, and study
  • Pope creates Society of Jesus religious order, theJesuits
  • Jesuits follow Ignatius, start schools, convert non-Christians


Reforming Popes

  • Pope Paul III and Pope Paul IV lead reforms
  • Paul III callsCouncil of Trentto lay out reforms:

-Church’s interpretation of Bible is final

-Christians need faith and good works for salvation

-Bible and Church traditions equally important

-Indulgences are valid expressions of faith

  • Use Inquisition to seek out heresy
  • Paul IV issues Index of Forbidden Books (1559); books burned


The Legacy of the Reformation


Religious and Social Effects of the Reformation

  • Catholic Church is unified; Protestant denominations grow
  • Catholics and Protestants create schools throughout Europe
  • Status of women does not improve


Political Effects of the Reformation

  • Catholic Church’s power lessens, power of monarchs and states grow
  • Reformation’s questioning of beliefs brings intellectual ferment
  • • Late 18th century sees a new intellectual movement—the Enlightenment