Renaissance Humanism


The Renaissance was a milestone for Europe to escape the old ideologies from the Medieval with remarkable achievements that have had a great impact on humanity. In this research paper, I will focus on some of the greatest achievements in the Renaissance time thanks to humanism.



The Renaissance is a period in European history between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the middle ages to modernity. The Renaissance began in Florence, Italy, in the 14th century and it spread to the rest of Europe on different scales and levels in the sixteenth century.

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Renaissance is a cultural movement that has profoundly influenced the intellectual life of Europe in modern times. Its influence was present in literature, philosophy, art, science and other aspects of life. Renaissance scholars use the human method in research and exploit the reality of human life and emotions in art.

1.2. Humanism

Throughout recorded history, there have been non-religious individuals who have trusted that this life is the main life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no extraordinary side, and that we can live moral and satisfying lives based on reason and humanity. They have trusted the scientific method, proof, and reason to find realities about the universe and they are interested in a happy and efficient life here on earth. People who share these beliefs and values are called humanists and this combination of attitudes is called humanism.

Humanism was the major intellectual movement of the Renaissance. In the opinion of the majority of scholars, it began in late-fourteenth-century Italy, came to maturity in the fifteenth century, and spread to the rest of Europe after the middle of that century. Humanism then became the dominant intellectual movement in Europe in the sixteenth century. Proponents of humanism believed that a body of learning, humanistic studies (studia humanitatis), consisting of the study and imitation of the classical culture of ancient Rome and Greece, would produce a cultural rebirth after what they saw as the decadent and “”barbarous”” learning of the Middle Ages. It was a self-fulfilling faith. Under the influence and inspiration of the classics, humanists developed a new rhetoric and new learning. Some scholars also argue that humanism articulated new moral and civic perspectives and values offering guidance in life. Humanism transcended the differences between the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, as leaders of both religious movements studied and used the ancient Latin and Greek classics. Generally, the most important concept of humanism is it focuses on human, the human is the center.

1.3. Renaissance humanism

Renaissance humanism was a cultural movement focused on the study of classical literature and history and dedicated to eloquence in neoclassical (as opposed to medieval) Latin. Originating in the literacy-rhetorical interests of the thirteenth and fourteenth-century Italian notaries, lawyers, teachers, secretaries, and functionaries, Renaissance humanism was, in Paul Oskar Kristeller’s well known formulation, “”a characteristic phase in what may be call the rhetorical tradition in Western culture””. As such, Renaissance humanism was peculiarly the product of the medieval Italian city states.

The Renaissance passion for what was human and the discovery or rediscovery of this same inclination in the classical world call humanism. Humanism is an outstanding characteristic during the Renaissance. As humanism appeared, it influenced many aspects, many fields of life. They are not only meaningful at that time but also valuable until today. In the next part, the achievements of Renaissance humanism will be discussed.

2. Renaissance Humanism Achievements

Supernaturalism is gradually reduced, human interested became more prominent. Reliance upon faith and God weakened. People got rid of the old way of thinking from the Medieval, got rid of the old method such as the determination of destiny or biblical interpretation.

2.1 Science

The achievements of the Renaissance in technical fields are: inventing press printing, making paper, building blast furnace, innovating of the water wheel and many new innovations promoting the industry.

One of the most famous inventions during the Renaissance is the printing press. A printing press is a device developed by Johannes Gutenberg for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium thereby transferring the ink. Gutenberg used to work as a professional goldsmith, so he used the knowledge of metals he had learned as a craftsman to make type from an alloy of tin, lead and antimony, which was durable enough to produce high-quality printed books. Gutenberg is also credited with the introduction of an oil-based ink which was tougher than the previously used water-based inks. As printing material, he used both paper and vellum (high-quality parchment). By 1452, Gutenberg began his famous Bible project. Two hundred copies of the two-volume Gutenberg Bible were printed, a small number of which were printed on vellum. The expensive and beautiful Bibles were completed and sold at the 1455 Frankfurt Book Fair, and cost three years’ pay for the average clerk. Gutenberg’s printing press is such an important innovation that it not only contributes to the printing industry but also creates a communication revolution. Elizabeth L. Eisenstein called the printing press as “”an agent of change””.

Another huge achievement is in medicine. There was a famous doctor in this period: Paracelsus (1493-1951). Instead of using strange remedies: pigeon manure or snake blood to make drugs, he adjusted doses of the drug through experiment. He emphasizes the relationship between mental status and diseases of the body and investigates the causes of certain diseases. His contributions to medicines were in several branches: chemistry, toxicology, psychosomatism and he also had new discoveries and treatments. He was the first person to give the element “”zinc”” (zincum) its name. He observed unknowingly hydrogen. Paracelsus was the one who established toxicology. He expounded the concept of dose response and he stated that “”Only the dose makes the poison”” (Paracelsus, Dritte Defensio, 1538.)

