The Italian Renaissance was mainly a reaction to the corruption of the church and its parochial bigotry; it was a bold uprising by Italian scientists against the ignorance of the priests and their misuse of power; these are the central premises the film revolve around. In the early 14th century, while the black plague was sweeping across Europe, many people turned to the church for help, all in vain. The church was infested with ignorance and superstitions. The public got disappointed with this religious body. Meanwhile, scientific developments brought offered people a beacon of hope and help them weather the wild storms of the Dark Age. With the advent of the Renaissance, sciences and arts, along with architecture began to bloom; now the focus of attention had shifted from the heavens to man. This critical shift manifested itself in the Italian Renaissance in different aspects of life.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: When man, time and geography coalesce, history is created. History is an arena of conflict between dreams, fears, questions and answers of human beings, memos of the dew and the sickle. Is man created by God or is he the destiny of soil?Is man superior to all unparalleled galaxies or is he a lonesome inferior on worthless earth?Is human the territory of remorse for union with the Eternal Beloved or a space for primitive needs in relation to time? The modern history of the West is initiated by readdressing such questions: The Renaissance.Renaissance means rebirth and it refers to an intellectual and artistic movement which originated from the northern cities of Italy in the 14th century and reached its culmination in the 16th century.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “The term “Renaissance” in and by itself involves a historical concept. Renaissance means revitalization. Renaissance is a cultural movement in the course of rebirth of ancient times. It has been the most significant plan of this movement. The ancient world that had been consigned to oblivion in the middle Ages, once again became the greatest hero of cultural sphere.”
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Elizabeth Comboli, University of Rome: “In Italy, there wasn’t an absolute Renaissance but an Italian renaissance which suited the country. This grand cultural movement assumed diverse qualities relative to the place in which it developed. The three main foci of the Renaissance were Florence, Venice and Milan. Either from the North, South or center, in Florence this movement became more important because from 1300 A.D. it started to flourish by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.”
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “I believe the 15th-century Renaissance was more important than the 16th-century Renaissance and that’s why the 15th century has more significance for Florence because in that century the foundations the Renaissance in Italy and other European countries were laid. It was in that century that a special, aesthetic system and viewpoint were formed. Various events that occurred in European countries in this era paved the way for the Renaissance.”
Narration: From 1347 A.D. to 1350 A.D., bubonic plague precipitated major religious, economic, social and political crises.
TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00
Narration: Bubonic plague in a span of 3 years claimed 25,000,000 lives of the inhabitants in Europe. Physicians remained unable to resist the plague. People turned to the church. However, the church tried to propagate superstitions among people and being unable to fight this pandemic disease, they undermined the roots of belief in ecclesiastical teachings and faith in the hereafter. On the other side, a war of power among Popes broke out when at once three Popes claimed ascendency and embarked on excommunicating one another which sets the scene for the Renaissance and the Catholic Church crisis.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “Up until the Renaissance, the history had been divided into two eras: Before Christ and Anno Domini but with the emergence of the Renaissance the Modern Ages began. The Modern Age’s reference was the forgotten ancient Greek era. As though the ancient era was doomed to stoppage and was put in brackets. As if there was no such a thing as ‘The Middle Ages’, so we witness three stages in human history. The ancient period in which human conquers the highest peaks of science, epistemology, wisdom and extraordinary behavioral patterns, next, it moves on to the era of the decadence of these values or the onset of the Middle Ages in which the ancient era is neglected and destroyed, so to speak. And then come the third stage or the Modern Era, the aim of which is revitalizing the ancient world.”
Narration: Science rushed to human’s aid and there went the most important reason for the Renaissance: the printing machine. German Johan Gothenburg in 1450 A.D. invented the printing machine. Inventing the machine helped Greek and Roman literature to be widely translated, printed and disseminated all throughout Europe. The accessibility of books made education get rid of a monopoly and turned into a communal principle. In addition to flourishing scientific approaches in all fields, communal education formed new political foundations. Political philosopher and intellectual, Machiavelli challenged the Church to a duel so as to subdue the ethical and spiritual concept of power. Machiavelli was born in 1469 in Florence. At the age of 29, he took up a post as a senior secretary in the Florence republic. In his political philosophy, republicanism and monarchism reconcile. In 1512 AD, republicanism came to an end and so do Machiavelli’s political activities.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Elizabeth Comboli, University of Rome: “Machiavelli is the best representative of political, historical, literal and cultural Renaissance. As for a king, he considers two characteristics for him, being cunning as a fox and powerful as a lion. He should set out to prevent from being surrounded by traitors and to predict the truth.”
