The Renaissance: God in Man A.D. 1300-1500
But amid its splendors,
night falls on medieval Christianity
“Sometime in the opening years of the fourteenth century, the eldest son of the Alighieri family of Florence, Italy, reached the inescapable conclusion that he was a failure…” So begins the eighth volume in our series, The Renaissance: God in Man. The man in question was the great poet Dante and by the end of the fourteenth century it was clear to Italy and the rest of western Christian world that the creator of the Divine Comedy, far from being a failure, had described and defined the uneasy relationship between man and God that would inform the ages to come.
And what a turbulent age was beginning! This volume tells the story of Christendom between the mid-1300s and the early 1500s, a time period that spans what are known as the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It begins with the Black Death, the most terrible pestilence ever recorded, and it ends with the Italian Renaissance, the most beautiful effusion of art ever seen. It marks the discovery of some tropical islands in the West Indies by the fearless — if conflicted – Genoese navigator Columbus, and it recounts the carnage and rapine of the Hundred Years War, a French tragedy that would not end until the brave teenager Joan of Arc rallied her country to arms.
Through most of the period, the church was in crisis and schism, its factions jostling for power, and its leaders all too often falling prey to the worldly corruptions that were the dark side of the Renaissance. The reaction to this lack of godly leadership erupted in the first convulsions of Protestantism — from the Englishman John Wyclif and the Czech martyr and hero John Hus. Degraded and preoccupied, the church was poorly prepared to ward off its enemies both from within and without. In 1453, the Turkish sultan’s forces captured and occupied Constantinople; and in 1527 the cruelest blow to Christendom came when one of its own armies sacked the holy city of Rome.
The lavishly illustrated chapter on the Renaissance, however, provides a glimmer of the things of which man, for all his imperfections, was still capable. “We climbed up,” writes Dante, “until finally we saw through a round opening the beauteous things which heaven holds. And there we came out to see, once more, the stars.” For amid all the hell of the fourteenth and fifteen centuries, there was, in the Renaissance that divine glint of heaven.
This volume of The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years has yet to be fully transcribed to the project website. You can, however, order the book to enjoy in hard-cover form complete with hundreds of beautiful illustrations by visiting The Christians website.