1.2- Introduction to the Renaissance

Introduction to the Italian Renaissance – Late 1300’s – Mid 1500’s


The Middle Ages were characterized by:

  • An intense religiosity
  • Famine and plague
  • A state of war that was so persistent that it was rarely interrupted by peace
  • The feudal system
  • Great disparities between wealth and poverty

    Mary Magdalen Announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles (1120's) St. Albans Psalter, St Godehard's Church, Hildesheim, England

    Mary Magdalen Announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles (1120’s) St. Albans Psalter, St Godehard’s Church, Hildesheim, England

The Renaissance was characterized by:

  • An interest in the individual person
  • A reinvention of civilization based upon Greek and Roman ideals
  • Increased opportunities for trade
  • Growing power in the merchant and middle classes
  • A growing interest in the arts and philosophy

    Quentin Massy - Netherlands, 1466-1530Date of work unknown

    Quentin Massy – Netherlands, 1466-1530
    Date of work unknown

What era would you live in: the Middle Ages or the Renaissance?

Here’s an optional video link to a rather unusual over view of the Renaissance.   Jeffery Lewis’ “Renaissance”

Next: Humanism

82 Responses to “1.2- Introduction to the Renaissance”

  1. Jo writes:

    If I had a choice between living in the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, I would probably have to choose the Renaissance. As a dark-skinned individual and a female, I doubt the Middle Ages would be too kind to me! The Renaissance would be safer and it would be amazing to see such developments take place. There’s still romanticism about the Middle Ages though; it would be fairly exciting to experience all the intensity of medieval conflict–but only for about an hour.

  2. Amy W. writes:

    I would rather just read about these ages. If I had to live in one, I would choose the Renaissance. I want to be viewed individually and respected for my own beliefs. Also there would be a much better opportunity to make a living. There are such drastic changes and developments during these times.

  3. Melissa Whipkey writes:

    I would definately choose the Renaissance over the middle ages to live in. I think it was interesting how they seemed to rely on religion to get them through such tough times of plague, war, and poverty. The idea that having a religion and something to believe in and that all that they were going through was just a test of life on earth. I don’t know how I would be so faithful to a religion when inhumane things such as mass beheadings turned rivers red. The Renaissance seems like a much friendlier time fram where people took interest in indivilality, art, and philosphy because that shows people began to care about a person’s well being. With that said, I’m sure that sparked trade opportunities because people obviously wanted to progress and not look back are the dark times

  4. Narlin Smith writes:

    I would also prefer to live in the Renaissance era. The thought of black plague, mass beheadings, and abuses of religion do not sit well with me. The Renaissance era also evokes thoughts of music, art, romance, and a more cultured society.

  5. Angie writes:

    Definitely the Renaissance! It seems like so many advancements were made during that time. I don’t think the Renaissance era was really that peaceful either, but certainly better than the Middle Ages. Additionally, there was at least a chance that you could improve your economic status instead of being born into the life of a peasant.

  6. Gloria writes:

    I think I would rather live in the Renaissance era. I can relate to the music, and art. The middle age didn’t have that in a sense. Neither were peaceful but the Renaisance era was much better.

  7. Nannette writes:

    Renaissance would be the clear winner if I had to choose between the two. As much fun as plague and famine may sound I would opt to avoid them. Intense religiosity would most likely see me burning at the stake or something, I’ve never been very good at keeping my mouth shut. Aside from that I would definitely prefer a period of time where I stood a better chance of being my own person.

  8. Tara Gardner writes:

    The renaissance wins my vote hands down. If you look at art or listen to music from back then, time seemed much happier during the renaissance than the middle ages.

  9. Trisha Madros writes:

    If I had the opportunity to travel back into time and live, I would want to live in the Renaissance era. I would not want to live in the middle ages with all the fighting and war and being controlled by other people. Plus, the Renaissance was a happier time or so it seemed and you can be you.

  10. Jaime Ames writes:

    i would much rather live in the Renaissance, the middle ages seem like a much scarier time. the beheadings, the plague… i’ll pass.

  11. Rachel McCreedy writes:

    I would rather live in the renaissance of course! I tend to prefer and peaceful, plague-less world. I am not so much into the ruthless crusades of beheadings either. Yah, i think the renaissance would be the time for me.

