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The Medici Family takes over Florence (1512) – The Medici household was a powerful group of people, whose influence was in finance, banking, and politics. They grew in power in the Republic of Florence, which would later merge into the country of Italy. Their influence extended throughout most of Europe, including working with Columbus to finance his journey, through the help of Amerigo Vespucci. The Medici Bank was the largest bank and financier in all of Europe. From this family came four popes (Pope Leo X, Pope Clement VII, Pope Pius IV, and Pope Leo XI), two queens of France (Catherine de' Medici and Marie de' Medici), and many other members of royalty. Through the spread of their power and influence, they filled the seats of Florence’s government, until they eventually took over the city. Florence became a thriving environment for art and humanism, inspiring the Italian Renaissance. Their patrons included Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Machiavelli, and Galileo. It was here that Machiavelli, a philosopher and historian, became “the father of modern political philosophy and political science”. His book, The Prince, helped guide his political philosophy, and showed him how it was full of deception, treachery, and crime. He remained influential after the Medici fell.

The Italian Renaissance – There are many Renaissances that occurred, around the 15th to 17th centuries, throughout the world. This was a transition period, out of the Middle Ages, to more of the modern era. The European Renaissances were a time of cultural, artistic, political, philosophical, and economic “rebirth”. Some of the greatest minds became famous and thrived during this time, including authors, statesmen, scientists, and artists. Some of these included Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, William Shakespeare, Sandro Botticelli, Nicolaus Copernicus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Johannes Gutenberg, Niccolò Machiavelli, Lorenzo de Medici, Paracelsus, Thomas More, and Johannes Kepler.

During this period, global exploration opened Europe to new lands, cultures, and commerce. It was considered the “Age of Exploration.” It was during this time, that every part of the map was to be explored, including the Americas, Africa, Asia, Antarctica. In each of these lands, sailors found new goods to sell, and to present to the royalty who allowed their ventures. The two greatest countries for exploration started with Portugal and Spain, and soon expanded to the British, French, Swedes, and Dutch.

Gutenberg and his Press (1440)– One of the greatest inventions during the Renaissance was the Gutenberg Press. Although there were many presses for printing made around the world, including those in China and other manual presses, Gutenberg’s was made for mass production of literature - more than ever before. The one book that was published by this press, and really made Gutenberg famous, was the first printing of the Gutenberg Bible. Before that point, only the clerics and the wealthy held a copy, and most of those were handwritten and illustrated. Only after the press was created were the average (though still, sometimes wealthier) person able to own a copy of the Bible. This allowed the layman to study their scriptures, which turned many against the Roman Catholic Church, because it was now open to more interpretations.

The Reformation (1501-1550) - Some of those famous for interpreting the Bible and fighting against the church, included Martin Luther, who wrote the 95 thesis, and John Calvin, who promoted the Reformation throughout France and the separation of Christianity from Catholic beliefs. Opposition to some of these “radical” views included Thomas More, a staunch supporter of Catholicism, who attacked King Henry VIII, for wanting a separation of the Catholic church and state. The King declared himself the supreme head of this new church - the Church of England. Henry VIII soon convicted, and later executed, More for treason, for not accepting the Oath of Supremacy and allowing Henry to divorce Catherine of Aragon, among his other Wives.

Heliocentric Solar System (1514) – Another great breakthrough, beyond religion and exploration, came from science. One of the greatest discoveries during this time was the Heliocentric Solar System, or the understanding that the earth and all planets revolved around the sun, as opposed to geocentrism, which placed the earth at the center. This also opened many minds to the knowledge that the earth was spherical, and so there was no edge of the earth of which to fall off.

Astronomers such as Nicolas Copernicus, who led the Copernican Revolution - stating the earth and all planets revolved around the sun, became one of the first and most popular astronomers to deny the thinking of the past. Johannes Kepler, the German Mathematician, took from Copernicus’s design and developed the Law of Planetary Motion and helped break apart the ideas of Astronomy and Astrology. He also published a strong argument for how God controlled the heavens with Math. Galileo Galilei, was the father of observational astronomy, modern physics, and the

Scientific Method. Though many myths have arisen about his stance against the Catholic church in promoting modern science, these are not true, for only a few years after he published his theory, in 1611, a team of Jesuit astronomers - called Society of Jesus, started by Ignatius of Loyola - confirmed his findings. He instead, did not deny religion for science, but instead exclaimed the divine control over science, and how they worked together. Pope Urban VIII and the Jesuits supported his theories.

There was still a battle that was brewing between scientists, those who supported Galileo, and those who supported Tycho Brahe’s theory of planetary motion. Galileo also claimed that the tides of the Atlantic only happened once a day, due to gravitational pulls as the earth moved around its axis, which was false; it was twice. It was this battle between scientists that caused a rift between Galileo and the church, though he never lost his faith, but instead in other scientists who testified against him in the Roman Inquisition. Francis Bacon developed modern scientific method. The Renaissance became the period of scientific and philosophical thought.

The Spanish Inquisition and Renaissance Justice (1478)The Spanish Inquisition was a judicial system, or court, sanctioned by the Pope, but established by Queen Isabel of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, to be separate from the Medieval Inquisitions, which was under Papal rule. It was the most substantial inquisition of the three - including the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. It was to be conducted only in Spain and Spanish colonies, among the Americas. One of its goals was to identify and repel heresy among those who converted to Catholicism, from Judaism and Islam. This was intensified when a decree came from the queen that all Muslims and Jews must convert to Catholicism or leave Castile peacefully. The inquisition was also known to have taken up the task of removing witchcraft, but would not go as far as to use the Malleus Maleficarum, a book that was designed to spot witchcraft. The Inquisition condemned this book as unethical, and the use of illegal procedures and Catholic doctrine of demonology. The Inquisition, however, did accept torture to extract confessions. In 1834, Queen Isabella II abolished the Inquisition.

Northern European Renaissance During this time, there were many different Renaissances, caused by a domino effect of other countries influencing each other, including that of Germany, France, England, Low Countries (Netherlands), and Poland. Much of this was due to commerce with those experiencing the Italian Renaissance. The feudalist system, which had dominated Europe for a thousand years, had declined, partially due to the Plague which spread throughout Europe after the Crusades. This Renaissance also came, in part, from the weakening of the Roman Catholic Church over much of Europe, and was intricately linked to the Protestant Reformation. This was also the time of King Henry VIII and his successor, Bloody Queen Mary, who established power through brute force and bloodshed.

Activity: A House Torn in Two - Every house has disagreements. Ask your parents if they will allow you to make the decision in one of their future discussions, whether it is where your family will go on a Saturday, or where you will go out to eat. Ask them if you can be the judge, and allow your parents or siblings to try to convince you of their side. Pretend you are in court and must make the final decision on a fair, unbiased basis, which also means, it doesn’t matter what you want, but whoever makes the most logical argument wins.

What decision did you discuss with your family? _________ _____________________________________________

What was Side #1, and what was their argument?


What was Side #2, and what was their argument?


How did you make your decision?


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