Narration: Machiavelli pursued empirical and scientific methods and as the first political thinker in analyzing the history of power he critiqued the ethical and religious fundamentals of power.
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Elizabeth Comboli, University of Rome: “Machiavellian Renaissance man like philosopher Pica Del Mirandola and Machiavelli subscribes to this Latin saying that man shapes his own destiny. Here blacksmith is a key term, because man can shape his destiny as a blacksmith can forge metals. This is the blacksmith’s mind that renders meaning to metal and merits it. Therefore, the relationship between the creator and the creature is no longer vertical but it changes into an identical one which shapes some different kinds of self-awareness. It doesn’t mean that man can claim equality with his creator rather he assumes his responsibility and for fear of death emancipates himself from fears beyond revitalization. This emancipation signifies the Renaissance. Apparently, it was the very Latin and Greek culture with no fear of the hereafter. Machiavelli’s king is not a princess but a sultan. He is in the form of a leader who knows how to govern.”
Narration: In Machiavelli’s thinking, a historian should account for human deeds just as a chemist does for different chemical compounds. Vice and virtue are products like sulphate and sugar and should be looked into with the same indifferently scientific and impassive attitude.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Elizabeth Comboli, University of Rome: “Machiavelli’s ideas would have abided by a scientific and practical truth, that is to say, truth is not gained by the juxtaposition of politics and ethics but he would have considered some detachment between politics and ethics and had never refrained from putting this issue to politicians that they should be cunning as a fox and powerful as a lion and that the end justifies the means. What’s more, exerting power for pursuing an end is tenable.”
Narration: The interpretation of universe and human’s life in politics got out of evangelists’ monopoly. The Church still resisted the Renaissance man’s new empirical and scientific method. Seaworthy vessels were crafted with the help of science. In 1486 AD, the marine path to Africa was taken and the isolation of the Mediterranean world came to an end. Six years later, an Italian seafarer from Genoa, namely Christopher Columbus financed by Italian capitalists and the Spanish Monarch set sail for the heart of the ocean. Wishing to find gold and conquering new lands became the overwhelming temptation of a westerner. The journey lasted for five weeks. On 12 October 1492, Columbus and his companions set foot on a beautiful and green island of the Bahamas after an arduous 35-day journey. On 15 March, arriving in Spain with ample gold loot Columbus received an enthusiastic welcome. In 1479 AD, John Bogart started his sea journey from Britain in a bid to discover new lands. In 1499 AD, Vasco Digamma completed his 2-year journey around the Horn of Africa to India. In 1519 AD, Magellan set out on his 3-year around-the-world voyage. Westerners proceeded with plumbing through new fields.
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
Narration: Discovering the gun powder led to developing fiery weapons. In 1525, flint guns were made. Discovering firearms at war granted European conquerors military supremacy which helped them gradually take over foreign nations. Substantial reserves of gold and silver were channeled into Europe. Europe’s economy was revolutionized. The middle classes established a new economic system with the new-found wealth which ran counter to the middle Ages feudalism.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “When the absolute dominance of religious power diminishes and local governments like the Medici family rose to power, those two poles, that is, the upstart bourgeois and the Church’s proponents got on side by side and this opportunity made possible a very positive revival from social, economic, political and religious aspects. Both opposite poles of power benefited from this aesthetic understanding that the Renaissance brought along the Church in order to absorb more followers and the new political power to beautify their residences for showing their power. The symbol of this power was building new palaces.”
Narration: Art in Florence engaged in the battle. Florentine artists established the superiority of Italy with the help of art in the Renaissance all throughout Europe. In the 14th century, when the Medici family seized political power, Florence turned into the center of the Renaissance and the vanguard of artistic, political, philosophical and economic movement in the West.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “The Medici dynasty in Florence was an absolute power that would dominate merchants, banks and legislation. However, the positive point of this dynasty is their being cultured and intellectual. They were aware of the needs of the public, nobles and artists but there was no democratic contribution in political power whatsoever.”
Narration: As conversant and erudite despots, the Medici dynasty generously advocated science and art. Cosimo Medici, as the father of Florence, declared that all his charitable work was no way for the sake of God but for immortalizing his name. This dynasty financed the Renaissance for two centuries. The foundations of the first public library in Florence were laid and over a period of thirty years the Medici family expended twenty million dollars on developing this library. Financial support for the Florence academy on the part of this dynasty offered another reason for the propagation of the Renaissance discourse.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “Intellectuals too studied and reviewed ancient writings by discovering and decoding them. However, artists acquired knowledge by looking into ancient ruins.”
