A Cultural Revolution
The Arrival Of The Humanists
For centuries, elite men had been warriors, or, towards the end of the Middle Ages, wealthy merchants and bankers. And then, almost suddenly, everything changed: new men appeared on the scene. This change occurred between the end of the 14th and the middle of the 15th century. The most admired spirits, those who gained fame, were those who knew several languages, who remained locked up for months in libraries or laboratories. They explored the secrets of nature, whose laws they discovered. They mastered new techniques, invented and built amazing machines.
At the same time, they moved in front of a painting, listening to beautiful music, or reading a poem. Of course, kings and princes always commanded. But now they entrusted the education of their children to the scientists and followed their advice. Princes financed expensive libraries bought rare manuscripts and commissioned paintings.
These men living things of the spirit were the new heroes of Europe: their promotion represented a true cultural revolution. The discovery of manuscripts from ancient Greece and Rome was certainly the element that most favoured the development of this movement. The Latin term humanities called humanism the new way of thinking and seeing the world, which prepared the marvellous explosion of European civilization.
Erasmus(1469 – 1536)
The Dutch Erasmus of Rotterdam was one of the most eminent figures of humanism. With his many travels, he was able to get in touch with the main cultural movements that were appearing in Europe.
He was the intimate friend of Thomas More. Among his works, “The Praise of Folly”, in which he denounces the corruption and vices of the clergy, thus joining the spirit of the Reformation.
However, in his “Essay on Free Will”, he defends the freedom of man and takes a stand against the Lutheran idea of predestination.
Known for his prodigious memory and exceptional erudition, he was one of the most typical representatives of Italian humanism. He learned, in particular, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic.
He affirmed that Man was placed by God in the centre of the Universe with the duty of studying the world to understand the laws that govern it and to study himself to understand the demands of his soul.
Thomas More(1477 – 1535)
Thomas More was one of the most remarkable personalities of his time. Chancellor of the King of England Henry VIII, he opposed his suzerain when he claimed to be the supreme leader of the Anglican Church.
Stubbornly admitting the superiority of the pope, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. His name is linked to his work in Latin, “Utopia” (1516).
Inspired by Plato, he describes an ideal society, installed on an imaginary island, organized according to the rules of peaceful cohabitation and tolerance between men of different beliefs. In Utopia, there is no private property, and all property is pooled.