The Renaissance was a time, as the name suggests, of rebirth and renewal in Europe; a time that led society into a new modern age. Inventions shaped society and brought it closer to what people would recognize today; and philosophical and religious enlightenment moved civilizations out of the dark ages and towards a deeper understanding of humanity. This essay will analyze the importance of these two features of the Renaissance as a portal to the modern age.
New inventions during the Renaissance still play a part in the modern age today, from everyday necessities such as the toilet to technological innovations like the microscope (“Inventions of the Renaissance”, web). However, the invention that had the largest impact on Renaissance life as well as society today was the printing press. Although a number of people were partially responsible for the creation of the printing press, the name that is best remembered is Johannes Gutenberg, who invented moveable type. The printing press meant that ideas could be shared with greater ease, and more cheaply than before. The literacy of lay people increased as books became more freely available on a variety of subjects (previously, religion had been the dominant topic of books, which is hardly surprising since the majority of books were produced by monks) and scholarly work was aided, as philosophical ideas and scientific discoveries reached a wider audience (Kreis, 2000, web.).
The printing press inadvertently aided another factor that made the Renaissance a portal to the modern world. In 1452, Gutenberg began to translate the Bible from Latin (Kreis, 2000, web.). In an act that to the Roman Catholic Church constituted heresy, Gutenberg made the Bible available to the lay people of Europe. The dominance of the Roman Catholic Church, along with the supremacy of the pope, came to an end (Finley, n.d. web). For the first time, lay people were able to study the Bible in their own language and interpret it for themselves, and then print their interpretations for others to read. Man became a master of his own faith and existence, and with a renewed interest in humanism, faith became multi-faceted and secularism rose in influence, two things that still exist in the modern world.
The free exchange of ideas is a feature of the Renaissance that still exists in Europe today. The printing press revolutionized learning and literacy, foundations of modern society. Without the translation of the Bible, old institutions would still hold power over society. It not only led people to explore their faith, but also to question it and form different opinions, a human right that people are able to enjoy today.
Finley, G. n.d. Gutenberg’s Presses, Bible Translators, Reformation, and the Emergence of Pilgrim Separatists and English Puritans During the 1500’s [web]. Retrieved from http://endtimepilgrim.org/puritans05.htm
Inventions of the Renaissance. n.d. Retrieved from http://www.mce.k12tn.net/renaissance/inventions.htm
Kleis, S. (2000). The Printing Press [web]. Retrieved from http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/press.html