World History

Renaissance | Definition, Meaning, History, Artists, Art, & Facts

Most historians agree that Florence, Italy, saw the beginning of the Renaissance between the years of 1350 and 1400. The Middle Ages came to an end at the beginning of the Renaissance.


The fundamental way people thought about things underwent one of the biggest shifts throughout the Renaissance. People believed that life was intended to be difficult throughout the Middle Ages. They were raised believing that life consisted only of struggle and conflict.

However, people in Florence, Italy started to have distinct perspectives on life around the year 1300. They discovered that ancient civilizations had lived in diverse ways after studying the writings and artwork of the Greeks and Romans.

Humanism was the name given to this new style of thinking. People now believed that life could be comfortable and joyful. They began to believe that education was important and that everyone would benefit from things like science, music, and the arts. This actually altered how people thought.

Italy’s Florence

Italy had a number of strong city-states at the outset of the Renaissance. These were lands under the control of a sizable city. Every city-state had its own administration. Florence was one of the important city-states. Like ancient Rome, Florence had a republican form of government. This indicated that the people choose their own leaders.

The city of Florence had grown prosperous by the late 1300s. Rich businessmen and traders had the resources to pay artisans and crafters. This sparked artistic and intellectual competitions. New ideas and artistic flourishing both started to occur.

The Medici family took control of Florence in the 1400s. They were powerful financiers who supported the arts by funding numerous artists and the humanist movement with their own money.

The Humanist and Petrarch

The “Father of Humanism” is Francesco Petrarca. He was a poet and scholar who lived in Florence in the thirteenth century. He read works by ancient Roman poets and thinkers like Virgil and Cicero. As the Renaissance extended throughout all of Europe, his thoughts and poetry served as an influence to several authors and poets.

Giotto di Bondone – First Renaissance Painter

Italian painter Giotto was active in Florence. He was the first artist to experiment with painting outside of the traditional Middle Ages Byzantine style. He depicted things and people as they appeared in the natural world. More abstract paintings that didn’t resemble anything actual have previously been created by all the artists. With his innovative realistic painting technique, Giotto is credited with igniting the artistic Renaissance.


Dante Alighieri played a significant role in the beginning of the Renaissance as well. Early in the 13th century, while residing in Florence, he authored the Devine Comedy. It is said that this book is the best piece of literature ever to have been written in the Italian language.

Spread of Fresh Ideas

Other affluent Italian city-states like Rome, Venice, and Milan quickly adopted this new way of thinking and aesthetic. The Italian Renaissance is another name for this early period of the Renaissance. Through trade, Italy would become wealthy, and their innovative ideas would quickly spread across all of Europe.