The Italian Renaissance: How and Why it Began and Ended
The Italian Renaissance remains tied to the efflorescence of art and architecture that has defined the period between 1350 and 1600. But the great art reflected an intellectual, cultural, economic, and social revolution that changed the way Italians – and later Western Europeans – saw themselves and the world. What characterized this process? The invention of the individual–active and engaged in the community, the desire to know others through words and images, and the reproduction of what the eye sees. Inspiring these changes was the recovery of classical antiquity by those Italians who saw greater parallels between their own age and that of ancient Rome, and later Greece. This remarkable period was challenged first, by the French invasions of 1494, which eventually destroyed Italy’s independence. Soon after, the Reformation forced the Church to construct institutions to control information and thought — to protect the souls of Catholics. The Roman Inquisition of 1542 and the Index of Prohibited Books of 1559 stifled the freedom of enquiry and action that had been the source of the creative energy of the Renaissance.