Narration: During the Renaissance, the Florence Academy was not only a place for educating and training artists but also a venue for the assembly of philosophers, theorists and statespersons. As the leading proponents of artists, Michelangelo and Cosmo Medici were elected as heads of the academy. The Medici family’s wealth embellished Florence with the new Athens’s vesture. Henceforth, artists, architects, composers, authors, intellectuals and scientists were to view the world from a new perspective.
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “Man used to look at the sky and the splendor of the heavens would intimidate him. In man’s belief, the heavens was a place for angels but when he got to know where his place was, his religious beliefs gradually dimmed and dwindled. The Renaissance man started to analyze nature and ironically, scientific thinking came into sight because it showed him the mechanism of the universe.”
Narration: Science didn’t make do with solely the Earth’s territory and turned its telescope towards the heavens’ galaxies. The Polish astronomer, Copernicus, after 40 years of research and study, in 1513 A.D. claimed that the sun was the center of the universe and the Earth revolved around it. The Earth was neither below nor fixed. This theory was in contrast to century-old teachings of the Church asserted in Scripture and Aristotelian cosmology. Henceforth, there was no opposite point, no below no above. Gordano Bruno presented an extraordinary interpretation of Copernican cosmology and then was burnt at the stake by diehard priests on charge of thinking.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “Scientific findings in the Renaissance indicate that the universe is not what we had in the Bible. The Earth is not in the center of the universe and the stars are not above our head based on what we have in Scripture. By the collapse of this subjective visualization, the world gets dubious and everyone becomes ambivalent so the certainties fail.”
Narration: The second blow to the Christian cosmology was struck by Johannes Kepler. He claimed that the planets moved around the sun in oval orbits and heliocentric was posed. Galileo’s discovery dealt the coup de grace to the Christian cosmology. Galileo turned his telescope equipped with new lenses towards the depth of the sky and observed scenes that not until that time had anyone been able to. In 1610 A.D. Galileo published his findings advocating Copernicus’ theory. The Church insisted on its prejudice and ignorance and Galileo was summoned to Rome. On 20th June 1633 AD, the Roman Inquisition launched his trial. The court obliged Galileo to sign his letter of repentance in recanting the scientific facts. Galileo said, “At the age of 70, I kneel before you while I hold the Holy Scriptures before my eyes and feel it, I repent of my fallacious claims as regards the movement of the Earth and abjure, curse and detest them”. However, in the last moments Galileo allegedly muttered, “And yet it moves.”
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “In the middle Ages, believing in reality and truth was effected by believing in religion and the followers of religion partially abided by this truth. But what happens in the Renaissance? Over this era, real values of religion stayed on top but logical and scientific values were born for investigating the universe. Over that period, the Church manifested ‘reality’ through Scripture. The Bible says, reality is in the heavens but the Renaissance challenged everything by inventing scientific tools, therefore, a stark contrast was made.”
Narration: In 1517 AD, the monk and leader of Religious Reformation, Martin Luther summed up his reformist opinions in 95 theses. The Church’s response to him brought about a deep schism in the Church’s unanimity and led to a new practice called ‘Lutherism’. The collapse of the unique body of the Church by the Reformist leader led to the formation of absolute monarchies. The monarchs gradually crept out from under the Papal spiritual sway and rejected any serious devotion to their counterparts in one nation. The earthly concept of ‘country’ got on a collision course with the religious concept of ‘nation’. 30-year-long religious wars between Catholics and Protestants from 1618 to 1648 put an endless number of these two religious groups’ followers to death.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “The Middle Ages architecture had constituted extraordinary achievements and results. In the 11th century, splendid cathedrals were built all throughout Europe i.e. grand buildings which indicated the result of high technology in construction and using glass and fully skylight walls. Gothic architecture in this era had made impressive headway.”
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “In the late 14th century, Gothic architecture had encompassed all Europe and changed into a lingua franca for them, this kind of architecture at that time had reached its zenith but in a short while, in the late 14th century and early 15th century, it was ruled to be put aside; Putting aside a vast knowledge gained over 14 centuries. History turned a new leaf. The main language of European architecture was fundamentally and basically changed and patterns were utterly shifted. All this repertoire of knowledge and experience gained through the passage of time fell into disuse all of a sudden.”
