The world has a lot to thank Italians for, not just amazing food recipes. Among other things, and feasibly one of the most influential and lovingly regarded, is the Renaissance. A glorious uprising from the Dark Ages into a new era of exquisite paintings, sculpture, architecture, literature and scientific innovations. The Renaissance was quite literally a rebirth of European culture. And it all began in Italy.
Although the Renaissance spread throughout much of western Europe after it’s birth in Florence, it remained centered there for more than a century before giving rise to the Northern Renaissance. History was in the making and many great thinkers, artists and explorers of the day are well known and studied, even now.
Galileo and Copernicus, Columbus and Vespucci, Da Vinci and Michelangelo, Dante and Machiavelli all had their beginnings in the the Italian Renaissance. These historical figures, now quoted and learned all over the world, were the driving force of the Renaissance. Ushering in new ideas, and perpetrating these to their fellow men, these forward thinkers of the day were undoubtedly influential. Through their visionary art, works of literature, brave explorations and scientific studies, these men seemingly turned the page of man’s history.
When the Renaissance began in the mid 15th century, Italy was in the midst of political upheaval. Florence was under the rule of the Medici at that time, who were great lovers of art and consequently commissioned several works from artists and sculptors like Da Vinci and Michelangelo. The Papal Church in Rome was only loosely organized and susceptible to outside influences and pressure, particularly from the French.
Regardless of the political mess, the dissemination of the Byzantine Roman Empire and trade routes that passed from both the far east and northern Europe through the Mediterranean and into Florence in the 13th century, created a surplus of wealth in that area which allowed for massive investments into the arts and agriculture.
This overabundance of riches, and the subsequent economic development created a stage for our masterminds to play with their newfound freedom of creation. Also owing to the revival and rediscovery of Byzantine literature and manuscripts, architects and artists of the Renaissance were encouraged to rise above their forebears and create wondrous and new devices, sculptures, works of art, literature and other forms of entertainment to be consumed and enjoyed by the masses and their wealthy benefactors.
With all the wealth, Italy was also able to develop at this time some well known business elements still in use today. Double-entry book-keeping, an organized foreign exchange market, joint stock companies, government debt, insurance and the rise of capitalism were all introduced and flourished during the Renaissance.
So, we see that the Renaissance was not only responsible for some of the greatest works of mankind, including the ceiling at the Sistine Chapel and Dante’s Divine Comedy (both of which could arguably be included in a current Wonders of the World list), but also some of our current systems of business and administration.