What is the relationship of the Renaissance and the Reformation to the Middle Ages?

Expert Answers
pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Renaissance and Reformation mark the end of the Middle Ages, although the people who lived back then could not point to a specific date as the beginning of the Renaissance.  During the Middle Ages, Europe lost a great deal of the knowledge acquired by the ancient Greeks and Romans.  The Catholic Church was the only unifying authority in a continent that fought constantly.  Outside of the clergy and some members of the nobility, almost no one could read, and those who could read only read in Latin and not the various languages of Europe at the time.  During the Middle Ages, there were little advances in medical or political thought, as everything was considered to come from God and whatever happened was a matter of God's will.  

Some dramatic changes marked the beginning of the Renaissance.  First, printing technology made books more affordable.  The first book printed was the Bible, though, in time, people wrote for entertainment and educational value.  As more people read the Bible, they began to form their own ideas about religion.  This would ultimately lead to the Reformation.  Also during this period, Europeans made increased contact with the East in order to get spices.  Europeans learned different scientific practices from Byzantines and Arabic leaders.  More Europeans tried to look for mathematical trends in everyday occurrences.  This period is known as a gain in scientific knowledge.  

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The relationship between these is that the Renaissance and the Reformation can be said to have ended the Middle Ages.

The Renaissance and Reformation ended the Middle Ages by ending the mindset that went along with those times.  The Middle Ages were (and this is, of course, a generalization) a time in which people relied on the Church as their only source of authority.  They believed what the Church told them about everything from the meaning of the Bible to the way the universe was ordered.

With the Renaissance and Reformation came a major change.  The Renaissance, for example, brought an emphasis on science and on scientific proof instead of relying on what religious authorities said.  The Reformation, of course, weakened the idea that the Church was the only source of religious knowledge.

In these ways, the Renaissance and Reformation brought in an era in which people did more thinking for themselves.  This ended the mindset of the Middle Ages in which they relied on authorities to tell them what was true.