In terms of natural science, the achievements of the cultural movement of the Renaissance brought many great advances with the contributions of many scientists:

A Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 – 1543) with the theory: the sun is the center of the universe. After years of study, he concluded: Earth revolves around the sun. This is in stark contrast to the “”earth is the center”” theory that the church has recognized for thousands of years. Giovanni Bruno (1548 – 1600) actively responded to solar theology as the center of Copernicus when the church banned the circulation. In addition, he developed this ideology, which suggested that the sun was at the center of the temporal system rather than the center of the universe.

An Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) continued to develop these two views. He proved that the moon has a rugged surface, not a smooth one, and galaxies are made up of countless stars. In addition, he explained the phenomenon of comets and was called the father of experimental science with the law of free fall and oscillation of the pendulum.

A German astronomer, Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), demonstrated that the motions of the planets were elliptical rather than circular, the closer they were to the Sun, the higher the velocity of motion, the farther away from the sun, the slower it was.

Science and art were intermingled in the early Renaissance, with artists such as Leonardo da Vinci making observations of anatomy and nature. Da Vinci has established controlled experiments in water currents, medical analysis and systematic studies of motion and aerodynamics, and he devised the principles of research methodology that made Fritjof Capra classify him as “”the father of modern science””. Other examples of Da Vinci’s contributions during this period include machines designed to see marbles and lift monoliths and new discoveries of phonetics, botany, geology, anatomy, and mechanics.

2.2 Literature

Higher education and the invention of printed books have helped spread literary works. Literature is diverse with 3 genres: poetry, drama, novels.

In poetry, the works that promote the unification of Italy are more and more prominent in this genre. For example, Dante with two major works is “”The New Life”” and “”Divine Comedy””. In addition, Petrarca has published sonnets in poetry and prose with content praising love, beautiful ideas in his works. He became the model for lyrical poetry.

In novel, there are Boccaccio is a famous Italian writer with the “”The Decameron”” and “”On Famous Women””, F.Rabelais with “”Gargantua and Pantagruel””, Miguel de Cervantes with “”Don Quixote””.

The drama genre has grown tremendously, especially in the UK with William Shakespeare having more than 40 plays such as “”Romeo and Juliet””, “”Hamlet””, “”Macbeth””, etc.

2.3. Art

The renaissance of Western culture revolves around the arts in three areas: painting, architecture, and sculpture.

In painting and sculpture, the difference of Renaissance art is the high reality, the authors express personality and the interior is different from the previous period. A great Italian artist of this period was Leonardo da Vinci with such as “”Mona Lisa””, “”The Last Supper””, “”Salvator Mundi””, “”The Vitruvian Man””, “”Lady with an Ermine””.

Moreover, there was a famous sculptor, architect named Michelangelo. His illustrious work is the “”Sistine Chapel ceiling””, including 343 figures. “”The Last Judgement”” was also painted on the Sistine’s wall. In sculpture, he had many statues such as “”Moses”” and “”David””. The statue of David Davenport is carved on marble which is up to 5.3 meters high. David is not a shepherd boy, but a young man of eighteen and twenty who is in good physical shape, with strong muscles, smart forehead, and confident eyes. In addition, the achievements of the Renaissance culture in the arts have also contributed by other artists such as Giotto and Botticelli.

About architecture, at this stage, it reflects classical restoration. Some typical buildings are Chambord Castle, Azay le Rideau Castle, the Louvre Museum, the roof of St Peter’s Basilica, the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican.

3. Conclusion

In conclusion, the period from the 14th century to the 17th, which called the Renaissance, is a huge movement. Renaissance marks the formation of a knowledge-based society, people know how to observe, experience, analysis, know how to put knowledge into practice. Thanks to humanism, people have been able to express themselves, thereby creating great achievements, which are meaningful not only at that time but also up to now. Based on the achievements also characteristics of the Renaissance cultural movement, we can see that it is a large step of European civilization in particular and human civilization in general. With the accomplishments it has achieved, it has broken the barrier of class, dogmatic, old ideologies, that open up new horizons for human development.


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Monfasani, J. (2017). Renaissance humanism, in the middle ages to modern times. S.l.: ROUTLEDGE.

Eisenstein, E. L. (2009). The printing press as an agent of change communications and cultural transformations in early-modern Europe; volumes I and II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kapr, Albert (1996), Johannes Gutenberg. The Man and his Invention

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