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A memorable period in the history of Europe which we call the Renaissanceby@havelock

A memorable period in the history of Europe which we call the Renaissance

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There is a memorable period in the history of Europe which we call the Renaissance. We do well to give pre-eminence to that large efflorescence of latent life, but we forget sometimes that there have been many such new expansions of the human spirit since that primitive outburst of Christianity which is the most interesting of all in modern times. The tree of life is always in bloom somewhere, if we only know where to look. What a great forgotten renascence that is which in the middle of the twelfth century centres around the name of Abelard! It was nothing less than the new birth of the intellect. Abelard had made anew the discovery that reason, too, is the gift of God, and faith was no longer blind; from all Europe thousands of students gathered around the great teacher who dwelt in his rough hermitage on the desert plains of Troyes. It was in the strength of that feast that men wove scholastic cobwebs so diligently that the human spirit itself seemed for awhile suffocated. It was a great renascence of life, a hundred years later, in the wonderful thirteenth century, when Francis of Assisi revealed anew in his own person the ideal charm of Jesus, and a group of fine spirits, his fellows, who bore the Everlasting Gospel,—Jean de Parme, Pierre d’Olive, Fra Dolcino and the rest,—sought to rebuild the edifice of Christendom on the foundation of the Gospels, only in the end to deluge the world with a plague of grey friars. And then a great wave, with Luther on its crest, swept across Europe, reached at last the coast of England, and left on its shores, as a dreary monumental symbol, St. Paul’s Cathedral. There is another great vital expansion about the time of the French Revolution. Since then, and chiefly as a result of that final triumph of the middle-class throughout Europe, of which the French Revolution was the decisive seal, the energy of Europe, and of England especially, has found its main outlets in the development of a huge commercial structure, now, in the opinion of many, slowly and fearfully toppling down. The nineteenth century has seen the rise and fall of middle-class supremacy. What has been the result of it?
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