Difference Between Renaissance and Middle Age

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 28, 2023


Difference Between Renaissance and Middle Age

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Literature is the reflection of the life and is a form of entertainment for the people. From ancient civilization to the modern era, literature has given us insight into the trends and issues of all times. When English literature is analyzed, it consists of eight major periods and several ages. Each period or age is named after a literary figure or the rulers or literary movements. The major eight periods in the history of English literature are- The Anglo-Saxon or Old English period, the Anglo-Norman or Middle English or Middle Ages period, the Renaissance period, the neoclassical period, the Romantic period, the Victorian period, the modern period, the contemporary period. Out of these, the Renaissance period and the Middle Ages period are different periods with distinguishing features from each other.

 The Renaissance was a revolutionary period in history that was known for innovations and developments. It is a period in European civilization marked by the rebirth or revival of classical learning and wisdom. During the period of the Renaissance, Europe left behind the fixed dimensions and ideas of the period of the Middle Ages and initiated the beginnings of the modern world known by today's world. The revival led to a great flourishing in painting, architecture, music, and sculpture. Renaissance stands as an early summit of poetry achievement and the beginning of the modern sense of English poetry.

 The Middle Ages was the period in European history that began after the great loss of power by the Roman Emperor throughout Europe. This period indicated the creation and rise of universities, the establishment of the rule of the law, various periods of ecclesiastical reform, and the birth of the tourism industry. Middle Ages are best known for the violent revolutions and revolts, horrifying punishments, feasting, gallant knights, and fairy-tale princes and princesses. But life during this period was harsh, with a limited diet and little comfort.

Renaissance vs. Middle Ages

The word renaissance means awakening or rebirth. It was a European cultural movement between the 14th and 16th centuries that involved the renewal of learning, infrastructure development, and gradual reform in education. The movement began in Italy and compassed all facets of life, which included the involvement of art, politics, and intellect. The period of the Renaissance was looked upon as an age of enlightenment and hope. Superstitions and unwanted fears were not witnessed in this period. The Renaissance period is considered a bridge between the period of medieval and modern ages.

 On the contrary, the Middle Ages is the period in European history from the fall of the Roman Empire. It lasted from the 5th to the 14th century. The idea of community distinguished the Middle Ages period. People living in the period faced actual threats from disease, famine, and warfare and dangers in work and religion. The Middle Ages portrayed gothic art and the Gothic style of architecture, which is characterized by the pointed arches and ribbed vaults. The period was full of superstitions and the fear of god. The art in the era was heavily influenced by the church as the church had an upper hand in deciding every factor.

The period of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages have a lot of differences based on art, culture, technology, lifestyle, religion, education, and humanism. There were several changes and developments in different areas of the period.

Difference Between Renaissance and Middle Ages in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonRenaissanceMiddle Ages
DefinitionRenaissance is the period of the great revival of literature, art, and learning in Europe.Middle Ages is the period of the fall of the Roman Empire in the history of Europe.
FashionWomen in the Renaissance period made exaggerated use of clothes by wearing long dresses and starched linen ruffs from shoulder to shoulder.Women in the period of the Middle Ages wore different kinds of clothes like linen or woolen under tunics and woven socks but never wore pants.
TimelineThe period of renaissance happened between the 14th and the 16th centuries.The Middle Ages period started in the 5th century and lasted till the 16th century.
EducationThe people of the Renaissance period had extensive interest in education, especially the Classical Greek and Roman Ideas.During the Middle Ages, most people were illiterate and only the nobility could gain an education.
LanguageThe literature in the period of the Renaissance was written in early modern English.The literature of the Middle Ages was written in Old English and Middle English.
Women’s RoleWomen were more empowered and raised their voices during the Renaissance period.The role of women was very limited and were dependent on their husbands or fathers during the Middle Ages.
IdealThe period of the Renaissance is based on the idea that Renaissance men should be well-rounded.The period of the Middle Ages is based on the idea that man is well-versed in one subject.

What is Renaissance?

Renaissance is a period in European civilization characterized by the growth of interest in classical scholarship and values. Also referred to as rebirth, the period started just after the end of the Middle Ages period. It began in the 14th century and marked its end in the 17th century. Renaissance marked the transition of modernity from the Middle Ages. Some of the greatest thinkers, authors, scientists, and artists in the history of humans thrived in this era. The Renaissance began in many states of Italy, including Florence, Venice, Genoa, Milan, Rome, and Naples. From Italy, the Renaissance spread throughout Europe, American, Asian, and African territories ruled by the European colonial powers of the time.

