RENAISSANCE INTRODUCTION- 


The End of the Middle Ages and The Renaissance-
By the Menzinator

Travel back in time with me. We are about to take an INCREDIBLE journey- a journey through time and space. Have you noticed that this is a real trip for me and hopefully you too?

You will need a few things though. You will need daily:
1) Your agenda book
3) Your composition book
4) Something (like a folder) to hold your papers
5) YOUR BRAIN!!! For this is thy time to exercise thy brain.

We have traveled through Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Byzantium. Now we are at the end of the European Middle Ages and are about to enter the European Renaissance. When we enter, you will see how this time in history helped make us who we are today. We will stop periodically to visit with some very famous people and see how they changed history. Please fasten your seatbelt. We are off on a wild ride.

You will meet some of the most interesting people and places of all times. Here you will see, hear, and smell what some of the cities looked like, and what it was like to be a farmer wondering if nature would take what you had worked hard to produce. Could you and your family survive? This is a world where only the strong survived. So buckle your seat belts and shoulder harness, sit back in your seat, and learn as much as you can. For you see, this trip may determine how strong you really are.

·The Renaissance- What Is It?

Historians love to give time periods a name. These historical names enable students and just plain people to get an idea when something took place. The Renaissance (1350-1700 AD) is a short period of time in European history (on the big timeline) when Europe “woke up” from its long slumber of the Dark Ages or Medieval Times (450 AD-1350 AD). The Medieval Times or Middle (Dark) Ages was a time period in which technology, knowledge, and progress seemed to be dead as far as Western Europe was concerned.

During the European Middle Ages, knowledge vanished. The major focus was the Church and getting into heaven, as well as surviving day to day. Socrates’ words were never read, Aristotle’s scientific method was looked on as a practice of the devil, and some people felt the old Roman paved roads which were now falling apart must have been laid down by angels. No human could do such a thing. Europeans also said the same thing about the Pyramids of Egypt. When Europeans became sick or injured, they prayed to the bones of their saints to save them. What most people were concerned with was staying alive! Reading was not practical.  

silk_road_400.jpgPART 2

Lasbut not least, read how the 

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The Crusades- (“Deus vult!”)

       Pope Urban II issued a “call to Crusade" or to "take up the cross”. He knew that the villages of Europe would be united again by a good “just” war.  So he traveled around France, a land that had been opposed to a Roman pope, and told the people that “God wills it” or “Deus vult!” that they should go to the Holy Land (Palestine) and kill all the infidels (devil worshipers). He also reminded people that there was plenty of free fertile land for the taking (most Europeans could not read), and that God had said so. If the knights, vassals, and commoners did this, that taxes and debts would be forgotten and forgiven, God would forgive Crusaders all their sins forever, and they would get all the land and possessions of the people they conquered. He urged every Christian to “take up the cross” and take Jerusalem back from the infidels for Jesus and that Jesus wanted it that way.  After the knights had sewn red crosses on their tunics, they asked the pope how they could kill so many and still be forgiven when the Bible said, “Thou shalt not kill”. The pope responded that Jesus had been misquoted. It did not say, “Thou shalt not kill”, the pope replied that Jesus had been misquoted. Urban said that the command was “thou shalt not kill Christians.”  The pope also told the people that thousands of religious pilgrims had been killed on their way to Jerusalem. Actually, this was not accurate. The Muslim rulers were busy fighting with each other and usually did not bother outsiders or religious pilgrims. The few that were attacked were traveling with few and was often an inviting sight for thieves. There were few religious fanatics who threatened the Christians or the pilgrims. Only one ruler according to history in the early 11th century tried to knock down Christian shrines and was fanatical toward Christians. He did not rule long, but his son rebuilt all Christian holy places knocked down by his father and did all he could to make amends. The Crusades did one other thing for Catholic Church; it united all Catholics under the rule of the Pope as his representative on earth. The Pope became very powerful. He was no longer just the "bishop of Rome", but he was according to the Church, God's direct representative on earth. 
    Before any knights could mount their horses, a peasant named Peter the Hermit mounted a Peasant’s Crusade. About 30,000 peasants left the land and followed Peter. Peter, dressed in rags, addressed the people daily to keep them moving forward. It was said by one crusader that Peter’s donkey was much better looking than Peter. During the journey, the unruly crowd stole and plundered anything in their path. Frightened villagers often poisoned water supplies to keep the rabble away from their village.  In one location, more than 2000 people were killed over a pair of shoes. The rabble also massacred or attacked any Jew they came across on the way.

   When the Peasants came to the great walls and gates of Constantinople, Emperor Alexis wisely refused to let them in. He had expected a well-trained army. He got instead a bunch of ill-mannered rabble. He ferried them across the Strait of Bosporus. When the group crossed into Turkey, many died of starvation, thirst, and finally standing against a well-armed group of warriors. It is said that the pile of bones was so high, that one could not see over them. Any survivor was sold into slavery. This ended the Peasant’s Crusade.

   The Nobles Crusade came about a year later in 1097 AD. Nobles when they traveled brought everything with them including their wives, servants, and blacksmiths. Each noble had to provide his own gear and weapons, wagons, supplies, and horses. 30,000 knights left and only 12,000 survived by the time they reached Jerusalem. The 12,000 that survived wrote the pope after they entered Jerusalem that the blood of the infidels was up to the knees of their horses. The Crusaders did not kill just “infidels”, but Turks, Jews, and Christians. They looked like “foreigners”; therefore the knights felt they were doing “God’s Will”.
     There were two more Crusades in the years following. Neither one was successful in helping the Crusaders hold on to Holy Land.

