From Reformation to Renaissance: An Essay on the Transition of Europe’s Art, Science and Technology During the 15th to 17th Century
The vast European continent has been known to undergo different transformations and changes in the course of history. Because Europe consists of such different and diverse culture, heritage, and backgrounds, the world was able to witness a time when it consisted of kingdoms of both the monarch and the church which dominated their politics, society and entire lives to the time that the amount of influence the royal families and the power of the church have had had drastically changed. But what remained in Europe was their ability to maintain their glory and grandeur when it comes to art, technology and science. It was not like this all the time though and there was also a time when Europe had to undergo their primitive stage wherein art, technology and science were so archaic that it seemed even unheard of. As what people say though, the only constant thing is change and Europe did change for the better as their more archaic forms of art, science and technology transitioned to what the world would applaud for one of Europe’s greatest contribution to the entire humanity—the products of the Renaissance period. Before the Renaissance, wherein Europe was covered in a bleak light, things were not going so well and this is most likely the reason why people decided that it was time for a drastic change. More than a change, the people clamoured for a revolution and it was a revolution they gave in the form of the Reformation.
To explain what the Reformation is, is to explain why it took place and to illustrate the time before that. Before the Reformation, Europe was a dark and dreary place. Everything was uncertain and everything was to be doubted. As what Simon (1972) wrote in The Reformation, “The ruler of the world was God…nature was dark and mysterious”. Thus, everything can be explained by God and everything was justified by His words and will. This brought about the notion that people were sinners who does not deserve anything good in their lives. Strife and adversities were so abundant that people who rule the peasants (meaning the monarch and the Catholic Church) exploited and abused their power to the point that the people rebelled and decided that they had had enough. It was an inevitable revolution as the “peasants…had risen against their masters, demanding more freedom and better living conditions” (Simon, 1972). If the time before the Reformation was dark and dreary, the time during the Reformation was filled with chaos and pandemonium as people quarrelled with the men of the Church, the peasants argued with their lords, and science and religion were in conflict with each other. The men who wanted knowledge and freedom like Martin Luther and Erasmus pioneered great changes within the Church and because the Church controlled almost everything concerning the lives of men (even that of the monarch), great changes ensued. Soon, Catholicism paved way for Lutheranism. Art became more detailed and sophisticated as the imagination of artists and masters like Leonardo da Vinci, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael were even encouraged by the Church. Science and technology became a way for the world to get rich and wealthy that people began clamouring for it. In short, things turned better to the point that there became a rebirth of Europe which in the long run, influenced and even inspired the greater part of the world. This rebirth is the Renaissance.
The change brought on by the Reformation and the full realization of that change brought on by the Renaissance can be specified in three areas—arts, science and technology and religion. As what Fleming (1974) wrote in Arts and Ideas, “the domination ideas of the Renaissance cluster around three concepts”—“classical humanism” which concerns art, “scientific naturalism” which concerns science and technology, and “Renaissance individualism” which had a hand in the church reformation and improvement. During the Reformation, art was “produced very little”, which was one of the most obvious changes brought on by the Renaissance wherein there was an overabundant production of art (Simon, 1972). Both Simon (1972) and Clark (1817) explain that art during the Reformation art was influenced by the Church wherein only religious depictions were permitted. The philosophy of Realism dominated much of the artworks that caused sculptures, paintings, literature and even architecture to be sombre and serious. However, the role of the artist changed during the Renaissance and his imagination was not only freed, it was also encouraged. This is because the artists were seen as a creator which was inspired by the Holy Spirit and God and they were even commissioned to paint ceilings and walls of churches or even to create the design of the churches themselves. Soon, the works of notable artists during the Renaissance depicted the magical and whimsical beings that were once frowned upon by the Church—the imagination of men freely flowed.
The most influential aspect that brought on the transition of the Reformation to the Renaissance is the change of perception concerning the Catholic Church. It all started with Martin Luther who was the pioneer of the revolution concerning the church. As what was stated earlier, the church became corrupt and vile to the point that the sanctity of Catholicism was defiled: “Men could see that the Church had become a tied house—tied to property and status and defending its interests by repression and injustice” (Clark, 1817). Luther saw all this and launched a protest towards the church mainly because of the “indulgences” created by the church. Peasants followed his suit and soon scholars and important figures also championed his cause. This challenge made by Luther reformed the thinking of the Church and soon, like a domino effect, one thing changed to another.
In the middle of all the changes that Luther pioneered and all the artworks produced, science and technology also thrived. The printing press and the improvements in communication and transportation greatly helped the revolution as men were able to gain easier and more efficient access with each other. Science and technology also contributed to the world of art as what Clark (1817) wrote: “No doubt early Renaissance architecture is based on a passion for mathematics, particularly geometry”. Thus, artists fused both art and science together to create the some of the best productions of art that the world has ever seen. And though science and religion are constantly in conflict with each other, no one can deny that science took a great part in making religion more accessible to everyone.
To conclude, the Reformation was the first step towards the rebirth of Europe which was Renaissance: before things improved and before everyone bore the fruits, it is but natural that the people first undergo hardship as they go about changing their policies, lives and society. The art, science and technology and religion that the Reformation had been enormously different when compared to the Renaissance and the three aspects are all interlocked and interconnected. The life before the Reformation was filled with darkness. During the Reformation Europe was beginning to be illuminated. It was during the Renaissance that Europe and eventually the rest of the world were able to enjoy the light.
Clark, K. (1817). Civilisation. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
Fleming, W. (1974). Arts and ideas. New York: Holt, Rineheart and Winston, Inc.
Simon, E. (1972). The reformation. Nederland: Time-Life International.