A period of artistic and social growth known as the Renaissance, which means “rebirth,” began in Italy in the 14th century. During the Crusades, ancient texts were transported to Europe from crusaders’ travels, causing a reawakening of European minds to pre-Medieval philosophy, art, math, and sciences. Medieval thought had been largely steeped in Catholic and religious tradition and was mostly concerned with the specifics of theological truth, the righteous ways to worship, and a thorough understanding of biblical text. With the reintroduction of the texts of Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates, and others to European scholars, the greatest intellectuals of the age began to ask new questions and explore new truths about the nature of reality.
At the beginning of the Renaissance, the European church was in turmoil, experiencing the Western Schism in the early 15th century. Because it was one of the richest powers in Europe, the church was influential in sponsoring the great artists of the time who displayed an increased humanist and secular influence in their works, but they were simultaneously oppressive of philosophical thought that did not coincide with traditional church teachings. Many great thinkers of the Renaissance were tried and condemned by the church as heretics when they attempted to reinterpret scripture or church doctrine by incorporating the philosophies of ancient thinkers.
Eventually, this erosion of the church’s control over people’s ability to reason matters of religion for themselves exploded with the invention of the printing press. This resulted in the social and political movements known as the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-reformation, both of which proposed huge changes to the church at a fundamental level.
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