The Crusaders Change Europe 
The Crusaders found that life was very different in the Middle East. Here is a list of how when some returned to their European homes, they changed Europe forever.
  They began to wear many of the clothes of the area, and adopt the customs such as bathing.
  They learned to eat foods such as rice, lemons, spices, sugar, oranges, figs and melons.
   They also liked to eat foods that were well spiced. This was a luxury that they could not afford at home.
  These Crusaders brought home with the books that were sold at booksellers and were common because the Muslims had paper. On one street in Baghdad, there were over 100 booksellers. Muslims were taught to read so that they could read the Koran (Qu'ran). Baghdad became one of the centers for learning in the Middle Ages.
  In many cases, Crusaders burned huge piles of books. They could not read them and thought that the books must be the devil’s work.  Monks who traveled with the nobles smuggled some of the manuscripts back to their monasteries to be copied and preserved. One such place was the Irish island of Skellig. No sane person would go there. It was barren, desolate, windswept, and cold—year round. The manuscripts were safe there. So new knowledge and ideas of the Ancient Greek and Romans once again began to reappear slowly when the books were recopied and eventually printed.
  The books needed to be translated. Schools were built to teach students how to translate the books. Many of these schools were the earliest European universities. As these new scribes began to translate, they began to discover more and more of the ancient world. These scholars began to realize how backward Europe had become. Suddenly, there was an interest in Aristotle and Plato. There was one rule. All works had to be translated and kept in Latin. No other translations of the books were acceptable. The books also had to be inspected and given an acceptance by the Catholic Church. If one was found with a "banned book", one could not only lose the book, but their home, their life, and excommunicated. 
  The Crusaders also saw how brilliant many of these “infidels” were. The medical practices of Muslim doctors were based on science and observation, not bleeding one and the wrath of God. Europeans began to use their ideas such as glass which had been used by the Romans and then forgotten since the second century AD, and later gun powder.


The Renaissance- move to Humanism
What comes next?  Europe to Wake Up Again
"I was dead, and now I am alive...my senses have awakened"...

      The early Middle Ages of Europe was a time in which everything seemed to die. Once mighty civilizations no longer existed. What existed were tiny kingdoms ruled by the strongest best- armed thug. Knowledge vanished. The church gave a message of hope and many of the poor hoped that heaven would be better than the life on earth.

  The ancient languages brought back by monks and crusaders brought ancient ideas-ideas that had not been seen for a long time, ideas that people were told were harmful, but actually turned out to be useful. So now people began to think. This was a dangerous activity for some. In many town squares, men and women were burned alive for free thought. Huge wars were fought over religion; Christian vs. Christian, and Muslim vs. Muslim, etc. It was a dangerous time to be alive.

The Black Plague Arrives

       From 900-1340 AD, the weather was warmer than normal. Crops flourished and the population grew. Then something happened that changed the entire world forever. In 1340, the weather changed 
dramatically. Just the few degree shift in annual average made it impossible to grow the crops farmers had always grown. Many starved. 

     In the midst of all of this, a trade ship came sailing in from a Muslim port. Most of the crew was dead or dying. The stench of the rotting corpse filled the air. Those that had boarded the ship soon found themselves in the same situation. Their lymph nodes began to swell like huge balls planted under the skin and fill with green pus. As some broke open, the smell was overwhelming. Most victims died of a high fever and helpless to do anything to help themselves or others in their families. Often bodies were piled in high heaps and burned because so many died at one time. Others were buried in mass graves, layered like lasagna with but a sprinkle of dirt over the bodies.  About 1/3- 1/2 of the European population died within 6 months after the Plague came to Europe. What the Europeans did not know is that the rats that freely walked off ships by the ropes to docks were the animals that carried fleas that carried the germ. Soon the disease became airborne (bubonic to pneumonic) in its victims airborne and contagious, not only affected humans but the domesticated animals.  

      The cities had started to grow because many peasants grew tired of year after year of farming and barely making ends meet. The law said that if a peasant were to go to the city and live there for 365 +1 days without their master finding them, then they were no longer tied to the feudal land. So the cities were teeming with people. When the Black Plague made an appearance, it decimated the entire population. The Black Plague spared no one. The disease did not care if you were rich or poor. The plague sometimes decimated most of a city, while other places seemed untouched. 

     The Black Plague made people realize how short life could be. Many of the priests died and the people had to find religious answers with anyone who could read. People began to look for answers to religion and the meaning of life on their own.  So learning became important once again. People began to learn about the world outside the 20-mile radius that most had never left their entire life. They also began to question authority- both religious and feudal authority.  Many left the manors for the city. More and more houses began to spring up around the castles.  

The Printing Press: the importance of the Written Word

   Many writers and scholars began to translate, and books began to be printed on paper and bound. Socrates, Aristotle and Plato became the favorite of many of the new readers. The new riches of the families made this type of study possible. The families brought manuscripts, artists, musicians, scientists, and scholars from everywhere in the world and these men lived in comfort and protection of these families.

     The books, however, were only purchased by the richest of the rich. When the printing press with movable type came along, books, reading and information became available for everyone. This did not make the rich and powerful happy. They did not want the peasant to be educated. The peasant did not have time to read. It was a waste of his time. Like it or not, however, times were about to change.

A Brief History of the Written Word

     At first, there was clay that was used to record deals among Ancient Sumerian businessmen. The symbols were crude but soon became standardized so each person would know what he owned. But clay was clumsy, heavy and could break. Then there was papyrus reed grown in Egypt which was flattened and dried. It was durable and held the colors well printed on its surface. Egypt had a monopoly on papyrus which as a reed grew plentiful in the Nile River. Conditions for its growth anywhere else was impossible. Then came parchment, a stretched, dried, and preserved animal hide throughout Europe and the Christian world. It was easy to write on and easy to carry. It was also perfect for a new art form called “illumination”.  Illumination was a skill reserved only for monks and special scribes educated by the church who copied manuscripts or transcribed legal documents. In other words, reading and writing were reserved for the rich, powerful, nobility and religious orders. For the common man and woman, it was a forbidden art and skill.

    Most literature, business transcription, and religious texts were done for the most part on a parchment or papyrus scroll until the 5th century AD. Then came the codex. The bound book became more practical as there were few and they could be transported or stored. By the end of the 5th century, all writing was done in a codex. Soon illuminators broke up the monopoly of the manuscripts by decorating first letters of paragraphs like this:  Word.

      How was parchment created? The skins of very lean animals were used. They were laid out in the hot midday sun and within 24 hours, the hair was gone from the skin. Then the pelts were scraped and pummeled till they were soft and thin. In Europe, this process became much easier with the discovery of lime (from crushed up limestone). The lime also prevented the skin from rotting and becoming stiff.

 What did the scribes and illuminators use to write or draw with? The word “write” comes from the old English word writan that means to scratch which was the first type of writing. This was engraving done with a stylus or writing utensil that would carve on bone, stone, wood, clay or wax. When scribes began to write with ink, they used a sharpened reed, or quill (goose feather). Ink came from several sources. Iron oxide was used for red ink, and soot dissolved in water was used for black ink. Also vegetable dyes were used.    

  For years, scribes and monks used these methods to write and copy and recopy manuscripts. Then came an invention that literally changed the world. This invention was as powerful as the computer is today for spreading education and information. It was controversial and life changing. It was the Printing Press.   

