Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento

By Timothy Verdon; John Henderson | Go to book overview

CHRISTIANITY, THE RENAISSANCE, AND THE STUDY OF HISTORY
Environments of Experience and Imagination

TIMOTHY VERDON

FOR MOST OF THE LAST 130 years, any close association of the terms Christianity and the Renaissance would have seemed contradictory, a pairing of opposites. Jacob Burckhardt, the writer who more than any other shaped our concept of Renaissance life, put religion last; his Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, written in the 1850s, discussed "the State," "the Individual," "the Revival of Antiquity," "the Discovery of the World and Man," and "Society and Festivals" before exploring "Morality and Religion," and that chapter in turn ended with reflections on "ancient and modern superstition" and "the general disintegration of belief." Nor are such views surprising from a man of Burckhardt's time and circumstances. Born in the same year as Karl Marx -1818, exactly forty years after the death of Voltaire -- Burckhardt had turned to historical research from preparation for the ministry. Like Marx, he witnessed the social and political upheavals of Europe in 1848. Indeed, Burckhardt's vision of the past, like Marx's vision of the future, appealed precisely because of its revolutionary modernity. His portrait of Italian Renaissance Catholicism as subjective, tolerant, and skeptical -- "an affair of the individual and of his own personal feeling" -- pointed beyond the liberal Protestantism of Burckhardt's time to the "post- Christian" spirit of ours. Down to the final sentence of his book, Jacob Burckhardt insisted that "the Italian Renaissance must be called the mother of our modern age."1

It has been the particular merit of recent scholarship to qualify

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