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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Platonic academies were founded


Learned

Greeks were induced to settle in Italy--men who were able to interpret the ancient Greek poets and prose writers--Manuel Chrysoloras (at Florence, 1397-1400), George of Trebizond, Theodore Gaza (whose Greek _Grammar_ Erasmus taught from while in England), Gemistos Plethon, a distinguished Platonist, under whom the Christian Platonism received its impulse, and John Argyropoulos, who was the teacher of Reuchlin. The men of the early Renaissance were their pupils.

? 3. Its earlier relation to Christianity.

There was nothing hostile to Christianity or to the mediaeval Church in the earlier stages of this intellectual revival, and very little of the neo-paganism which it developed afterwards. Many of the instincts of mediaeval piety remained, only the objects were changed. Petrarch revered the MS. of Homer, which he could not read, as an ancestor of his might have venerated the scapulary of a saint.(19) The men of the early Renaissance made collections of MSS. and inscriptions, of cameos and of coins, and worshipped them as if they had been relics. The Medicean Library was formed about 1450, the Vatican Library in 1453, and the age of passionate collection began.

The age of scholarship succeeded, and Italian students began to interpret the ancient classical authors with a mysticism all their own. They sought a means of reconciling Christian thought

with ancient pagan philosophy, and, like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, discovered it in Platonism. Platonic academies were founded, and Cardinal Bessarion, Marsiglio Ficino, and Pico della Mirandola became the Christian Platonists of Italy. Of course, in their enthusiasm they went too far. They appropriated the whole intellectual life of a pagan age, and adopted its ethical as well as its intellectual perceptions, its basis of sensuous pleasures, and its joy in sensuous living. Still their main thought was to show that Hellenism as well as Judaism was a pathway to Christianity, and that the Sibyl as well as David was a witness for Christ.

The Papacy lent its patronage to the revival of literature and art, and put itself at the head of the movement of intellectual life. Pope Nicolas V. (1447-1455) was the first Bishop of Rome who fostered the Renaissance, and he himself may be taken as representing the sincerity, the simplicity, and the lofty intellectual and artistic aims of its earliest period. Sprung from an obscure family belonging to Saranza, a small town near Spezzia, and cast on his own resources before he had fairly quitted boyhood, he had risen by his talents and his character to the highest position in the Church. He had been private tutor, secretary, librarian, and through all a genuine lover of books. They were the only personal luxury he indulged in, and perhaps no one in his days knew more about them. He was


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