   Who invented the printing press with movable type? In the 1040’s, a Chinese alchemist used the first known printing press with movable type. But the idea did not catch on. The Chinese alphabet has thousands of characters, and the idea was not practical. So reproducing writing easily never caught on, especially in Catholic Europe. Ideas such as the printing press invented by what the church considered "infidels" was too radical. The Church at the time believed that only priests should read and interpret the word of God, and science. To keep it difficult for the common man to read, most writing was to be done exclusively in Latin. Whatever remained in Hebrew or Ancient Greek in the Christian holy book, the Bible, was translated exclusively to Latin. After the Black Plague in the 1300's where so many clergy died, there was need for common men to be able to read. The Bible, the book all Christians were to live by was expensive to replicate, hours of caligraphy copying every word to new parchment and then compiling it into a codex. More and more people were learning to read, and wanted to know more about the Bible.  Now people began to demand that Bible be translated into the vernacular.

     A German goldsmith, Johannes Gutenberg, saw something that sparked interest in creating the press- an olive oil press. He then perfected a rag based white paper (the same used in China and for American dollar bills), and thick ink that would stick to the letters on the press. With his press in 1453, Gutenberg wanted to print something that was revolutionary…a bible in Latin, called a Vulgate Bible. In England, William Tyndale did something he knew he was forbidden to do by the Church. He translated the Bible directly from Hebrew and ancient Greek into English so any man could read the words. This was inspired by a German Bible translated by Martin Luther. This was an extremely dangerous idea. Men could think for themselves if they knew what the choices were clearly. Martin Luther "protested" many acts and beliefs the Catholic Church and believed that every person should make up their mind about Christianity and the words they read. The printing press made it easy for people like Tyndale and Luther to spread the Bible to the common man.  The danger here also was that people like Sir Thomas More (King Henry VIII's top clergyman in England) charged that Tyndale had mistranslated the Bible (fake news). In 1536, Henry VIII had enough of rebels in his kingdom and Tyndale was burned at the stake. The Bible became a big hit in Germany, and soon print shop popped up all over the German cities printing not only Bibles but prayer books and other religious materials. Printing presses were also outlawed in many parts of the world. Soon, people all over Europe were reading whenever they could borrow or buy a book. The Printing Press changed the world..

Gunpowder- the Magic Powder that Changes the World

        Only one thing could really topple castle walls…gunpowder. This black magic powder could literally make those walls and barriers disappear. Muslim and Chinese scientists first discovered the black powder probably first developed the powder. The Chinese doctors for the emperor looked for ways to make the emperor live forever. Their invention was one of the main ingredients of gunpowder. Somehow, scientists discovered a much more useful way to use this black powder.

     The Chinese were known to use something called a fire lance which was a bamboo pole filled and packed with the black magic. When Europeans finally had exposure to the Chinese and Muslim rulers that used gunpowder, they became interested in finding a more effective way of firing the explosion. Eventually, they developed the earliest cannons. By 1327, such instruments of destruction were available to rich European cities and used in early battles. What happened is that the Europeans now realized that the castles could no longer protect them for the walls were toppled easily. Also, armor was expensive, hot and heavy became useless against flying cannonballs, shrapnel, and bullets. So armies now entered battle with just uniforms and weapons. And the powers that owned the biggest cannons and weapons usually had power over others in Europe. 


Cities, Religion and Manners
   Florence, during the late Middle Ages, had been a city famous for exquisite gold jewelry, leather goods, and silver pieces, as well as paintings, and silk cloth. Then it exploded with the Renaissance ideas. The Middle Ages had a Gothic style of architecture and art. In other words, everything was heavy and dark.  In Florence, buildings became lighter, outside and in.

      From the city of Florence came genius. The technique of linear perspective (discovered by Brunelleschi) was used by many famous artists of the time. Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael were some of the men from Florence and areas close to Italy using these techniques. Most artists of Florence (called Florentines) tried to create perfection in everything they did just as the Greeks had done (arête- excellence in every pursuit). The techniques of realism and linear perspective in art were also shown in Michelangelo and daVinci's work. or making a picture appear realistic fascinated large crowds who thought that such things were magic. Brunelleschi painted a picture of the Baptistry, a picture familiar to Florentines. It was so realistic that it drew large crowd to see the magic.             

     Living in Florence was like living in the Who’s Who of Renaissance Europe. If you could walk through about a 250-year period, you would meet such people as Galileo, Donatello, Michelangelo, Dante, Leonardo, Machiavelli, and many more famous people and families. Florence in the center of the Tuscan plains was one of the richest and most powerful city-states of its day. In the center of the city was a piazza or central square. Here, markets were set up and merchants traded. People gathered here to talk to friends and associates and carry out business deals. During celebrations, this was the place where people went to watch or participate in celebrations.   

     Family was very important in Florence. Entire families held power such as the de’ Medici family, and lived and worked in the same neighborhood as their parents and grandparents. In general, most marriages were arranged for business, power, or a union of two families. Women cared for the home and children.      
    For years, the Medici family ruled Florence.  They ruled Florence with an iron hand, but encouraged the arts and literature. Much of their influence can still be seen there today.

 Religion Topples as the World Knows It 
  First came Byzantium and the Orthodox Church in which theCHURCH.bmp ruler was God’s representative, and the patriarch or the head of the Orthodox Church took orders from the ruler. And Byzantium and the Orthodox Church grew and grew.
    Then came the Muslim Empires conquering the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Spain. They brought strange ideas with them like each person was responsible to learn about God and his ways.
    The Catholic Church had always told their followers that only clergy could read and interpret what the Holy Book says, and the miracles of nature and God. Common ordinary people were not capable of interpretation of books or ordinary events in their own lives. The common and poor had to religion 
on the Catholic clergy to tell them what to do to please God. 

     Then there was Martin Luther. Those two words struck terror in the hearts of Catholics Luther, once the most faithful of monks from the Northern forests of Germany, would challenge the power of the Church and the consequences unimaginable.

    The Catholic Church, slowly but surely, over the years (after the fall of Rome in 453 AD) became a major religious and political power. The pope until the 11th11th century AD had little power and was called the Bishop of Rome. Then in the 11thcentury, Pope Gregory II took drastic steps to make sure  that the Catholic Church became and remained a world power. He declared that his official title was “Pontiff and Pope” – both titles that were something like a CEO in today’s world. Pope Gregory created  hegemony or a governing body that had influence over a state by economic and military means. He said that  Popes were God’s direct representatives on earth so they were representing God on earth. He also said

A) Priests and church officials could no longer be married

B) Church officials were chosen by the Pope and not the ruler

C) Anyone who disagrees with him can be excommunicated, and lose the obedience of all subjects under them, and lost the right to go to heaven.

