What is the Difference Between Middle Ages and Renaissance - Pediaa.Com (2022)

The main difference between middle ages and renaissance is that renaissance was the period of the great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe, marking the transition from medieval to the modern world.

There are three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, medieval period/middle ages, and the modern period. The middle ages period began after the fall of the Roman Empire. Renaissance is the period that followed the middle ages. It is the bridge between the Middle Ages and Modern history. Renaissance saw drastic changes and developments in many areas, such as cultural, social, economic, and political.

Key Areas Covered

1.What is Middle Ages
– Definition, Society, Art and Architecture, Literature
2.What is Renaissance
– Definition, Art and Architecture, Literature
3.What is the Difference Between Middle Ages and Renaissance
– Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Medieval Era, Middle Ages, RenaissanceWhat is the Difference Between Middle Ages and Renaissance - Pediaa.Com (1)

What is Middle Ages

Middles ages is also known as the medieval era. The middle ages of European history is between the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance. This period lasted from the 5th to the late 14th century. This is the middle period of the traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, medieval period/middle ages, and the modern period. The medieval period itself has three divisions: early, high and late middle ages.

After the fall of the Roman empire, the Catholic Church became the most powerful institution of that period. In fact, the centre of medieval life is the Church. Kings and queens of this period derived power from the Church. The nobles and the Church-owned most of the land and property. The systems of feudalism and manorialism were popular during this era.

Medieval Social Structure

There were three distinct classes in medieval society: lords, vassals, and fiefs. The king (lord) owned all the land, and he gave out parcels of land nobles (vassals) who would promise loyalty and service to the king. The nobles, in turn, rented out their parcel of land to peasants (fiefs). However, before the king granted land to someone, he had to make that person a vassal. This was done at a commendation ceremony that consisted of the two-part act of homage and oath of fealty. During this, the king and vassal entered into a contract – the vassal promised to fight for the king at his command, while the king agreed to protect the vassal from an external force.

What is the Difference Between Middle Ages and Renaissance - Pediaa.Com (2)

Figure 1: Investiture of a Knight

Medieval Art and Architecture

Medieval art and architecture consist of many styles, including early Christian and Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and Viking, Carolingian, Insular, Ottonian, Romanesque, and Gothic. The art and architecture mainly centred around the Church. Cathedrals were the largest buildings in medieval towns. Moreover, medieval art is an illustration of the passionate interest and idealistic expression of the Christian faith.

Medieval Literature

Medieval literature was also based on religious. Death and resurrection, good and evil, and heaven and Earth were recurrent Christian themes in works of literature. The code of chivalry and courtly love were also famous themes in medieval literature. Most of the early literature of the middle ages were also anonymous. Beowulf, Pearl Poet’sPearl, Patience, Cleanness,andSir Gawain and the Green Knight, John Gower’sConfessio Amantis, Langland’sPiers Plowman, and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer includingCanterbury Tales are examples of medieval literature.

Most of the work used Christian themes such as death and resurrection, good and evil, and heaven and Earth. The code of chivalry and courtly love were also famous themes in medieval literature.

End of the Middle Ages

Between 1347 and 1350, the bubonic plague, which was then known as the “Black Death” killed thousands of people in Europe. 30% of Europe’s population died as a result of this disease. Middle ages was a period marked by wars, famines, and plagues. Hence, people also call it the “Dark Ages”.

During the 11th century, feudal life began to change with the introduction of various agricultural innovations. Farming became efficient and productive and required only fewer farm. Consequently, more and more people moved to towns and cities. In the meantime, the Crusades had expanded trade routes to the East, and there was a huge expansion in trade and commerce. By the 14th century, a new era called the Renaissance was born.

What is Renaissance

Renaissance that a period in the history of Europe that followed the Medieval period. The Renaissance period ranges from the 14th to the 17th century and is deemed the bridge between the Middle Ages and Modern history. This period saw drastic changes and developments in many areas, such as cultural, social, economic, and political. The name “Renaissance” comes from the French word which has the meaning “rebirth”. Many people at that showed an interest in classical learning, especially the learning of Ancient Greece and Rome. For these people, Renaissance was the time of rebirth after the disorder and devastation of the middle ages. During the Renaissance, there were many famous artists, writers, philosophers, and geniuses.

