AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE IN VERSE
By Raj Nandy
THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE WAS A PERIOD OF TRANSITION
BETWEEN MEDIEVAL & THE MODERN WORLD. I propose to
present in three installments my researched work for both the Art &
History lovers of this Site. Kindly take your time to read at leisure before commenting. Thanks, -Raj Nandy, New Delhi.
PART ONE: BACKGROUND
The Term Renaissance :
The word ‘Renaissance’ means ‘to be born again’ ,
Derives from French ‘renaistre’ and Latin ‘renascere’, -
both meaning the same !
Swiss historian Jacob Buckhardt by writing “The
Civilization of Renaissance in Italy”,
Helped to popularize this term during the 19th Century !
The Renaissance evolved out of ‘Christendom’ , which
was Medieval Europe ;
Ruled entirely by the Catholic Church and the Pope !
It formed a period of transition between the Medieval
and the Modern Age ,
And as a contrast to the preceding thousand years , -
Which the Latin scholar Petrarch christened as the
‘Dark Ages’ !
This era saw a revival of interest in classical learning
of Greek and Roman art and culture ;
Focused on individual’s life on earth , with a new spirit
of adventure !
Happiness was no longer shelved to an afterlife and
repentance for salvation ;
But it lay in the advancement of human beings on Earth , -
with secular contemplation !
Thus individualism , secularism , and humanism , were
chief characteristics of the Renaissance ;
With innovations in art, architecture , and a scientific
temper of thought !
Knowledge no longer remained confined within the cold
ecclesiastical walls ,
But it spread from Italy across Northern Europe , -
To distant English shores through France !
During the Renaissance era Humanism became its
dominant philosophy ;
And there begins our Renaissance Story, since knowledge
is no man’s monopoly !
Events leading up to the Renaissance were many ;
Let me now dwell upon some salient features which
shaped its History !
THE BLACK DEATH (Peaked between 1347-1352) :
It was brought by Genoese merchant ships from the Orient ,
The fatal bacillus of the bubonic plague carried in the blood
stream of rodents !
The plague from Sicily and Italy spread to Northern Europe ,
All medicines failed , and even the Church provided no hope !
After having raged for almost a decade it started to abate ;
But by then almost one-third of entire Europe’s population
lay dead !
This deadly plague which followed the Hundred Year’s War
between England and France ,
Created social , economic and political upheavals in Europe,
leaving little to chance !
People began to lose faith in the church and on sermons of
Secular thoughts now prevailed in a world where only the
fittest could survive !
Shortages of labour brought an end to Medieval feudalism
and serfdom ,
And Europe gradually emerged out of those Dark Ages, -
to greet the rising Renaissance sun !
The meager labour force could now bargain for better
wages and individual rights ;
Later, merchant guilds protected specialized labour and
their human rights !
Cities got gradually built and a new social order began
to emerge ,
Historians say that Europe saw the rise of a new Middle
As Europe gradually begun to recover from the aftermath
of war , plague, and devastation ;
The City-States of Italy lit the torch of a new intellectual
But before moving onto the Italian city-states, I must
mention the Holy Crusades ;
Since the Crusades opened up the doors of knowledge
and trade ;
Helping this ‘New Learning’ of the Renaissance to spread !
THE HOLY CRUSADES (1095-1270) :
At the behest of Pope Urban II and his battle cry “God
Wills It! ” ;
The First Crusade was launched to recapture the Holy Land
from Muslim infidels !
Within a span of next two hundred years eight Crusades
were launched ,
The First one took Jerusalem , but the Second failed to make
Damascus fall !
The Third led by Richard the Lion Heart, made Saladin to
grant the rights , -
To Christian pilgrims to visit their Holy shrines in Palestine !
The Fourth Crusade had sacked Constantinople , - then a
commercial rival of the Italians !
Now cutting a long story short , let us see what History
has taught !
These Crusades helped in opening up the trade routes ,
For importing paper, spices, soap, silk and luxury goods !
Trade was carried out with the countries of Levant region ,
Which included the countries from Turkey to Egypt , -
Bordering the eastern seaboards of the Mediterranean !
These trade routes formed a major conduit of culture
and knowledge ,
And exchanges and interactions broadened the mental
horizon of the Italians !
From Constantinople, recently Christianized Spain , and
the Arab lands , -
The preserved ancient classical knowledge now reached
the Italian hands !
In their School of Salamanca the Arabs of Spain ,
Had translated works of Aristotle and classical scholars
into Arabic , - thereby preserving the same !
Later scholars translated these precious works into Greek
and Italian ,
And thus the Ancient Classics saw a glorious revival !
The scientific, philosophical, and mathematical thoughts
of the Arabs had also entered Northern Italy ,
From Egypt and the Levant region , to enrich Pre-
Renaissance Italy !
And when Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks in 1453 ,
Its Greek scholars with their precious manuscripts flocked
into Italy !
THE CITY-STATES OF ITALY :
‘Italia’, once the epicenter of the mighty Roman Empire ,
Disintegrated into several small principalities breaking
up Italy entire !
Its mountainous rugged terrain was a barrier to effective
internal communication ;
And no strong unified monarchies emerged, as in other
parts of Europe !
Italy with its peninsula jutting out into the Mediterranean
Had begun to monopolize the trade routes, and also to
prosper economically !
During the time of the Renaissance , Italy had numerous
autonomous city-states and territories ;
Where a powerful leader called the Signore , ruled for
a fixed tenure initially ;
But later this post was declared as hereditary !
Kingdom of Naples controlled the south ;
Republic of Florence and the Papal States the center ;
Genoese and the Milanese the north and west respectively ;
And the Venetians the eastern part of Italy .
These Italian city-states prospered greatly from its growing
trade during the 14th century ;
Its cargo ships visiting Byzantine , and the cities bordering
the Mediterranean Sea !
It became a status symbol for rich families to patronize
art and culture ;
They vied with one another commissioning paintings
and architecture !
But the Italian city-state that had prospered the most ,
Was the city-state of Florence which became the host ;
And the ‘Cradle of European Renaissance’ !
* ALL COPY RIGHTS WITH THE AUTHOR -RAJ NANDY*
(My Part -II will contain the Story of Florence , - " Cradle of the
Italian Renaissance". Thanks for reading, do recommend this Verse to
your other poet friends!
Comments from Gita Ashok, an Educator, from ‘Poetfreak.com’:- A thoroughly researched erudite collection of historical facts presented in a very lucid and interesting manner. This write made me reminisce all those history lessons that I learnt in school many years ago - many of which I found boring as it was taught in an intimidating way. I feel like going back in time, becoming a student once again and learning history through such creatively written works of art. But I realize that we are all yet students of life and can still continue to learn and grow. I feel fortunate to have read this great piece of literary work and I look forward to reading the second part.- by Gita Ashok | Reply
AN INTRODUCTION TO ITALIAN RENAISSANCE was added 21 hours ago.