While there is no specific singular cause for the Renaissance, there are various factors that have contributed to the commencement of the era. The Renaissance followed the end of the Medieval period. Therefore, events that marked a change in Medieval culture, mentality, technology, and beliefs naturally influenced the beginning of the Renaissance. The evidence of this is aptly reflected in the name Renaissance itself. “Renaiss” derives from the Middle French renaistre (to be born again) and the suffix -ance (indicating an action, state, condition, or quality).
The Renaissance era was characterized by the artistic, literary, and overall cultural influence of Greece and Rome. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1453, a wave of Italians (many of whom were scholars, poets, lecturers, philosophers, artists, scientists, astronomers, etc.) migrated to western Europe. These émigrés brought with them a wealth of teachings, art, and knowledge that would greatly influence the Renaissance. The amalgamation gave birth to a mentality that contrasted notably from the previous thought-process of the medieval way of life. Prior to the Renaissance, ideals were generally monastic, religious, and basically dogmatic. These medieval cultural norms were met with perspectives such as those found in the works of Italian scholar and poet Francesco Petrarch, which glorified the secular and worldly. What became known as “Renaissance humanism” (and a general interest in uncensored and relatable human emotions and conditions being depicted in art and literature) overshadowed the medieval scholasticism that existed prior.
Other notable factors include the invention of the printing press, the effects of the Black Death, and the influence following the advancement of various technologies. The printing press was invented by Gutenberg of Mainz in 1445. This made it far cheaper and easier to create and circulate literary works and further academia in a way never before possible. Europe’s Black Death allowed for the wealth of this era to spread, resulting in more time for the artistic and literary focus of the Renaissance. The invention of more advanced technology (such as the appearance of the telescope in 1608) further allowed for the new perspectives and mentalities regarding science and religion that took shape during the Renaissance.