Renaissance began in Italy, but it soon spread across the whole of Europe. Italy is the birthplace of the Renaissance since it was the centre of ancient Rome and Roman history and was a very rich country at the time with wealthy patrons supporting many artists and geniuses.

Renaissance Art and Architecture

Renaissance was a golden age for the arts and architecture. There are numerous art and architectural achievements that are still very famous today. Many exceptional artists and architects such as Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Sofonisba Anguissola, Filippo Brunelleschi, and Artemisia Gentileschi, and showed their uniqueness and creativity.

Renaissance architecture focused on symmetry, geometry, proportion, and the regularity of parts, following the style of classical antiquity. Palazzo Farnese, The Sistine Chapel, Basilica of St. Peter, and El Escorial are examples of renaissance architecture. Mona Lisa and The Last Supper by Da Vinci, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli and The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo Buonarroti are some examples of renaissance paintings. Paintings of this era often used unnatural shapes, linear perspective, and depth perception.

Renaissance Literature

The introduction of the printing press led to the flourish of renaissance literature. Renaissance literature was mainly influenced by the ideas of Renaissance art, politics, and religion. It was also greatly influenced by Greek and Roman literature. Drama and poetry were the most popular forms of renaissance literature.

The renaissance writers explored religious and social themes in their work; the religious themes were often explored with a completely different approach than the medieval writers—for example, John Milton’sParadise Lostand Christopher Marlowe’sDoctor Faustus. Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio, Miguel de Cervantes, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, Christopher Marlowe, John Donne and George Herbert are some notable figures in Renaissance literature.

Important Discoveries during Renaissance

Renaissance gave birth to many new ideas, cultures, religions, and ways of life. It helped people change the way that they saw themselves and the world. Many people expressed their uniqueness and creativity through art, technology, science, and writing. Moreover, there were many scientific discoveries, mathematical advances, and theorems. Items like the printing press, guns, compasses, watches, and telescopes were invented during this period. In addition to these, scientists and doctors also discovered new information about the human body and brought about many changes in the field of medicine.

Difference Between Middle Ages and Renaissance

Definition

Middle ages is the period in European history from the fall of Roman Empire the period of the Renaissance while renaissance is the great revival of art, literature, and learning in Europe, marking the transition from medieval to the modern world.

Time Period

Middle ages lasted from the 5th to the 14th century while the renaissance period lasted from the 14th to the 17th century.

Religion

During the middle ages, the Church dominated the society; the church was supreme to the state. In contrast, during the renaissance, the state was supreme to the church. Moreover, there were several reformations in the religion, and people began to closely examine and critique religion.

Art and Architecture

Medieval art and architecture were mainly influenced by religion, while renaissance arts and architecture were influenced by Classic Greek and Roman ideals. Medieval art is characterized by one-dimensional figures, lack of perspective, lack of chiaroscuro, use of gold in figurines, etc. while renaissance art is characterized by the use of perspective, use of chiaroscuro, secular themes, increased use of oil paints, and depiction of real people in real settings.

Literature

Medieval literature was mostly based on religion; works of literature were written by hand; there was little political criticism. Renaissance literature was more secular, vernacular, and covered a variety of subjects. There was also an increase in the use of the printing press.

Conclusion

When compared to middle ages, during renaissance there were drastic changes and developments in many areas, such as cultural, social, economic, and political. As its name suggests, it’s a period of revival art, literature, and learning. Thus, this is the main difference between middle ages and renaissance.

Reference:

1. “Middle Ages.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 22 Apr. 2010, Available here.
2. “Overview of the Renaissance.” Anglefire, Available here.
3. “Renaissance.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Apr. 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Louis I of Naples – Order of the Knot” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Monreale BW 2012-10-09 09-52-40” By Berthold Werner – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
3. “Ceiling of St Peter’s Basilica” By Anne Dirkse (www.annedirkse.com) – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

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