     The pope also said that every ruler had to swear allegiance to him or be excommunicated. If one disagreed with the pope or church, one could also be tortured, drawn and quartered, or burned alive at the stake, all quite legal and socially acceptable

     In the late 1400’s and early 1500’s, the Catholic Church realized one showed power by architecture. In other words, buildings showed how much power one had. Many Catholic kings had shown that they were not only a devoted Catholic, but also powerful. So they found ways to build a new cathedral. Many fine examples still stand in Europe today. These masterpieces, sometimes taking 50 years to build,  had light flooding in with their leaded stained glass windows.
     The Medici popes, and several other popes of the 1400’s and 1500’s knew that they were being threatened by the “godless infidels (heretics)” and decided that the original St. Peter’s Cathedral built by Constantine would no longer do. So the new St. Peter’s was designed in Vatican City in Rome. It is so large that the building could fit three of the largest cathedrals in Europe in it with room to spare. The question was, how would one pay for it? The Catholic Church came up with an ingenious plan… something called indulgences. An indulgence was a certificate that one could buy from a priest that said that God would forgive all sins for this next year. The money was not often used to feed the poor or help the homeless, or used to build a church or a cathedral, but a gold-laden palace for the pope. The Cathedral was itself filled with expensive items.

     Sometimes, the money was spent on the CHILDREN of a pope. Pope Alexander (1500's) had several children that became famous for their wicked ways. Lucretia, and Cesare Borgia, daughter and son of Pope Alexander, were known for their rich living and spending the church money on armies to conquer new lands.
Some rich families BOUGHT church offices (such as Cardinal) for their sons because with these offices came power and money for the family.

Martin Luther (1483 - 1546 AD) and the Protestant Reformation
Martin Luther defied his family. They wanted him to become a lawyer. One day, Luther on his was home from the University, got caught in a horrific thunder storm. He promised God if he made it out alive, he would give his life to God. He did, much to his father's dismay. He became a monk.

     To please God, he did everything he could such as severe fasting, and other rituals. He was chosen by his monastery to go on pilgrimage to Rome. What he saw there bothered him deeply. He began to read the Bible and write down ideas that he thought were wrong. He called the items that he wanted to see changed the 95 Theses, and nailed them to a church door (Facebook of his time). These protests were often done in Latin. They were for clergy eyes only.  These were written in German so anyone who could read could share his thoughts. This immediately made Luther a heretic. Soon he was running for his life. German nobles began to protect him. They were tired of Rome stepping in and telling them what to do. Some even agreed with Luther.
     Luther originally did not want to leave the church, but just wanted to reform it; to make it  once more about God. Luther soon found his life more in danger. German princes who did not like what was going on in Rome protected Luther. Here is what Luther said:

1. God and Jesus loved everyone, and that you were not judged by good deeds, but by one’s faith in God. He also said that what is good in the law today may not be so tomorrow. So what makes up "good deeds"? For example, my haircut could have gotten me burned at the stake just 400 years ago.
2. Luther said that only God decides who goes to heaven, and the church did not.
3. He said all people should read the Bible. Before, only clergy could read the Bible so he translated the Bible into German for the common man. This act alone got many burned. 
4.   Luther also said that one can pray directly to God and Jesus not through Mary or saints. God was like our loving father, and people are his children. God, Luther said, would hear our prayers.  These words infuriated the Catholic Church. If people believed this, the Catholic Church would lose its power. 

    People did begin to follow what Luther said. At first, people were protesting what they perceived as wrong. They were known as Protestants for they protested what the church had said for years.The people who followed the teachings of Luther were known as Lutherans. The Catholic Church soon began to send huge armies to crush this rebellion. But this did not work. As more and more Protestants learned how to read, they began to realize that life was short and that God intended for them to know about the world. This still posed problems for many Christians in Catholic countries, as you shall soon see….

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 ->Hygiene and Fashion

Much Renaissance royalty took great pride in this…not taking a bath. Queen Isabella of Spain who sent Columbus to find riches in the Indian islands, said: “I took one only twice in my life when I was born and the day before I married…a bath”. 

The Catholic Church demonized much of the past, such as the ancient Greeks or Romans' habit of taking a bath daily. After all, was not the naked body the object of shame? Did not the water open up the pours in the skin and unbalance the “humors” so one would be sick?  

Many cities had narrow streets with open sewers down the middle. Cities were crowded and often rat-infested because many people would not keep cats. Cats were animals that did the devil’s work. Had not Egyptians worshiped cats? 

Men often wore long woolen tunics with tights under them, and sometimes cloaks and caps when the weather chilled. Women wore dresses with tight bodices. In other words, they appeared fairly flat- chested which was the fashion. 

The rich wore silks and velvet trimmed in fur and jewels.

->Renaissance Manners 
    Do not blow your nose and then open the cloth to look at it as though pearls or
    Do not wipe your nose or mouth on your sleeve, or tablecloth.
    Do not offer anyone a piece of fruit from which you have already taken a bite.
    Do not tell sad stories at mealtimes or parties.
    Do not brag about honors, wealth or intelligence.
    Do not speak while yawning.
    Do not clean your teeth with your napkin or finger.
  • When you wake, wash your hands and face.
    Do not fill both sides of your mouth so full with food that your cheeks bulge.
    Do not undress, comb, or wash your hair in front of others.  


  • In Shakespeare's day (1500's), William Shakespeare got married quite late in life. He married a widow. He was 19 and she was 26. Most people were married off at 11 or 12.·
  • Anne Hathaway's home was 3 bedrooms with a parlor. Kitchen, and no bathroom. Before Anne was married, her parents shared one bed and she shared the other with 2 sisters and 6 other servant girls. They slept crosswise on the bed.·        
  • The other bedroom was shared by 6 brothers and 30 farmhands. No bed. All the bodies and one blanket kept them warm on the floor. No indoor heat.·        
    The average height for men in the 1500's AD was 5'6", and women were 4'11".·
  • Most people got married in June. Why? The yearly bath was taken in May at the end of the planting season whether they needed it or not. So they smelled better. The brides often carried a bouquet of flowers to cover the smell of their body odor.·
  • When the yearly bath was taken, it was taken in a big tub. The man of the house got the privilege of the hot clean water. Then all the other sons and men, and then women and children. Since water had to be hauled from a location far away (no indoor plumbing), and heated above the fire, it generally was not changed from person to person. So by the time the babies got to take a bath, the water was pretty dirty. Thus the saying came to be, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." It was so dirty that one could loose the baby in it.
  • Most of the homes in England at that time (1500's) were one room and the animals slept with the people. The smell of everything was so overwhelming but the family got used to it very quickly. So did everyone in the town.
  • Most houses had thatched roofs. Cats and dogs usually slept in the thatch because it was warm. When it rained hard, roofs collapsed. That is where we get the expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs”.