Narration: The renowned artist of the Renaissance, Brunelleschi, totally put aside the medieval architecture and Gothic style.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “The aim of Brunelleschi was to realize an architecture all parts of which with identical planes; a kind of democratic architecture dissimilar to the medieval architecture which had no identical or even planes. In Brunelleschi’s architecture, all planes have equal value.”
Narration: Gothic churches were the physical representation of spiritual and heavenly philosophy of the middle Ages. The focus of this style is on vertical elements. One shape merges into another and creates an unending chain of frighteningly upward movements and draws the viewer’s eyes higher and higher to tie them to the heavens. The Gothic cathedral with its dark interior and denticulated exterior parts resembles a plant which has grown foliage towards the sky. This is how human can be emancipated by uniting with the heavens. However, Brunelleschi stated it’s simple, lucid and lightful. He designed the church of Florence as if it was clung to the ground and didn’t feel like leaping into faraway heights. All the stress in this architecture was placed on the horizontal elements of the design. The Church has firmly and magnificently reclined on the earth and there is no inclination in it for mingling with the heavens.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “By entering the atmosphere of Brunelleschi’s architecture, one knows where he is located; there is no mystery or apprehension; everything is vivid and transparent. The viewer’s situation of Brunelleschi’s architecture is a guaranteed one. Another message of Brunelleschi’s architecture is that architecture should be in a way that the atmosphere is purified. For Brunelleschi, architecture turns into a means of order and discipline, a sphere for the emancipation of unfettered man from prejudgments and superstitions, the convivial, honest and lucid man, a man who is honest with himself, a bright and vivid architecture for a man who is unshackled from superstitions, a man who acts on logic, a logical architecture for a man who has rediscovered the values of rationalism and individualism.”
Narration: San Petro Cathedral, which has been built and completed by various architects, fully reflects the tumultuous spirit of the Renaissance man. This monument is geometric and symmetric in design on the basis of circles and squares on the top of which lies a large dome with four cupolas all around it. The columniation of this monument is adorned with 140 imposing sculptures. These figures which are above life-sized scale are like silhouettes for beautification of the monument’s view, its large arena and dome.
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
Narration: The inside of the cathedral is suffused with a seemingly endless gaiety, innovation, flowers, fruits and vegetables, astounding sculptures of animals, children and angels. Completion of this monument as what we see today takes place by the architects who succumb to the cardinals’ demand and alter the original form of the Greek cross to Latin cross and consequently the Renaissance design of the cathedral with its middle altar is rejected and is replaced by massive proportions and graceful propriety.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “What happens for the art of painting in the Renaissance, In this era, all the component elements of painting such as lighting, composition and three-dimensionality are completely and equally attended to and enjoy an equal value without one element dominating the other.”
Narration: In painting, painted statues are replete with precise, warm, formidable and humane subtleties.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “In this era, all the contributing elements in the work reach a harmonic equilibrium because every element is in line with the other as if in a political power, democracy looms out and that’s why some harmonious pulchritude is witnessed in the work. A kind of beauty which does not exist in reality though; it is incarnated in art. I find it noteworthy that before the Renaissance and during the middle Ages, there was a sort of Byzantine culture or related to Byzantium which for instance represented itself in the forms of two-dimensional painting. So all the shapes were two-dimensional and that’s why the sceneries were uninhabitable because everything was two-dimensional and there was no third dimension. But by the advancement and development of the Renaissance and the viewpoint which science and logical methods offer us, the imaginary world of Byzantium is released for presenting and analyzing the real world. The painter’s imagination, from leaning to Byzantine two-dimensional forms with all their symbols, approximates to what we imagine to be natural. This matter starts from the 1400s but after 150 years, it pictures the reality, at least in creating the atmosphere, because the main issue for expressing the world in its third dimension must be the invention of ‘perspective’ which was absent in the previous era.”
Narration: Painters adopt the essence of design from human sculptures and nature victuals, and then with the help of form and color invite the viewer’s mind to the internal pulchritude of the work by devising a system of proportion, beauty and the composition which has already been mathematically defined. In sculpture, figures of nude children, men and women are placed in the focal point of the Renaissance artists’ activities for lauding human and depicting his grandeur and complexity. Sculptures being bare, complex, balanced, reactive, inundated by human passion and power, and imbued with character are made after centuries with precise verisimilitude to display human as he is; splendid and tenacious but not heavenly and perfect. The Equestrian Statue, an enduring work by Donatello stresses the essence of human and animal with unparalleled concentration. Donatello dexterously exhibits the viewer’s focus not on the muscular mass of the horse but on the vigorous presence of its rider.
