One could argue that the Renaissance was a golden age in that it represented the high point of Christendom, that extended period of cultural, intellectual, and spiritual unity in Europe that ended with the Reformation. Ironically, Renaissance humanism would inadvertently lay the groundwork for its own demise, with its individualism, its championing of pagan learning, and its derivation of wisdom from original sources.
But long before Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle—or so the story goes—the Renaissance brought European cultural unity to a peak of perfection, one that has never been repeated since. Although there were of course differences between individual nations, those differences tended to be minimized by a remarkable degree of unity in cultural and spiritual matters, largely on account of the Catholic Church.
Far from undermining the Church, thinkers of the Renaissance believed that they were strengthening its position by bolstering its intellectual...
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