A Comparison of the Medieval and Renaissance Eras


It is amazing how significantly various aspects of society can and will change over

a prolonged period of time. Between the time periods of the Medieval era and the

Renaissance, one can note numerous significant changes, mainly those pertaining to art

and religion. In general, ideals and subjects during the Renaissance became more secular.

In Medieval times, people seemed to focus mainly on the church, God, and the afterlife;

whereas during the Renaissance, the focus was more secular: humans and life on earth.

Although these two eras differ in many ways, the most concentrated differences deal with

the realms of architecture, painting, and philosophy.

Architecture noticeably shifted from religious awe to classical reason between the

Medieval era and the Renaissance. During the Middle Ages, architecture was aimed

mainly at making advancements in the church. Medieval cathedrals had very distinct

features, such as pointed spires, which were exactly that -- spires, or steeples, that were

pointed and extended upward from the tower area; the rose window, which was a large

stained glass window that was located on the front of the tower; and squared-off exterior

walls, which were a contrast to the usual rounded exterior designs that people were

accustomed to. Overall, cathedrals during this time could have very elegant features due

to the excellent techniques of support and stabilization. Buttresses, simple extensions of

the cathedral wall to enhance support, and flying buttresses, stone structures set away

from the cathedral wall and attached at the top, contributed to the excellent support that

Medieval cathedrals experienced. While architectural advancements during the Middle

Ages were concerned mainly with making elegant reformations in the structure of the

cathedral, architecture during the Renaissance was much less religion-centered, and

revolved more around classical reason and secularity. Architecture in this time was

concentrated mostly with the design of castles, such as the home of the prevailing Italian

Medici family, perhaps the richest family in Europe. Architectural focus had changed

from the cathedral in the Medieval era to other, more classical and secular subjects, such

as castles and homes of significant rulers.

The style, subjects, and overall attitude of painting was something that underwent

very significant changes during the progression from Medieval times to the Renaissance.

Generally, paintings became more secular, and less focused on aspects of the church, as

the Renaissance approached. Medieval paintings seem to be focused almost entirely on

religion and are given heavenly attributes, while paintings of the Renaissance consist

mainly of secular subjects and contain much more realism, especially noted in human

subjects. In Giotto\'s Madonna With Child, a Medieval painting, any observer will

obviously notice that the child and woman are very awkwardly proportioned, indicating

the lack of realism. However, in the Mona Lisa, by DaVinci, and The Marriage of the

Virgin, by Raphael, both paintings of the Renaissance, it is evident the amount of realism

that the artists were attempting to portray. Both of these paintings are extremely realistic,

seemingly three-dimensional, very well-proportioned, and involve large amounts of

shading to accentuate the realism. When considering the subjects of Medieval painting, the

majority of them were religious oriented or somehow involved the church, whereas

religion or the church was seldom involved in Renaissance paintings. Rather, paintings of

the Renaissance involved mostly secular subjects, as seen again in DaVinci\'s Mona Lisa

and also Raphael\'s The School of Athens. In the case of the Mona Lisa, the subject is a

typical woman with a very sublime smile, but with no apparent religious association

whatsoever. The same applies to The School of Athens; it is a painting of a group of

philosophers in a barrel-vaulted and domed hall: no religious connection can be made here,

either. On the contrary, the Medieval painting, The Annunciation, deals with exactly that:

an annunciation, a religious event in which many Christian churches commemorate the

announcement of the incarnation of Luke. As shown in these examples, painting took a

very secular turn in the Renaissance from the religious-based paintings that were found in

the Middle Ages.

Perhaps the greatest and most evident way in which the Medieval and Renaissance

time periods differ is found in the opposing premises of philosophy. Again, the theme of

progression from religious-oriented thoughts in the Middle Ages to the secular ideals of