The Italian Renaissance spread Secularism and Humanism across Europe Show more Show less
With the people’s respect of the once all-powerful Church weakened following its many problems during the Middle Ages, this newly educated, wealthy class began to pursue more secular and human interests – art, science, philosophy, etc.
Petrarch, a Tuscan poet, is considered to be the “Father of Humanism.” Humanism came from an inspired shift from the scholastic curriculum of the medieval era to the curriculum of, what the Romans called the “humanities.” Petrarch was fascinated with classical texts and traveled the world looking for them. As John Merriman states, Petrarch “uncovered the Roman orator and moralist Marcus Tulles Cicero” and used his work “to see in classical philosophy a guide to life based on experience.” Humanists believed classical writers deserved celebration and imitation. They believed their works could civilize humanity and heavily influenced the politics of the Italian city-states. Humanists insisted that an active life in public affairs and politics were necessary for a prosperous and virtuous civilization. Petrarch's successors continued to uncover and reprint more and more classical texts. And with the printing of books made easier by the invention of the printing press, ancient Greek texts were being reprinted in Latin, as well as vernacular languages like Italian and German. People had far better access to the works of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle as these works were printed in a more accessible language, available in more libraries, and expanded upon by Renaissance writers.
While pagan, Classical texts continued to be "rediscovered" in Europe, these texts or beliefs did not alter the Christian belief or structure. Humanists would take these texts and ascribe Christian meanings from them and appropriate the stories, histories, and poems. Humanists challenged medieval scholasticism, which was heavily influenced by the church, but they did not challenge the power of the Church and its place in the lives of Europeans.