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “For instance, in the early 15th century, the knowledge of perspective is shaped which provides the reflection of nature and world from the viewpoint of logic and mind. Therefore, those painters who failed to adapt themselves to this logic and new approach at the time lagged behind in this course. An artist like Pachelo learns the knowledge of perspective late i.e. later than other contemporary artists. So, artists had to learn this new phenomenon called Modernism so as not to lag behind.”
Narration: Execution of The Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti took the artist 21 years to complete. As with the realization of space and narratology, this work enlivens the art of painting in the onlooker’s mind and is deemed among Renaissance masterpieces. Those figures which are closer seem bigger and the ones which are farther look smaller than what we see in reality. This is how the scientific concept of ‘spatial perspective’ is revealed in which the more objects are placed in depth, the more they will lose clarity.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Franco Betoglev, Painter and Historian: “With this viewpoint, we can call Da Vinci the father of modern science, the one who applied science in a rational manner with scientific methods.”
Narration: Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, the two Renaissance genius artists in painting and sculpture, reflect the tumultuous spirit of the Renaissance man imbued with queries, answers, qualms and certainty in their works with singular precision.
SOUNDBITE [Italian], Prof. Alexander Rebhamse, Faculty of Architecture, Florence: “It is in the Renaissance that man finds himself alone all of a sudden, therefore, the fear of death falls on him. The Renaissance man has an obsessive habitude towards death, while the middle Ages man looks at death as emancipation and crossing to the hereafter. Considering the worldly aspect of life, death will be a catastrophe and hard to digest. So, the emancipation of human is accompanied by a tragedy and thus we can’t deem the Renaissance just as a happy era. In contrast with this desire for inquiry, not much is left of the previous eras. Ancient writings were annihilated, manipulated or falsified. The ancient Rome cities were razed and their remains were not analyzable so the Renaissance man was taking steps towards a non-existent world which would bring about a feeling of nihilism and nonsense. For instance, it was possible to proceed with Gothic architecture. They abandon these achievements and step foot in a course that might be just infinite and nothing. The ancient world at the time was just a mirage and mystery.”
Narration: The unanswered questions of Leonardo and his unfulfilled wishes for discovering mysteries of the universe and his qualms render most of his works doomed to remaining unfinished. In The Last Supper, Leonardo accentuates human bodies; Christ’s bust sitting in full serenity in the centre of the portrait is dominant, however, he forms a solid reactive triangle of his disciples surrounding himself. The Apostles are in four groups of three.
TIME CODE: 45:00_49:00
Narration: Their posture and position of their hands direct the viewers’ eyes from one figure to the other. The figures are considerably detached from the building’s dark background. Nothing keeps these objects and people firm on the floor of the room they are part of. Drama occurs in such an atmosphere. Leonardo’s command and dominance in the portrayal of faces in suspense between sorrow & joy, fact & fiction as well as mysterious and secret smiles, reflect the Renaissance man’s spirit which is imbued with qualms, queries and the hope for seeking answers and certainty. This cause is efficiently stated in the colossal statue of David. In this nude hero, ‘body’ symbolizes ‘earthly prison’. It seems that the upper torso is in motion in contrast with the lower torso. It’s as if the sculpture with the mediation of movement and motion strives to liberate itself from the confines of the body. The Pieta, another work by Michelangelo, displays Mary grieving over the dead Christ. Michelangelo has polished the stone with such delicacy and dexterity that the marble flaunts the real human flesh. Mary’s serene innocence, Christ’s flaccid muscles, folds and drapery of Christ’s and Mary’s dress make their skin look amazing in contrast to the marble. The fabric feels beautifully soft and favorable and the bigger size of Mary in comparison with Christ’s figure reflects the religious rituals of the Virgin Mary. Michelangelo exhibits this attempt and attraction of the Renaissance man’s spirit by way of narrating human creation with greatly artistic subtleties on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In the center of this ceiling, he portrays the realization of human creation. From among the angels, God in human figure has extended his hand towards the recumbent man. Human soul awaits the Divine breath. The figures don’t touch each other. All the concerns and queries of the Renaissance man are manifested in the work. How is the glint of physical touch between God and man to be? Is separation to last for good? Is the realization of created man to occur? Is the touch possible? Which way is man headed? … the earth or the heavens? Salvation or liberation? Immortality or mortality? Enlightenment or wakefulness? Shape or shadow? Union or separation? Lightness or heaviness? Subjectivity or objectivity? This or that? Are there any answers?