  12. Corrisa Smith writes:

    Intelectually, I would choose to live in the Renaissance period. However, I would note that the Renaissance was no less bloody, just more covert. Maybe it would be better to live in the Middle Ages where you knew who was your fried and who was foe.

  13. Natasha Moore writes:

    It would be great if we had the choice of what time we wanted to live in. For me I would pick the Renaissance period because it was a time when the old ways of doing things were changing. I agree with other posts that it seems to be a more ideal time because there were not as many people getting their head chopped off.

  14. Lia writes:

    I would much rather live in the Renaissance period because of A) The growing interest in art and philosophy, and B) the reinvention of civilization based upon Greek and Roman ideals. I would rather have those ideals as an option compared to the christian ideals at that time period.

  15. Christiana writes:

    Who would want to live in the middle ages? and Why? The Renaissance period would be the best choice I’m guessing people lived a little longer.

  16. Kristina Miller writes:

    I would definitely live in the Renaissance rather than the Middle Ages if I had to choose. The Renaissance was a revival of artistic inspiration and philosophical examination of one’s life. The Middle Ages were filled with cruel warfare, unmerited hierarchies, famine plague, and chaos. The Renaissance was an artists dream. It was the awakening of the importance of art and emphasis on discovering ways of expression through different mediums. There were still hierarchies but there wasn’t as much war and there were more patron’s that were interested in the arts.

  17. Michelle Felix writes:

    I agree with everyone who said the Renaissance! What an a amazing time for the emergence of new ways of doing, new art, newly recognized cultures, lifestyles, etc. I am sure that the middle ages would be interesting, but maybe not a good fit for me!

  18. kelly writes:

    I am tempted by the Renaissance era as they had a flourish of detailed and precise art that set a huge standard for the rest of the world. However, I know that I wouldn’t be able to take advantage of that artistic power since I’m female. The medieval era was also pretty miserable and all the best parts or fighting and feudal glory are saved for the men. I guess I have a better survival rate in the Renaissance, so that’s the one I’ll go with. In the end, my top choice would be either the late Greek era or early Roman.

  19. Caitlin writes:

    I would prefer, if I absolutely had to choose one of these eras to live in, the Renaissance. I feel this way because I abhor war, and I’d rather not die of the plague, or famine. Plus, there was some truly incredible artwork being produced during the Renaissance

  20. Jessica Sullivan writes:

    I would have chose to live in the Renaissance era. This is because I like to be viewed as an individual and that is actually important to me. Also I do not like war, so the middle ages would not be for me. The Renaissance would also be better for me because of the growing in arts and the way of living. So I would say the Renaissance era!

  21. AJ Heard writes:

    Out of the two I would have to choose the Renaissance. It had plenty of downsides to be sure, but it was a fairly huge turning point in history

  22. Santana writes:

    I have to agree with all of you in choosing the Renaissance (Steffi, don’t understand what your saying but I think your agreeing with us too). It would be crazy to choose an era of time that is known for mass plagues, disease, and poverty (with few exceptions to kings, dukes and nobles). The Renaissance is the starting point of society improving from the the fall of the Roman empire and the wreck of the Middle Ages.

  23. Reese writes:

    Definitely the Renaissance. While there were many things about that time that were still of objection, anything would have been better than the crude and violent world of the Middle Ages.

  24. Jessica Taft writes:

    The choice between the two? I would chose The Middle Ages. I have always found that period of time fascinating to me. The clothing they wore, the weapons that were used, and the Kings and Queens. The rules you must fallow. What I would do just for one day in that time.

  25. Michelle Felix writes:

    Both are very interesting, and I can’t imagine our world without them. If I were pressed I guess I would have to choose Renaissance. I love the art!

  26. Tara Knight writes:

    The nice thing about living now is that we still get to see all the art that has survived without having to experience any of the barbarities of those times. Although the Renaissance was a revival of classical art, there was a ton of art produced in the Medieval ages, and the Renaissance really wasn’t too much more advanced as far as human rights and equality goes…

  27. Ashley writes:

    I think I would definately want to live during the Renaissance times. There were more opportunities and more power than was offered during the middle ages.

