Humanism: what it is, characteristics, types and representatives –

Still don’t know what HUmanism is? Well, in this post we are going to explain in detail what you need to know about the Humanism: what it is, characteristics, types and representatives of this very interesting cultural, philosophical and ideological phenomenon.

It is a phenomenon that arises between the mid-15th century and the mid-16th century in Italy, why there? Well, because Italy is the place in Europe where the memory of the classical world remained most alive. It was a past that they had in view in the streets: it is difficult to ignore urban architecture such as the Arch of Titus or the Colosseum (in the specific case of Rome) or the Verona Arena.

To this we could add the development of municipal schools and universities (eg Bologna) where civil law developed remarkably and Italy was a place where there were groups of people (merchants, jurists, artisans…) who demanded cultural creations that did not need to be religious.

Both religious and economic-material reasons are the ones that came together to give way to the phenomenon of humanism.

What is humanism?

Although technically we could speak of humanism since the time of the Greek philosophers, humanism, by definition, is the cultural current that spread through Western Europe between the mid-15th century and the mid-16th century.

As key points, you should know that it is cultural and intends rescue the culture of the ancient world, that is, the Greco-Latin. Humanism is guilty of the extension of the so-called ecclesiastical Latin -which is not the same as medieval Latin- thanks to the purification process of the language that was spoken, that is, they implanted ex novo the Latin of the 1st century. Curiously, to recover it, they had to go to the East to study it again, because it was almost disappeared since the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Likewise, the humanist culture raised a harsh criticism of the moral and cultural situation of the clergybeing the maximum exponent of this critical movement Erasmus of Rotterdam who raised the need to restore Christian religiosity based on a cultured clergy and with an ethical behavior accommodated or similar to that of the early church. This will lead to the extension of what is known as modern devotio, a religious trend that rejects external forms of worship and ceremony and points out that the relationship with God has a purely individual and personal character.

Such an interpretation of religiosity collided head-on with the practices and doctrines of the institutional church, based on the fact that religiosity was expressed through sacramental acts and good works. Even so, this new interpretation was widely accepted in the Netherlands, although it found a generally favorable environment in all the humanist and cultured circles of the European courts (England, France and northern Italy).

Also know what the Enlightenment is:

Characteristics of Humanism

The rise of humanism, like -almost- any phenomenon or movement, has a series of characteristics that give it a specific identity, in this case:

  • Their artistic/cultural expressions are conditioned by political and demographic events, etc. of the time or contemporaries (eg the crisis of the Pontificate).
  • This is the first historical period in which, despite the fact that illiteracy continues to dominate, more and more people are interested in knowing how to read and/or write.
  • Historically, this is the first time in which cultural manifestations of laity surpass, in quality, those of members of the Church.
  • It is a period that develops differently depending on the country in which it is implanted or manifested; in the first place Italy, but not all of it, but in the North (current regions of Tuscany, Veneto, Lombardy) without going much further, it did reach Rome but it did not reach the Italian south.
  • Lastly, it will reach England and then America (it is the first European movement that leaves the borders, that is, it is not limited to Europe).
  • It was a movement circumscribed to certain cities and a movement with elitist features, that is, to which not everyone agreed.
  • Elitism was encouraged mainly by the members of the movement themselves, or by their attitude, given that they met with their respective patrons in prestigious palaces or villas on the outskirts of the cities.

There are two circumstances that change with respect to the previous time:

  • European culturefor the first time in history, reaches a higher development than in the rest of civilizations, that is to say, since the 13th century Europe has taken a leap, being above the Eastern and American civilizations and Islam.
  • The development of humanism is the basis on which the creations from the 12th century onwards (in the arts in general) will be built.

We must highlight the exponential development of intellectual activity centered on activity:

  • literary
  • Artistic
  • historical
  • Legal studies (civil and canon law)

To this we must add the creation of the books or manuals that allowed legal studies to be transformed throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.

this movement despised the creations of the Middle Ages. They name and create that “bad image” that is given to these years.

humanism coexisted with the gothic style and, also, a different style is born within it, which is the flamingo art -from Flanders-, that style of taste for detail, perspective, light and color.

Types of Humanism

According to the author EF Cortés we can classify humanism into the following types:

  • Classic
  • Renaissance
  • modern naturalist
  • existential
  • Christian or transcendent
  • not transcendent
  • Suprahumanism of Christian tendency or of existential direction

Representatives of Humanism

The movement reached its maturity in Italy at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th (between the years 1480 – 1525) coinciding with the lives of illustrious characters such as:

  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Raffaello Sanzio
  • Michelangelo Buonarrotti

But let’s not think only of painters or sculptors, since there were also illustrious figures of literature:

  • Dante Alighieri
  • Francesco Petrarca
  • Giovanni Boccaccio

Likewise, the other new languages ​​will have very good literary manifestations, the best example in Spanish was Gonzalo de Berceo or the Count of Lucanor.

How do these men of art support themselves financially? The general concept is that a merchant, lawyer, goldsmith or shoemaker may be interested in a painting with religious themes, but also a law or mathematics book or, in general, the demand for cultural goods that are not exclusively religious: it is the humanists who They respond to this demand, of a secular and urban nature.

Another representative of this period is Martin Luthera friar of peasant origin, born in Germany and from a humble family, who sends him to the University of Cologne -later Leipzig- where he acquires an enormous theological and intellectual formation, knowing approximately 2,000 sermons, 5,000 letters and 700 books.
He enters the Augustinian order and leads a very austere life in Germany. He begins to teach and about 1517 publishes in the Church of Wittenberg what is known as the 95 points.

That document is published by sticking it on the front door of the church on October 31, 1517 (that day because one of the first points is an attack or rejection of the indulgences you buy for the deceased). The Lutheran ideas will mark a before and after in the history of the Christian churchabove all because beyond Luther there are political and economic circumstances.

An important figure in the development of canon law is of Hispanic origin, Raymond of Penafort who promoted studies of canon law in Europe (Saint Raymond).

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