Historical Study - Previous  |Next | Page 3

book Now that manuscripts were being turned into books and printed, the world of letters previously known only to scholars, monks and the literati, was fast becoming a world for everyman. If you could read and write exciting possibilities were opening up.

Rules of law, edicts or enactments of authority, government ordinances, writs, decrees, royal privileges, judgements of the court, the legal documents of everyday life were now all being printed. Those who could read, could examine the texts for themselves, and perhaps stay out of trouble because of it. Those who could write could question and debate the words of others, could even offer alternatives and improvements.

R e n a i s s a n c e
Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and Habeas Corpus, which all concerned the governance of society and the individual's role in it, were all printed in quantity and distributed.

Along with new advances in algebra and number theory the great works of ancient literature and science were reappearing. Euclid's Elements, Homer's Iliad, the plays of Sophocles and Euripedes, were all being printed. Books were being produced in durable bindings and preserved in private libaries.

Now knowledge and learning was surviving the tumultuous tempests, purges and revolutions of men. By 1500 A.D. the communications revolution in Europe was beginning.

Before long Mankind's use of the written word drew level to, or on a par with, the generous redundancy Nature enacts in her other creations.

Fuelled by humanity's noble thirst for knowledge a renaissance of the spirit was producing all manner of spin-off inventions and advances in the sciences and arts.

Leonardo Da Vinci was preparing his theory of mechanics, in which he described machines and work tools which could demonstrate and explain mechanical principals such as friction and resistance.

Leonardo studied screw threads, gears, hydraulic jacks and swivels, and concluded that the laws of mechanics operate everywhere in the organic and inorganic world and that force or virtue spiritule ('spiritual property') shaped and ruled the cosmos. He researched the properties of water, with its laws of motion and currents. He also studied flying apparatus, growth in plants, and the geological structure of the earth.

In Leonardo's works on anatomy he demonstrated that the heart, lung and brain were 'motors' of the senses and of life. In his anatomical drawings he devised a hatching system which was able to reveal any part of the body in transparent layers, and one which now forms the basis for modern scientific illustration.

His Treatise on Painting envisaged the study of geometry, perspective and optics to form the basis for the artist's education in painting and drawing.

His theory of forms and functions of the visible world sought to describe and define the phenomena of Nature, which, at that time, was thought to be made up of the interactions of earth, fire, air, and water.

In 1536 Michelangelo was at work on the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel. He had already completed the Moses and David and was showing a mastery of form beyond anything ever seen before. Having relinquished the pagan themes of the ancients he turned in 1498 to Christian themes.

In 1546 he designed the piazzale of the Capitoline Hill and in 1557 St. Peter's Cupola. Sculptor, painter, architect and now poet, he produced masterpieces of sculpture and painting, some 343 sonnets, and some madrigals and quatrains.

'He who from nothing, and ere all things were, did time create, divided it in twain. To one he made the lofty sun a share, and to the other moonlight's dusky train.'

Michelangelo believed that the underlying unity of art was to be found in design. His personal emblem was three woven circles indicating the interdependence of the three arts, sculpture, painting and achitecture.

In accommodating Christian Orthodoxy with the ideals of Humanism and Platonism, Michelangelo and Leonardo were Renaissance thinkers in the true meaning of the word. Michelangelo was a revivalist of art and letters. His output was prodigious, precocious and phenomenal. He displayed a sensitivity and understanding of the human condition that equalled, if not rivalled the classical models. Leonardo, on the other hand, was a discoverer and seeker of truth, who sought to understand the workings of the world and its source.

The Renaissance gave birth to the Reformation, or the reform of church corruption, and then the Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, in which the goals of mankind were considered to be knowledge, freedom and happiness.

The Enlightenment challenged the authority of the church with new discoveries in the sciences and mathematics. The universe was a mechanism governed by discoverable laws in which the idea of a personal god and individual salvation was called into question.

The Enlightenment has its roots in Greek philosophy where the regularities of nature suggested that its governing principal was the reasoning mind. In the Renaissance there had been a synthesis between classical letters and the Christian faith. The search for an intelligible and rational world view appealed to the European mind.

There were new developments in science from Descartes and Galileo. Descartes took the principals of Euclid and invented a new three dimensional co-ordinate geometry. Galileo researched and discovered the law of falling bodies. With the new invention of the telescope he discredited the Ptolemaic world view of a universe rotating about the earth.

Click for more