The Renaissance and the Reformation were quite similar in some ways and quite different in others. Most important similarity: The Renaissance (1350-1600) and the Reformation (1517-1648) both served to buck against traditional authorities of Church and State, break down feudalism, and bring about the modern age. Oftentimes, Church and State were one and the same as becomes obvious in the case of Renaissance Italy, where many of the Renaissance popes came from families that made their fortunes off-trade. The Medicis, whom Machiavelli writes about in The Prince, is a prime example of a family of merchants turned bankers who were also important figures in the hierarchy of what had become a highly corrupt Catholic Church. We may most associate the Renaissance with fine arts and architecture these days, but what underlay the sheer beauty that was created during this period was trade between the West and the East. Merchants formerly looked down upon in the hierarchy of feudalism (see text and slides), came to rule the cities, or more specifically the City-States of Italy. They bought positions in the Church (Catholic means Universal, by the way), and most importantly, they pointed society in a secular direction. Italian merchants like the Medicis became so rich they established banks that funded lavish architectural projects not only in the Italian city-states but in other parts of Europe that were highly influenced by the Italian Renaissance. Of course, they transformed society in the process. Then, along came the Reformation. When Martin Luther, a Catholic priest, rebelled against the corruption within the Church in 1517, he essentially set off a revolution in faith that would shake most of Europe. Protestantism was born (note the root word in Protestantism = Protest). It shattered the Catholic Church, and the feudal states, which were often ruled by the Church. German princes, among others, decided to adopt Protestantism and impressed it upon their subjects. The renowned Henry VIII of England separated from the Church. These were not benign separations. They often meant war, and religious warfare plagued European states well into the 17th Century. After the wars subsided, the Catholic Church was no longer the only game in town. I could go on but I want you to discover the Renaissance and the Reformation on your own through the text and the materials provided in this folder. Both paved the way for the modern, secular society that we presently live in. When you have absorbed these materials, turn to “Discussions” on Blackboard and respond to this week’s two discussion questions. One will be a general discussion question based on some aspects of the text and the materials and the other will be based on this week’s primary document, which is excerpts from Machiavelli’s, The Prince. The brief book, which in some ways was meant to be a guidebook for rulers like the Medicis and practically marks the invention of modern political science, is without a doubt, still in use. Not surprisingly, many of our current leaders have apparently absorbed its content.
Both the Renaissance and the Reformation fostered increased individualism, undermined the power of the Catholic Church in Europe, and paved the way toward modernity. In challenging existing authorities they were somewhat alike. But what set the two social movements apart? With this question please explore some of the likenesses and some of the differences between the Renaissance and the Reformation. How did both lead to a more secular society? Must be 250 words or more.
Other text: Western Civilization A Brief History, vol. II Since 1600. Eleventh Edition