Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Renaissance Myth

Was the Renaissance the Age of Discovery or was the Middle Ages? A misunderstanding is cleared up. To quote:

Now if there was a Dark Age, it might be argued, with some show of reason, that there must have been a renaissance to end it. This is perfectly correct. There was one, and it happened in the twelfth century. This fact has, it is true, not entirely escaped the notice of historians, and it has become common to speak of "the twelfth-century renaissance" and also of a "Carolingian renaissance" in the ninth century. But, as the qualifiers in the names suggest, these are thought of as pale forerunners of the Renaissance - good efforts for their time, perhaps, but hardly to be compared with the real thing. But the Carolingian renaissance did not amount to much, and the capital-R Renaissance was, as we have seen, more like two steps back than one step forward. The twelfth century, though, had a real, true, and unqualified renaissance. 

Simply on the level of material remains, the sudden change from what went before is absolutely clear. The few buildings surviving in England from the times of Bede and Alfred the Great are room-sized piles of rubble with a hole in them; by contrast Durham Cathedral (begun in 1093) is as big a church as there is any point in building, and is only the best of a number built at the same time. The engineering skill of the builders of the Leaning Tower of Pisa becomes better confirmed each year. (Read more.)

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