   Lorenzo also became ruler of Florence in 1478. He ruled for many years and spent much money trying to improve Florence. Many famous artists came to live in the di Medici’s court in Florence Italy. One of these famous people was called Donatello. He was a sculptor,  and worked on many statues for the court. Both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were two other artists that lived their entire lives depending on patrons to pay their bills, and had worked and lived in the Medici home. This is the real story of the REAL GODFATHERS.

Medici the Magnificent-






        The Medici family left its footprints all over Europe. The famous family became the sponsor of many famous people. They began to use the tricks of the Jewish bankers and traders, and found ways to make this practice seem totally acceptable to the Church. The Medici family was one of the Italian families that watched its fortune grow in this manner (BANKING).

        Lorenzo de Medici, also known as the Magnificent, the head of a very powerful Italian family, became what was called a patron of the arts. He sponsored many artists and musicians (he paid all their bills as well as a fee for their work). He brought people into the city of Florence and his home scholars who knew and discussed such topics as about The Classical Age or ancient Greece and Rome. During this age, people wanted to know what human nature was all about. These scholars wanted to know about life on earth as well as life in heaven. The classical writers believed there was great potential in man, and that men should live their life to the fullest. Man should be everything he could be and be creative. They were called HUMANIST. The humanists also believed that the human body was beautiful. For years, the Catholic Church had taught that anything about the human body was sinful. Once again, subjects that were considered sinful or forbidden such as the human body were acceptable in art.

         The people of Florence got tired of Lorenzo and complained that he was too strict, and had spent too much money.

     ->Michelangelo Buonarrate (1475-1564) 

    part one....

    Watch the full episode< See more Secrets of the Dead.

        He was born the second of five brothers. His mother died when he was 6 years old, and at age 13 he shocked his father because he had found his own apprentice position. For the first year he learned the art of fresco, and then for the next five years, sculpting. He was invited to live and work for Lorenzo de’ Medici, one of the richest patrons in all of Italy and Florence.
         Michelangelo was deeply spiritual, a00.gifnd showed his deep religious faith through much of his work. He ran into some trouble after Lorenzo died. A radical religious monk named 
    Savonarola took over and considered most art as heresy or a waste of money. He burned books and much art work that he did not like. One year later, the Catholic Church stepped in and burned Savonarola in the town square. 

        Michelangelo then moved to Rome to work for the Vatican. Here, Michelangelo did some of hisself-port.gif most inspired work. He designed the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican both inside and out, as well as many parts of St. Peter’s.

         He returned to Florence to do some of his most astounding work including the 14- foot solid (one piece) marble statue of the Biblical statue of David.

         Finally, Pope Julius II (the warrior pope) commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling in fresco. This was the pope’s private chapel, and vaguely resembled a barn. The ceiling was 70 feet in the air, and special scaffolding was designed by Michelangelo so not to hurt his canvas the ceiling. The interesting part of this was that the ceiling panels were each curved and painted
    with fresco or painting in wet plaster. The result was stunning and is still recognized as one of the masterpieces of all time. A piece of the painting viewed to the left shows God giving man what Michelangelo believed to be the greatest gift of all- LIFE. 

        Michelangelo Buonarroti died, giving himself up to God, on February 18th, 1564, after a "slow fever." He was a man of many interests and talents.


    Leonardo DaVinci  (April 15, 1452- May 2, 1519)

         Leonardo was a man of observation and vision. He did not start out that way. He was born the illegitimate son of a peasant girl. The father took custody of Leonardo, and his mother married another man. He eventually had 17vitruvius_guitarman_420.jpg half brothers and sisters. He lived with his father until he was 15, and then was apprenticed to an artist’s shop. He learned over the next five years how to paint and sculpt. He was then hired by rich and  royalty, the Medici family first, to design elaborate court festivals, weapons, buildings and machinery.

         From 1485 to 1490, Leonardo produced studies on nature, flying machines, geometry, mechanics, municipal construction, canals and architecture (designing everything from churches to fortresses). His studies from this period contain designs for advanced weapons, including a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines.

      During this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies by purchasing bodies of poor who could not afford a burial. His Milan workshop was buzzing with apprentices and students.

         He had so many interests that often failed to finish what he started. This lack of "stick-to-it-ness" resulted in his completing only about six works in these 17 years, including "The Last Supper" and "The Virgin on the Rocks,"and he left dozens of paintings and projects unfinished.

         He spent most of his time studying science, either by going out into nature and observing things or by locking himself away in his workshop cutting up bodies or pondering universal truth.
    Leonardo Da Vinci believed these were traits of all smart people. Some people are born with them, others learn them. Every human brain is many times more powerful and capable than the world’s largest supercomputer, yet we choose not to use it. How dumb is that? The Middle Ages brain Leonardo believed  was like having a 21 speed


     (gear) mountain bike, and only using one or two gears.

      So here is what we can do this year to expand our mind and possibilities.
    Arte/Scienza-A balance between science and art, logic and what could be (imagination).
    Corpralita-A balance of making one strong all the way around, fit, graceful, and poised. In other words, can you try even when you are afraid, can you kick a soccer ball as well with your right and left foot, can you run without huffing and puffing, and are you a good sport?

    Connessione-An appreciation of how everything in this world connects, is part of an ecosystem, and interdependent on each other. It is also an appreciation of how each human is tied to their past and future.



          In 1506, he painted the Mona Lisa. The noble who commissioned the painting never received the painting. For some reason, Leonardo could never let this painting go. He made several drawings and paintings of the same. One is hanging in an art museum in Portland Maine.  Leonardo took it with him to his last job. His last job was for the king of France. Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms.  The Mona Lisa is still in Paris, in the Louvre Museum. I saw the painting and it was a letdown. It is small and protective from climactic conditions and light. One has to stand far back to view it. It has been stolen from the Louvre several times. So it is highly guarded and still mysterious. 

