The Central Themes Of The Italian Renaissance And Northern Renaissance

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Beginning in Italy in the 14th century, the Renaissance was a period of “rebirth” and immense social and cultural change in Europe. The influential historian, Jacob Burckhardt, discussed the idea that the Renaissance marked the origin of modern times, in which the focus of life shifted from solely religion to a higher emphasis on learning and rationality. In his book, “The Civilization of the Renaissance," Burckhardt recognizes “worldliness” as one of the most essential features of the Renaissance. He claims that with this new attitude, there is an “irresistible impulse [that] forces us to the investigation of men and things,” as “the proper end and work” of humanity (421). Considering Burckhardt’s sense of worldliness, as well as regional differences across Europe, it is evident that European society did become more “worldly” during the years between 1415 and 1600, as secular pursuits, materialism, the humanities, and the arts became important values of the time. Although the central themes of the Italian Renaissance and Northern Renaissance varied, there was a shared common ground, and each reflected worldliness in unique ways. Firstly, the Italian Renaissance placed a higher emphasis on the enjoyment of and indulging in worldly goods. Famous Italian humanist, Leon Battista Alberti, claimed that money is “the root of all things” and that while it is great to know how to make money, “it is even better to know how to spend it sensibly and in the right place” (102, 580).
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