  28. Orla Tighe writes:

    I think if I had to chose I would like to live during the Renaissance. There was increased interest in the individual and growth in the merchant and middle classes, which I think most of us would classify ourselves in. I think during the Renaissance I would be able to have a better quality of life than I would have experience in the Middle Ages as I assume I would been more on the poverty end of the social scale. Also, I wouldn’t want to take my chances with the plague.

  29. jessica wert writes:

    I have to would choose life in the renaissance.

  30. Chaitanya Borade writes:

    I would rather live in the Renaissance, rather than the Middle Ages because of the opportunities that the Renaissance times offered. The Attitudes in the Middle Ages were very closed, it would be harder to say your opinion, and this is something that is very important to me as I am a Petroleum engineer, and I understand the need for the exchange of ideas, in the Middle Ages this would be less possible.

  31. Nolan Lind writes:

    Speaking from a standpoint already so immersed in progress, I would have to choose to live in Renaissance times. Ultimately, what matters is that Rebirth is what set into motion the ever-progressive nature of science, industry and spiritual studies that is in place today.

  32. Rebecka writes:

    If I absolutely had to choose, I definitely would choose the Renaissance. Mainly because there was an increased interest in the arts and philosophy. I also would have had a hard time sitting by and watching the abuses that the “Christian” church imposed on many (especially in the Holy Land). As one who has a Faith that has literally changed my life, I have a hard time with people who are religious for religion’s sake, but really do not try to live it.
    I am supposing also, that the opening of the mind to philosophy for many people would have given rise to many new questions just waiting to explore. It probably was a time of wonderment and exploration into new areas like medicine, and physics, especially with the availability to visit the more advanced cultures within the Arab world.

  33. Tara Geoffroy writes:

    I reviewed most of the blogs and I would also go with the Renaissance. If there is art and creativity I am so there! The plague is not something I would look forward to at all. We were worried about the H1 N1 virus. I can’t imagine the black plague.

  34. Linda writes:

    The Middle Ages was such a dark time in history. I would choose the Renaissance without question. Increased opportunities for financial advancement with interest in the arts and the individual sounds like the light has broken through the darkness.

  35. Britney A. writes:

    I would definitely choose the Renaissance. Living in a time where there is plague and famine does not sound too pleasant. On the other hand, living in a time where there are more opportunities is an incentive, as well as the growing power of the middle class.

  36. Lisa Ellanna writes:

    I think that’s a silly question. Of course the Renaissance.

  37. Julie J. writes:

    I would have to choose the Renaissance. Whenever I think of the Middle Ages I just picture death of disease and other hard ships. The Renaissance was full of art and knights and other creative things making it seem much more interesting.

  38. Amy M writes:

    I have always been interested in the Medieval era, so automatically I would want to choose that. However, when actually looking at what life would be like (and what it was like for the majority of people), it doesn’t look so appealing. Living within the confines of the Middle ages would be very difficult, so I would probably choose the Renaissance in the end.

  39. Emma writes:

    I would prefer the Renaissance era. This era presented many people, especially speaking of the middle class, with the opportunity to travel and make their lives better. Life began to be about how hard a person was willing to work as opposed to only whether they were born into poverty or wealth.

  40. Sarah writes:

    I’d have to agree with the others and go with the Renaissance era. I choose this not only because the quality of life was much better, but also because I would have loved to walk around in renaissance clothing!

  41. Alvin Deighton writes:

    Maybe I’m just being contrary, but it seems that the Medieval era would be more fun – with the right perspective. I doubt that any but the most privileged actually experienced the art that was being created in the Renaissance era, while anybody that was willing could go off to war during the Medieval times. I am romanticizing the facts, but I’ve always been one for the simple things in life.

  42. Kimani Shotwell writes:

    Medieval for me!!! Like Alvin has stated, only those well off or educated would be able to experience then artistic and intellectual side of the Renaissance, and odds are I wouldn’t have been an intellectual or from a privileged family. So,so why not just go pilage!!!

  43. LeAnn Bifelt writes:

    I am adventurous & also love the simple things in life, which is why I would fit better in the Middle Ages. But I pride myself in being an individual and definitely would not want my child to live in a time of disease and drought, so Renaissance it is!

  44. Carlin Evanoff writes:

    I would say hands down the Renaissance, even if it were the case that affluent were the only ones able to enjoy the arts it was still a time of transition and change for the world. Extreme disparity with no upward mobility has no appeal to me.

