Renaissance in Italy

Renaissance in Italy

The Renaissance is one of the major historical periods in European history. It refers to a time of hastened cultural, intellectual, and scientific changes that marked the transition between the ancient medieval world and the modern enlightened world (Lockard, 2014). During the great Renaissance, achievements were made in the fields of education, arts, literature, philosophy, and exploration. Italy occupies a central place in the Renaissance history. The Renaissance started in Italy, with religious influence and the strategic positioning of Italy being the main contributing factors.

There are several reasons why the Renaissance is believed to have started in Italy and spread across Europe. One of these reasons was the influence of the church. According to Malanima (2008), the high concentration of wealth, intellect, and power in the church are the best reasons why the Renaissance began in Italy. In the early 15th century when the Renaissance began, the Catholic Church controlled much of the economic, political, and intellectual activities in continental Europe as well as Britain.

At that time, the Catholic Church gathered the wealthiest merchants, artists, scholars, and politicians from across Europe and brought them to Rome where the church was headquartered (Lockard, 2014). With this much control, the Catholic Church had the power to patronize the politics and arts of Italy at any time. The church was very instrumental in supporting the rebirth of the Greek and Roman thinking styles. These techniques, in the view of the church, were Mediterranean culture just like the church itself (Lockard, 2014).

In the 16th century when Renaissance is considered to have been at its peak in Italy, the church further contributed to its spread, but in a negative way. The church was losing its influence due to divisions within its top leaders. Also, the previous decade of change due to Renaissance was loosening the tight grip of political affairs the church had boasted in the previous century (Lockhard, 2014). As such, it encouraged the rise of secularism and free thought. Scholars, artists, and merchants were free to question dogma and think independently, which facilitated the Renaissance in Italy.

Another reason that greatly favored Italy as the starting point of the Renaissance is its prime location. Italy was strategically placed on the Mediterranean Sea, and its city-states including Tuscany were prime centers for commerce and trade (Malanima, 2008). Italy had numerous ports including Venice that were entry points for both goods and artistic ideas.

Additionally, the Renaissance started in Italy due to Italy’s high concentration of intellectuals. Italy had been a core administrative center in the former Roman Empire and was well established regarding academics (Sider, 2005). When the Byzantine Empire collapsed, many of the Constantinople intellectuals moved to Italy. They brought with them the great ancient Roman and Greek works which would otherwise have been lost to the West. Before then, intellectuals did not have an accurate view and clear understanding of the doctrines of humanism which were driving forces for the Renaissance (Sider, 2005). It thus fast-tracked the cultural change.

The leadership vacuum that occurred when the Roman Empire lost power in Italy also triggered the Italian Renaissance (Bartlett, 2005). Wealthy families from different regions in the North took over leadership of various regions after the Roman Empire lost control. The city of Naples, on the other hand, controlled much of the South (Bartlett, 2005). When these wealthy merchant families took over leadership, they revised existing laws, breaking down the rigid command structure that had been established by the Roman Empire. Laws regarding banking, shipping, trade, and commerce were the first targets by these merchant families. The free environment that these amendments created facilitated the cultural transformation that characterized the Renaissance (Bartlett, 2005).

The other factor that triggered the Renaissance in Italy was increased exploration of the world and improved trade. Exploration of the world brought new ideas, cultures, thoughts, and activities into Italy. Christopher Columbus, for example, discovered America during this period (Lockard, 2014). These explorations led to the discovery of ancient texts, philosophy, literature, and music which were brought to Italy. Increased trade activities brought new wealth into cities, consequently creating an opportunity for businesspeople to move away from business and explore art (Lockard, 2014). These two factors triggered a cultural change in Italy.

Why the Renaissance Is Referred to as the Early Modern Period

The Italian Renaissance is at times referred to as the early modern period because it coincided with the transition between the cultural changes from the medieval scholastic thought that formed the foundation for modernity (Sider, 2005). The cultural, scholarly, and artistic changes occurring in Greece signified the beginning of the modern era. Technologies such as the printing press which is still in use today were developed during this period (Sider, 2005).

In conclusion, the Renaissance traces its roots back to Italy in the city of Florence. Influence of the church was the greatest factor that influenced the Renaissance in Europe. The prime location of Italy coupled with a large concentration of intellects, merchants, and artists also contributed significantly to the Renaissance.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]



Bartlett, K. R. (2005). The Italian Renaissance: Part I. Personal Collection of K. Bartlett, University of Toronto, Toronto, OT.

Lockard, C. (2014). Societies, networks, and transitions: A global history (3rd ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Malanima, P. (2008, May 10-12). The Italian Renaissance economy (1250-1600). In Europe in the late Middle Ages: Patterns of economic growth and crisis (pp. 1-25). Villa La Pietra: Paolo Malanima.

Sider, S. (2005). Handbook to life in Renaissance Europe. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. 

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