The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary

The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary

The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary

The Late Medieval Age of Crisis and Renewal, 1300-1500: A Biographical Dictionary

Synopsis

As part of a unique series covering the grand sweep of Western civilization from ancient to present times, this biographical dictionary provides introductory information on 315 leading cultural figures of late medieval and early modern Europe. Taking a cultural approach not typically found in general biographical dictionaries, the work includes literary, philosophical, artistic, military, religious, humanistic, musical, economic, and exploratory figures. Political figures are included only if they patronized the arts, and coverage focuses on their cultural impact. Figures from western European countries, such as Italy, France, England, Iberia, the Low Countries, and the Holy Roman Empire predominate, but outlying areas such as Scotland, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe are also represented.

Late medieval Europe was an age of crisis. With the Papacy removed to Avignon, the schism in the Catholic Church shook the very core of medieval belief. The Hundred Years' War devastated France. The Black Death decimated the population. Yet out of this crisis grew an age of renewal, leading to the Renaissance. The great Italian city-states developed. Humanism reawakened interest in the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome. Dante and Boccaccio began writing in their Tuscan vernacular. Italian artists became humanists and flourished. As the genius of Italy began spreading to northern and western Europe at the end of the 15th century, the age of renewal was completed. This book provides thorough basic information on the major cultural figures of this tumultuous era of crisis and renewal.

Excerpt

This volume features biographical vignettes of important figures who lived in Europe during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. As such, it encompasses a period that witnessed a great deal of both crisis and renewal. As Europe emerged from the late Middle Ages, social, demographic, and economic calamities— some of them devastating in their scope and consequences—changed the way Europeans viewed their universe and their place in it. Old notions of community, spirituality, prosperity, and creativity were swept away in the successive crises of war, religious contention, and plague that seemed to dominate the fourteenthcentury experience. Yet these disruptive changes allowed a fresh breeze of cultural renewal to blow over Europe to build upon, and in some ways to replace, the exhausted intellectual energies of the passing medieval age. Germinating at the very climax of crisis in the fourteenth century, this seed of renewal sprouted first in Italy and then, over time, spread through the Continent and was carried forth to the world in the vessels and minds of bold explorers. Thus in apparent disaster was born cultural refreshment. In loss Europeans discovered opportunity, and in crisis they found renewal, a rebirth of interest in ancient wisdom and human achievement that we have come to call the Renaissance.

The medieval world that was visited by crisis in the fourteenth century had evolved only very slowly from the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. Late medieval Europe was still an overwhelmingly agrarian society, based upon the feudal relationship between protective landlord and serving or rent-paying peasant, and was still defined by the agricultural season cycle and by a “great chain of being” social order that assigned each individual his or her position in a collective Christian universe. Some medieval men and women, however, also lived in towns by the fourteenth century. There master craftsmen plied their trades as members of powerful guilds, while others traveled to regional fairs and even across Europe to more distant markets to sell goods for profit as merchants. One unifying element in this social and economic . . .

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