  45. Mercedes Hughes writes:

    I would choose the Renaissance era. I would hate to be a peasant unable to enjoy the arts! I like the idea that I would have some chance to move up in the world.

  46. Chet writes:

    “Gloom, dispair, agony on me — deep, dark depression, excessive misery. It it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.*” Gloom dispair, and the agony of the Middle Ages; who wants a belly-load of that, not me! (*Hee Haw TV show song reference)

    Sanity dictates that the idea of living during the Renaissance is the better choice.

  47. Henry writes:

    It seems that the Renaissance wins by a long shot, and I agree. Why not live in an era where life would be more fruitful in some ways… Being an artist had its advantages thats for sure, and I were to have lived in that time, I pretty sure I would have been able to find work (maybe!). I think location would have to come into play if I where to choose an era… You wouldn’t want to be caught in a bad place at the wrong time in either era!!!

  48. Dan Coleman writes:

    I would choose to live during the middle ages. I like fighting and war. I’m a big guy (6’3″, 240 lbs), and could handle an axe, sword, or spear pretty well.

  49. Keely writes:

    I would definitely choose the Renaissance because of the growing interest in the arts! Famine, plague, and war do not sound so appealing.

  50. andrea gilbert writes:

    I would defenitly like the renaissance period, I would certainly parish in the middle ages. Not to mention the renaissane period was way better, people traveled, traded, and there were peakes of learning.

  51. Rebecca Hunting writes:

    I think if I had to choose I would live during the Renaissance

  52. Lee writes:

    I would have loved to see the Renaissance first hand.

  53. April Burrows writes:

    I think the Renaissance is the most appealing of the two. Although they both have their downfalls! The Middle Ages had too many diseases to be appealing. Yet at the same time the Renaissance period was not without their trials and tribulations.

  54. Coralie Stewart writes:

    I would have enjoyed living in the renaissance I think the explanations of that era seem to be a little better living conditions.

  55. Miles Dinstel writes:

    I believe that I would enjoy the renaissance. The advances in science, arts, and liberal thought coupled with increased available literature would make it an interesting time to live when compared to the middle ages.

  56. Gloria Tucker writes:

    If I was to chose to live in ether the middle ages or the renaissance I would have to chose the renaissance. I have always been more of an artist than a fighter, and being a woman during the middle ages I wouldn’t of been able to go to war anyway. At my age I would be left to tend to the children and the land that was given to us to work. Not much of that would be different during the renaissance but at least I would have the man of the house home to tend the land instead of off fighting and get to watch everything come back to life with art, music, and theater.

  57. Norm Stout writes:

    Let me see….plague, war, famine, peasantry, religiosity……or……enlightenment, science, progressivity, growing wealth…tough choice!

  58. Warren Nicolai writes:

    I know from a stand point of christianity that this time was a time of trouble and I believe that a branch of christianity had broken from the Roman catholic church during this time during the reformation. I feel that killing of people to turn them to christianity is not actually winning them so to speak but forcing them to convert and so making a otherwise “Heathean” into a christian with actually no belief in the messiah which is Jesus as savior. This is the whole reason there is christianity to tell them about a savior and his love for us. So in choosing to live in what age i would choose the renissance because there was an actually change of thought do to how to convert christians rather then forcing them into christianity.

  59. Amy Boardman writes:

    Would anyone choose the Middle Ages over the Renaissance? It was a horrible time of suffering and death. I’ll take art, philosophy, and opportunity!

  60. Mariah Scott writes:

    Being a women,”minority” and not having an abundance of money doesn’t fly so well for both the renaissance and the middle ages,Of the two I would definitely be a part of the renaissance. It would have been profound to witness and be apart of the total up level in thinking that people had about art music and architecture and philosophy.

  61. Sam writes:

    Definitely the Renaissance! Although, as I am not a wealthy, white male from a privileged family, I’m not sure the Renaissance was much better.

    I have to say that, despite the many improvements that can be made today, I feel wonderfully thankful not to have been born in previous centuries.

  62. jzollman writes:

    I would like during the Renaissance. It was an exciting time for individuals, artistic expression, and new ideas. There was conflict, but that was due to the progress of change. Those in power who propagated the arts may not have realized that they were actually undermining their ability to control by allowing new ideas in art, music, and science. Over time this spread to the masses and empowered them to take measures to exert control over their own destinies.