     Here are two films from PBS on Galileo.

    ->Galileo Galeli


         How can one describe such a life? What made Galileo a man of such controversy? Once a friend of many powerful clergy and patrons of the arts, Galileo did something that had him censured (by the Catholic Church) until 1992 AD. What did he do that made him so evil?galileo.jpg 

        The Protestant Reformation sent shockwaves through the Catholic world. So whatever the Catholic Church said was true no matter how wrong it was, was to be believed.  For example, the church followed the views of Ptolemy, an ancient Greek that said that the sun went around the earth. The Church  stressed that the world and universe were not to be observed, but believed, and to doubt was heresy, and treason punishable by torture or death. The church told Catholics what was to be believed in science and math. If one were to do something scientific, they had to obtain permission, and then present the information in a highly complicated, technical way (usually in Latin) so the common man could not understand it. Books to be published had to receive permission from the Vatican.

         Then came Galileo. Galileo was born in Pisa Italy in 1564. He received a good education at a monastery near Pisa, and then became a teacher at the University of Pisa. Legend has it that Galileo noticed that a pendulum was swinging  (the lamp) back and forth in a church. He wondered what made it do this. He was said to also drop balls off the leaning tower of Piza. The catch was that the balls were different size and weight, but they reached the ground at exactly the same time. So Galileo began to make everyday observations about gravity and physics.  Whether these stories are true or not, scholars do not know. What they do know is that through Galileo’s life, he continued to do experiments and write about these subjects.

    hat made him extremely famous was his work with the telescope. In the early 17th century, Galileo obtained on of the first telescopes, made a few revisions and with this crude instrument observed that the earth had to be going around the sun, not the other way around. He also found the 4 moons of Jupiter, and was able to prove that the earth goes around the sun. He wrote a book called Starry Messenger, a book printed because at this point, Galileo had a friend in the Vatican that found the findings exciting. The book immediately became a sensation and best seller.
        There were, however, several problems with the book. The information was written in the language of the common man, and in Italian. It was told like a story. When the new pope took
    power, one of the first things that he did was issue an order that no one should believe the findings of Copernicus (same as Galileo’s), and in 1616, Galileo was ordered not to teach or discuss such a theory. His book became contraband (illegal to own), but Galileo went to work on more of his findings.  We know much of his life from the letters found from his daughter (a nun). An excellent book has been written about this called Galileo's Daughter. Galileo had three children who all died before Galileo.

         In 1633, Galileo was tried before the Catholic Inquisition (their job was to rid the world of all non-believers). Because Galileo had many influential acquaintances, the court sentenced him to home (in Florence) imprisonment for the last 15 years of his life. He died in 1648.

         Several ironies complete the story of Galileo. One is that in the last ten years, he went completely blind. Some say he had an eye disease. Could he have done this from direct observation of the sun’s surface?

       When he died, he had been excommunicated, and not buried in sacred ground. A rich friend hid the coffin in the basement of Santa Croce Cathedral in Florence. He left money and instructions how Galileo was to be buried.

        In the 1700’s, people in Florence could not remember why his coffin was in the basement. So he was allowed to be buried in the cathedral where you can see his memorial today as you enter the church.

         In 1979, one of the first acts that the new Pope John Paul II did was put together a commission to see if Galileo was right. In 1992 AD, the Catholic Church admitted that Galileo had been right and lifted the censured. If you visit Florence Italy today, you can see many of Galileo’s tools, telescopes, writings, and his grave. He took a chance. He observed what was happening all around him. He moved the world forward into a modern world, a world that looks for answers to problems.

     >Christopher Columbus
    Watch this 3 minute blip on why Columbus sailed West and not East...
         Christopher Columbus was born in 1454 (Genoa Italy), the son of a
    ship.gif wool merchant. When just a young teen, Columbus became a sailor on a merchant ship. After a shipwreck, he was the only survivor because he could swim and he swam ashore.
         He then joined his brother whowas a mapmaker. They both made voyages into uncharted territories in the Great Ocean - also known as the Ocean Sea (Atlantic). In 1484, Columbus came up with the idea that kings and the Catholic Church could be stronger and much richer if they by-passed the Muslim empires by sailing west instead of attempting to sail around the tip of Africa, or journey overland through the harsh deserts. He called his plan the “Enterprise of the Indies” which would take ships directly to the islands that produced spices.  What he did not realize was there was two continents between Europe and India. He went to the king of Portugal with the plan. The king said no. The plan was too risky. Columbus then traveled  to Spain, and convinced Queen Isabella that this would not only be a trip to get spices, but also to make all he met into Christians. Queen Isabella had just gotten rid of any non-Catholic from Spain, needed the money, and was deeply religious, so this idea appealed to her. 
        Finally in August of 1492, three ships left Spain for The Indian Island. In October 1492, Columbus finally saw his first land. It was not the land he had expected. From his own journal, we know the natives were gentle and trusting. All in the name of his Christian faith, and his desire to bring back riches, Columbus had many tortured and killed. Then he sent back some natives to be sold as slaves.
       Columbus made 3 more voyages to the new world. He is so cruel that in the third voyage, he is returned to Spain in chains. He never saw either continent until the fourth voyage. He died in 1506 in Spain from a rare tropical disease. He was only 52 years old. His daughter in law petitioned the church to have his body buried back in the Bahamas and there it is to this day. 
         Columbus started a long line of explorers from many countries.

    part six B

          Henry VIII was an accidental king and had a large appetite. Henry wtudor_family.jpgas a member of the Tudor family, a family who had overthrown the previous ruling family to take power. At first, Henry's appetite was for power, then women, and then food. His appetite matched his ego. His ego did NOT insure long time marriages, friendships or job security. Anyone who threatened Henry's ego, appetite, or his power faced death. These appetites changed the look and feel of England and created the hunger for a piece of the New World otherwise known as North America.
          How did he get to be an accidental king? His older brother, Arthur, was supposed to become king but died at an early age. Henry, who would be known today as a playboy, enjoyed the best of everything. He was handsome and athletic. Then his brother died. His brother not only left Henry the throne, but also his fiancé,

    Catherine (Katherine) of Aragon- Wife #1
         Catherine (Katherine) of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. In 1509, an arranged marriage took place to strengthen two Catholic Empires,England and Spain. Catherine’saragon.jpgdowry (money paid by bride’s parents to marry off the daughter) was so large, that Henry had to marry her to help the English treasury (with the urging of Henry's father Henry VII).  Shortly after the marriage, Catherine was pregnant, and later gave birth to a still born daughter. She next gave birth to Prince Henry who died after 52 days. The next child was a miscarriage, and then another son who lived but a few days. In 1516, Catherine gave birth to a healthy girl baby, Mary who would one day rule as queen of Britain. Henry was frustrated that he no male heir. He like all men of his day, saw women as intellectually, emotionally, and morally inferior and knew God was punishing him....or so he reasoned to allow himself to annul his marriage to Catherine and marry again to someone who could give him a son. But Catherine was the daughter of two powerful Catholic monarchs and her nephew was the Holy Roman Emperor.

