This is a classic myth and misconception about history and its epochs and one I’m sure many people realise. The Renaissance, the rebirth of classical learning made new by writers and scholars such as Michaelangelo and Petrarch, did not start after the Middle Ages, it was actually a phenomenon that started probably in the late 13th century.
Look at the dates of the following artists:
- Filippo Brunelleschi, 1377-1446
- Giotto, 1267-1337
- Dante, 1265-1321
- Petrarch, 1304-1374
Enough said really!
I think the problem is that most people still see the Middle Ages as a time of misery, ignorance and muck, with perhaps only the chivalry of knights to add any colour.
The Middle Ages: A Case of Mistaken Identity?
This was not the case. The real renaissance had already started in the twelfth century with the rediscovery of Aristotle. Humanism developed with secular writers such as Dante and Chaucer. Religion was being questioned in the late fourteenth century by Wyclif, as it had been by a host of heretical movements and scholars for several centuries.
These myths though are often just propagated further in books and film, and unfortunately the classic fantasy novel, set in a pseudo-medieval world that never existed, is partly to blame.