  63. Anonymous writes:

    I could only make it in the Renaissance! The middle ages sounded horrifying.

  64. mlewis writes:

    I would rather live in the renaissance than the middle ages. Renaissance was the time to do their own individual interests. It would be interesting being influenced by art, music, and science in those days. From being depressing to gaining individuals who are yearning to express themselves during the renaissance, this I would have liked to witness.

  65. Patrick Garcia writes:

    I would choose the renaissance, becuase of everything that was going on then. I don’t think i could do war and death 24/7.

  66. Elizabeth Wiedmaier writes:

    I would live in the renaissance. I agree with what others are saying about all the death and war of the middle ages. Just would be sad and depressing. The renaissance was like a re-birth!

  67. Katie Garrity writes:

    Both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are fascinating. As a woman, it would have been a challenge in both time periods. I suspect that the Renaissance would have had more opportunities and the possibility of living a bit longer (health and nutrition would have been slightly better).

  68. Mary Fox writes:

    Hmmm… Not much of a head scratcher there. The Renaissance would get all my votes. Not the biggest fan of beheadings, nor the black plague…I love reading about the middle ages but that is as familiar as I care to get to those times.

  69. Alyssa Larsen writes:

    As much fun as time periods of constant war, famine, and hard living conditions sound, I’m pretty sure i’d have to side with The Renaissance.

  70. Lyndsey West writes:

    If I could be in one of the ruling families I probably wouldn’t mind living in the middle ages. I like the fact that in the Renaissance there was not as large a gap between the nobles and peasants, though. If I was a member of a ruling a family I would just hope that there would not be a revolt against me that resulted with people saying “off with her head”.Hahaha

  71. Olivia Braastad writes:

    Call me mainstream, but I’d skip the war and famine of the middle ages for the art, science, excitement and enjoyment of life that the Renaissance had. No doubt about it.

  72. Objectives: Italian Renaissance | ART/MUS/THR F200 writes:

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  73. jaleigh writes:

    YEp, the Renaissance, While living as a noble or king in the middle ages might be OK, but the renaissance would probably give me a better chance at living a longer, more intellectually stimulating life.

  74. morgan925igap@yahoo.com writes:

    I would choose to live in the Renaissance, I would have a better chance at living a good life, whether I was a pauper or a princess, the chances of successful life would have been easier in the Renaissance era. If I lived in the middle ages, I would have been beheaded.

  75. Rebekah Mitchell writes:

    I would choose to live in he Renaissance, the middle ages seem dark for me, I know that I would not make it through alive.

  76. Adam Levy writes:

    The Renaissance of course. Who likes war and violence? Im all about dat peace yo.

  77. Jeff Skaggs writes:

    I would certainly choose to live in the Renaissance. Since we’re imagining we could live in a different era, I’m adding to that and just pretending that I would remain solidly in the middle class. As a member of the middle class, I would have options for what to do with my life aside from just trying to stay alive. I could attain education, or explore the new city centers for entertainment.

  78. amrit writes:

    I would certainly prefer the renaissance over the middle ages any time. To witness and participate in the collective shift of consciousness would be so amazing. I am also partial to the arts and would love to see the change in worldly perceptions reflected in art, in addition to having more value placed in different expressions of art and music.

  79. Bryson writes:

    Renaissance for sure. Make friends with a rich family like the medici and be set for life. I would get to hang out with the great artist and make wonderful art.

  80. Mary Grace King writes:

    I would prefer renaissance over the middle ages because there are better opportunities and to live a simple happy life rather than in the middle ages. Middle ages have a lot of jealousy when you get rich and a chance of to do bad things rather than do good to other people because you’ll be thinking how to be rich in easy way rather than work hard and do good deeds with your neighbors and family.

  81. Mary Grace King writes:

    I would choose renaissance over the middle ages because I would rather have a simple yet happy life than to compete with other neighbors regarding wealth and be rich and bad at the same time.

  82. shidalgo2 writes:

    I would of course prefer the Renaissance! I’ve always pictured the middle ages as a dark time in history full of war, blood in the streets and violence oppose to the Renaissance where one had the option to express themselves through religion, art and music. One thing I cannot live without is my music so defiantly Renaissance for me.