            The Pope would have none of it. Henry was to remain married to his wife of more than 20 years. The political and legal debates lasted for 6 more years. During this time, Henry lost his patience with Rome and started his own church. It was still very Catholic in ceremony, but all churchmen, commoners, and monasteries must swear allegiance to Henry as the head of the church. Later, Henry shut down the monasteries and sacked them of anything valuable. The Pope declared Henry a heretic, and vowed to bring him back into the Church. Henry would have none of it....he listened to no one.

       Henry like many of royalty of the day had many mistresses. One such woman had played a cat and mouse game with Henry. She would not allow Henry to touch her until she knew he would not go back to Catherine or the Catholic Church. In 1533, Anne became pregnant. Henry was now the boss of his church. He granted his own annulment. He forced Catherine of Aragon into a convent, and in 1533, he and Anne Boleyn were secretly married. 


         Anne was not the typical Renaissance wife. She was well educatedanne-queen.jpg. She spoke many languages, had been educated in the court of Henry's sister who was married to the king of France. She however like her family was Protestant. When Henry secretly courted Anne, she challenged his Catholic beliefs with scholarly books and observations. Henry, at this time, found these fascinating and charming. Later, he found her constant challenges just that; a threat.

         Then the two were married, and her pregnancy went full term, but the baby was still born. It was a boy.
         There was great strife throughout the kingdom.  Catholics threatened to rebel. They were furious that Catherine, their beloved queen, had been exiled and had died within a year from a mysterious stomach ailment. In some places, the Catholics did rebel and much blood was shed. 
         Anne had a second pregnancy. She was sure it was the son that Henry so desperately wanted and needed.  Anne gave birth to a healthy baby girl, the princess Elizabeth. Almost immediately, she was pregnant again, this time miscarrying a boy.  Henry's eye had again began to wander. One of Anne's ladies-in-waiting, Jane Seymour, had come into Henry's attention. On September 7, 1533, Anne knew her fate was sealed, and that Henry's eye was no longer for her. Henry was crazed with the thought that he did not have a son. Henry's right hand man had accused her of bewitching the king, and having affairs with various men in the court including her own brother. These were acts of treason, and mortal sin. Anne was beheaded. Anne was known as "Anne of a Thousand Days", the number of days she was queen.

         Jane became Henry's new wife, new hope for a male heir. She was kind, obedient, andthe-tudorsJANESEYMOUR.jpg part of a very ambitious family. The men of such families controlled the lives of all women, told them how to act, dress and what to do. The women had the idea instilled from birth that it was their duty to help their family, no matter what. Jane became the calm in Henry's storm. She encouraged Henry to acknowledge all of his children including his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth and brought them back to court. She also encouraged Henry to shut down the rest of the monasteries to rid England of Catholic spies. In 1537. she gave birth to a baby boy. He survived but she died shortly thereafter from an infection. Henry was grief stricken. The baby was spirited away from anything that would endanger Henry's only son.

         Anne was a promised beauty from Germany. She was not, and  had the face and manors of a commoner. She spoke little English. She was, however, rich, and with this marriage, Henry would get
    the-tudorsANNECLEVES.jpgthe support of the German Protestants. She was not educated in the manner of many of the royal courts of the day.
         Henry was furious. Henry was an absolute monarch-he had become a tyrant, and he liked to rule by fear, and executed all opponents including long time friends and trusted servants. From 1532-1540, he ordered and had carried out 330 executions. One such execution was the minister that had brought the bogus portrait of this princess. The marriage was never finalized, and Henry built Anne two country estates that she lived in until her death twenty years later. Anne from that point on was called sister by Henry and the court. Others who had arranged the marriage lost their head over this arrangement.

        Poor Catherine. She was young (17 when her family arranged for her to meet the-tudors-CATHERINE-HOWARD.jpgHenry), beautiful, and naive. Henry was close to 50 at this point. This Catherine was an example of Henry's ego and appetite.

      Henry, in desperation to keep his power and to feel young again, ordered the destruction of buildings, libraries and works of art that he felt were distasteful. He ate non-stop, and his appetite even drove him to wearing only the best. He never appeared in the same outfit twice. It is estimated that his yearly bill for clothing alone was approximately one million dollars. Catherine came into his life and Henry felt the vitality return. Catherine was young, did not use her power or station appropriately, and had an eye for other men of the court. She did not understand the consequences of her actions. She also did not get pregnant. Eventually, she was caught with other men, an act of treason. She was beheaded.

     CATHERINE Parr Wife #6

       Catherine was young, and extremely kind. She had already been a widow twice (she was in her early 20's).  By the time Henry married her, he was wellTHE-TUDORS-CATHERINE-PARR.jpg over 300 pounds, and so sick he could barely walk, plagued by a number of diseases. Catherine was gentle, and nursed him. She also brought Mary and Elizabeth back to court. Catherine had no children, so she especially enjoyed the fascinating Elizabeth who by this time was the most learned scholar of her time. Elizabeth studied non-stop, spoke languages fluently, and Catherine gave Elizabeth the affection that she craved. She survived the king. She stayed faithfully by the king's side until his death.  After his death, she married the love of her life, Thomas Seymour, King Edward VI younger uncle, and brought Elizabeth to live with them.  Catherine became pregnant and died in childbirth!


    Henry finally died in 1547 at age 56. Henry ruled 38 years. He left behind a new state church, and a scramble for control of the English throne, not just by his children, but by the Catholic Church. Catherine married the love of her life, Thomas Seymour and died shortly thereafter in childbirth at age 28. Thomas had his own ambitions and had designs on marrying Elizabeth and stealing the thrown for himself. This never happened. He was caught in his own trap and beheaded for treason.


