The gleam of Renaissance first spread in Italy and from there its light diffused in Germany, England, France and other European countries. A question arises: Why did the Renaissance begin in Italy only? It was quite natural that the rebirth of European art and literature occurred in a country where the vestiges of significant ancient achievements were still gleaming faintly and where the ancient tradition of acquiring knowledge was still alive. There was a competition for the rise of new cities and there were many people who patronized art and literature. The ancient Italian relics had inspired a critical outlook among the scholars since the days of Petrarch.
It is held that the main reason why the Renaissance occurred in Italy at first is that the development of social classes there had been different from that in other European countries. Since the beginning of the Middle Ages, a great part of citizens and the warrior class, who wielded authority over political, military and cultural spheres, had not lived in a feudal style. Consequently, the influential landlords were deposed and compelled to settle in nearby towns. These towns prospered under the patronage of adventurous businessmen. The prestigious sections of Italian aristocracy, old decadent families and newly rich business classes assembled in cities and established, for the first time in Europe, a consolidated community. Virtually, the atmosphere of liberal and free-thinking was conducive to showing the seed of Renaissance.
Italy was a rich country; its source of richness was overseas trade. Among the Mediterranean countries, Italy was bestowed with the most congenial circumstances and so the Arab traders of the Middle Ages sold all their goods which they brought from Asian countries in Italy. The Asian goods were sent to European countries from Italy. In addition to it, the traders coming from North Europe went to West Asia through Italy. Thus Italy became a famous commercial centre. The increasing trade and prosperity in Italy afforded solid ground for the fruition of the Renaissance.
Another reason for the Renaissance in Italy is that it has been the birthplace of ancient Roman civilization. Many monuments of ancient Roman civilization in Italian cities reminded people of the grandeur of Italy. People were obsessed with the thoughts of enhancing the prestige of their country as they were aware of the splendour of Rome. It is apparent that the Roman culture turned out to be the centre of inspiration for Renaissance. The first signs of inspiration were seen in Dante’s literary works.
Rome, where the Pope dwelt, was still the centre of the entire West European Christianity. Moved by the spirit of Renaissance, some Popes brought great scholars in Rome and got the Greek manuscripts translated into Latin. Pope Nicholas V (1447-1455) opened Vatican Library and built Saint Peter’s Cathedral. Entire Rome was built under his guidance. Pope’s work affected other parts of the world.
When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, a large number of fugitive Greek scholars, artists and businessmen first, took shelter in Italy and then many of then settled there. The learned strangers poured into Italy in such overwhelming numbers that it seemed as if ‘Greece had not fallen but emigrated to Italy”. Those fugitive scholars brought with them the most invaluable manuscripts of ancient Greek literature containing a deep knowledge of which the Europeans were quite ignorant. Many fugitive scholars were appointed teachers in Italian schools and universities. This learned class became the precursor of awakening.