 During the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries in Europe, renaissance art, painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature were produced under the influence of the increased awareness of nature and the more individualistic view of man. Many influences on the development of Renaissance men and women led to the emergence of Renaissance art. Classical texts that were lost to European scholars for centuries became available again. These texts consisted of documents of philosophy, prose, poetry, drama, science, art thesis, and early Christian theology. The first archaeological study of Roman remains by the architect Brunelleschi and sculptor Donatello was brought by people who had an immense interest in classics. Movable type printing arrived in the 15th century and books were written in a large number for a broader public. A heritage of artistic achievement occurred in Venice through the famous Italian Renaissance painter, Giovanni Bellini and his in-laws.

 Some of the renowned Renaissance artists from Italy, the Low Countries, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, and Venetian Dalmatia are:-

  1. Fra Angelico
  2. Jacques Daret [Netherlands]
  3. Jerg Ratgeb]
  4. Jean Hey
  5. Jorge Afonso
  6. Juan de Flandes
  7. Nicholas of Ragusa
  8. Pierro della Francesca
  9. Gerard David [Netherlands]
  10. Ambrosius Holbein
  11. Simon Marmion
  12. Grao Vasco
  13. Paolo da San Leocadio
  14. Giovanni Dalmata

Some of the major artworks of the Renaissance period are- Praying Hands, Portrait of Ginevra de Benci, Madonna of Bruges, Sleeping Venus, The Rape of Europa, The Baptism of Christ, A Young Girl Reading, and The Last Supper.

Apart from art, some major developments of the Renaissance include developments in astronomy, humanist philosophy, the printing press, vernacular language in writing, painting, and sculpture techniques, world exploration, and Shakespeare's works.

The Renaissance period was marked by technical advancements like the printing press, patent law, and many others. It led to the invention of blast furnaces, which enabled iron to be produced in significant quantities. Finery forges were used to enable pig iron into bar iron. The Renaissance period also saw the invention of the slitting mill, a type of watermill that mechanized the production of iron rods for nail making. Smeltmills increased the output of lead over previous methods, and mining and metallurgy were also introduced in the era. During the period of the Renaissance, the use of crank and connecting rod mechanism was greatly diversified and mechanically refined. The introduction of the mechanical movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg was one of the defining moments of the period. Other innovations and inventions include the parachute, the Mariner's astrolabe, dry dock, floating dock, lifting tower, and newspapers.

During the period of the Renaissance, people began to enjoy more luxuries, nicer clothes, fine foods, and the arts. Craftsmen, artisans, and merchants developed into middle-class people with money but without being nobles or royals. The people started paying more attention to the present life rather than the future. Catholicism became the main religion in the Renaissance period.

Materials covered in the Renaissance period focused very much on language and literature. Renaissance humanism originated as a worldview centered around the nature and importance of humanity. The philosophy helped ignite the curiosity and the desire for knowledge. By the 13th century, people started learning more about classic Greek and Roman culture, literature, and philosophy.

What is the Middle Age?

The period extending from about 500 to 1400-1500 CE in European history is known as the Middle Ages. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and ended with the fall of Constantinople. The medieval period is subdivided into early, high, and late Middle Ages. During the early Middle Ages, population decline, counter-urbanization, the collapse of centralized authority invasion, and mass migration of the tribes continued. In the 7th century, the Middle East and North Africa came under caliphal rule with the Arab conquests. The Carolingian dynasty of the Franks established the Carolingian empire during the late 8th and 9th centuries. During the high Middle Ages, the population of Europe increased. The period saw the formal division of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, with the east-west schism of 1054. The late Middle Ages was hit by calamities like famine, plague, and war which led to the diminishing of population of Europe. Between 1347 and 1350, the Black Death killed about a third of Europeans. Cultural and technological developments brought a significant change in Europe, thus ending the Late Middle Ages and marking the beginning of the early modern period.

 The Middle Ages is one of the three major periods i.e. Antiquity, Middle Ages, and the Modern Period, in the most enduring scheme for analyzing European history. According to medieval writers, when Christ had brought light to mankind, contrasted with the spiritual darkness of the previous period, their age marked its beginning. Petrarch, a scholar, coined the term 'dark age' for the period of the Middle Ages as he was dismayed at the lack of good literature at that time. According to many historians and critics, the starting point of the Middle Ages was around 500, and 1500 was considered the end of the period for Europe as a whole. But universally, no evidence marks the correct beginning and ending of the era. The term Battle of Bosworth Field was often used by English historians in 1485 to mark the ending of the period.

 The Middle Ages period compassed many artistic styles like early Christian and Byzantine, Anglo-Saxon and Viking, insular, Carolingian, Ottonian, Romanesque, and Gothic. Medieval art was made up of various artistic mediums, including sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass, tapestries, mosaics, and metal works. Some of the major artists of the medieval era were:-

  1. Fra Angelico [Italy]
  2. Upper Rhenish Master [Strasbourg]
  3. Pontormo [Italy]
  4. Massacio [Italy]
  5. Cimabue [Florence]

Some of the most famous medieval arts to exist were the Ghent Altarpiece, Trinity, Paradiesgartlein, Santa Trinita Maesta, Ognissanti Madonna, etc.

During the Middle Ages, classical civilization was transformed into three cultures: Germanic invaders, Christianity, and Islam. The period consisted of different kinds of people with different cultures. Middle Ages were often considered as the age of faith and the age of chivalry. But life was harsh with limited diet and comfort. Women were subordinate to men and were expected to run the household smoothly. Children had a survival rate of 50% and began contributing to the family at the age of twelve.

 Many important inventions were made in the Middle Ages, including the spinning wheel, stirrups, astrolabe, eyeglasses, compass, tidal mills, gunpowder, and printing press. Astrolabe was an important invention used by navigators and astronomers to study the movement of the celestial bodies. It was invented with the earliest astrolabes appearing in Moorish Spain during the 12th century. The earliest inventions of the modern compass were invented in medieval Europe. The earliest eyeglasses used in medieval Europe were invented in Italy in 1286. Gunpowder was invented in China around the 9th century. The earliest mechanical clocks were invented by Christian monks with extensive knowledge of astronomy.

 The church became dominant in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. The only religion that was recognized during the Middle Ages was Christianity, especially Catholicism. The religion dominated the lives of both peasants and the nobility. Education during the Middle Ages was limited, with the majority of children lacking access to formal schooling. The main focus was on religious instruction and the perpetuation of social hierarchies. Humanists began to question many aspects of the Catholic Church, like its values, theories, beliefs, and control.

Main Difference Between Renaissance and Middle Ages (In Points)

  • Renaissance was a revolutionary movement between the 14th and 16th centuries that involved the revival or rebirth of art, learning, and literature. The Middle Ages was the period in European history from the 5th to 14th centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire.
  • The word renaissance is derived from the French language, which means rebirth. On the other hand, the term middle ages is derived from the Latin phrase 'medium aevum' and was coined by the historian Melchior Goldast in 1604.
  • In the Renaissance period, the state was supreme to the church. Whereas, in the Middle Ages period, the church was supreme to the state.
  • The literature of the Renaissance period involved religion and historical and social issues. While the literature of the medieval or Middle Ages period was centered on concepts including religion, chivalry, and courtly love.
  • The Renaissance period focused on less reliance on authority and more reliance on investigation. On the other hand, in the Middle Ages, feudalism and manorialism guided life, and questioning on the bible was not allowed.
  • During the Renaissance period, literature was popular as Queen Elizabeth became a symbol of the piece for the writers. Whereas, in the Middle Ages, Canterbury Tales was the most important literary work because of its focus on corruption in the church and the society.
  • The art in the Renaissance period glorified a specific individual. While the art in the Middle Ages glorified God.
  • In the Renaissance period, a church might not always be considered right. On the other hand, in the Middle Ages, catholic churches were always considered right.


In short, the Renaissance was a period of the revival of art, literature, and learning, and the Middle Ages was a period of tremendous suffering like famine and the Black Death. Both periods have different views of the purpose of life. There is a great contrast of distinguishable features between them.


  • britanicca.com
  • geeksforgeeks.org
  • history.com


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"Difference Between Renaissance and Middle Age." Diffzy.com, 2024. Wed. 15 May. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-renaissance-and-middle-age>.

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