    Edward VI rules for a short time.
         The king is dead; long live the king. This was the cry heard when it was made public that Henry VIII was dead. His son Edward, age nine, became king of England. He was regal and educated, but he was just a young boy. So his oldest uncle, Edward Seymour, became his protector, and the stand in for the boy at council meetings and other ceremonies. In the court, however, there was much intrigue. A younger uncle, Thomas Seymour, would slip the boy coins in hopes of convincing him that he should be the boy's protector. It did not work however. As Edward grew, so did his Protestant faith. His father had remained Catholic in practice but Anglican. What that meant is that Henry had made himself the head of the Christian faith in England. The pope had no say. Edward, however, read the works of Luther and many other Reformation leaders. He became strongly convinced that the only true faith was Protestant based on what he had read. These beliefs worried his sister Mary, a devout Catholic. In several of the letters that still survive, Edward reprimands his sister for suggesting that he return to the Catholic faith.

         In his later teens, Edward found himself exhausted and feeling weak. Shortly thereafter, although the physicians never told the boy, he had developed tuberculosis. Today, this is treatable with vaccine and antibiotics, but in Edward's day, it was a sentence of death. His protector had to find a way to keep him alive until plans could be made who would be the monarch after him. So the protector, Edward Seymour, expelled the physicians, and sent a young woman into the room to administer a potion that he swore would make Edward better. The potion would prolong the boy's life by a week or two, but would also kill him painfully. The potion was arsenic, a poison. Thomas Seymour, the younger uncle, decided that his nephew must be kidnapped so that he could control his last days and possibly claim the throne for himself. This was not to be, for Thomas was captured outside the boy's room and sent to the tower. He was tried for treason and eventually beheaded.    
         Edward VI died at age 16. Edward Seymour got wrapped up in a plot to put Lady Jane Grey, a cousin and Protestant,  on the throne, and was eventually beheaded.
         Soon after Edward death, Lady Jane Grey, a poor target of her uncle, mother and father's ambition was unwillingly placed on the throne. Her parents, during her life, mercilessly beat her into accepting the crown of England for herself and her husband. When Jane refused to do anything her husband wanted, like have him named co-regent, he ran to his mother and she beat Jane also. Jane refused to budge.
         Eventually, Mary I, daughter of King Henry VIII, with the support of the English people came to London and Jane gave up the throne. She was imprisoned. Her father became involved in Wyatt's rebellion (protesting Mary's marriage to Phillip II of Spain),  was captured. Shortly thereafter, Jane's father, Jane and her husband were beheaded for high treason. She was an unwilling pawn in her father's power struggle. She was also only 16 at the time of her death.

    Mary I daughter Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon
        Mary I, daughter of Catherine of Aragon, came to the throne. She was almost 40 years old at the time and had lived most of her life was lived in devotion to the Catholic Faith and in fear of her life. She was a devout Catholic, and tried to force the English to return to Catholicism. She even married Phillip II, the wealthy king of Catholic Spain. Talking about one long range relationship!!! He visited long enough to produce an heir. A child never happened. He also brought with him agents of the Inquisition to help bring people back to the one true faith. Neither of these goals were met. Elizabeth, younger step sister of Mary, was brought to court to reexamine her loyalty and faith at different periods of her sister's reign. Mary wanted to try her for treason. But this would not happen. Elizabeth was careful, and brilliant. After each attempt, Elizabeth was released to her palace.
         Mary only reigned 5 years, because the baby that she thought he was having was actually a spreading mass (possibly cancer) or some unnamed disease. During her reign, she failed to bring England back into the Catholic Church and was eventually known in history as BLOODY MARY.. She tried everything she knew to bring England back to the one true faith, thinking that she had angered God by not trying hard enough. Despite the bonfires (burning heretics), she could not do it... and England became a strange mix of Catholic customs and Protestant beliefs. Mary's efforts then turned England into a Protestant stronghold...

         Elizabeth withstood all attempts, and kept England safe, and prosperous. She encouraged plays, and writing, and dance. She encouraged education.  Early settlers in North America named one of their early colonies after her- Virginia after the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth for she never married.


    William Shakespeare

         He moved alone to London to make his career as an actor and playwright. After his son died (Hamnet) in 1596, Shakespeare bought a bigger house in Stratford and remained there off and on until the end of his life.

         Many of his plays were written for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company that often played the English playhouses and toured the English countryside. In 1594, he became one of the acting members of the company and later bought the company.

           Please keep in mind that it was illegal for a woman to be an actress, so all women’s parts had to be played by men.

         His plays were not only about tragic figures in history (Julius Caesar), but also everyday figures such as Romeo and Juliet that spoke of the importance of romantic love. Eventually he became extremely popular with Queen Elizabeth I. He returned frequently to Stratford to visit his wife and children, but finally retired there. Writers of the European Renaissance such as Master Shakespeare became more people-oriented stories of great bravery, and tragedy, as well as comedy. Shakespeare's amount of work was phenomenal. He wrote many plays, some comedies, tragedies, poetry, and some satire.  He used words as Michelangelo used his chisel on the marble. He painted a true picture of human nature. 

         Writers of the European Renaissance such as Master Shakespeare became more people-oriented and told stories of great bravery, and tragedy, as well as comedy. Shakespeare’s amount of work was phenomenal. He wrote many plays, some comedies, some tragedies, poetry, and some satires.  He used words as Michelangelo used his chisel on the marble. He painted a picture of human weakness, strength, and courage.  Shakespeare was so successful as a playwright and actor that he built his own theater known as the Globe Theater. One of the most famous of his plays is “Romeo and Juliet” about two lovers who wished to marry for a revolutionary reason- love. Their families were fighting for power in the city-state of Verona Italy, and Juliet was to be part of an arranged marriage to an ally, not an enemy. When Romeo and Juliet spoiled the family’s plans by loving each other (their families were enemies), their lives became doomed.What is the price of power, Shakespeare asked?    Shakespeare’s words still live with us today in so much that we say and do. Some of his themes are still show up in today’s movies.

       There are constant remakes in today’s theater and movies-- especially of Romeo and Juliet. “West Side Story” written in the 1950’s by Leonard Bernstein is based on Romeo and Juliet. “Kiss Me Kate”, a musical and a movie version starring Elizabeth Taylor, is based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”.  Shakespeare’s use of language paints a picture of the human spirit-both good and bad.. A GREAT BOOK ON SHAKESPEARE AND HIS WORLD--WILL OF THE WORLD

       Shakespeare was one of the most successful playwrights of his time, and is also one of the most read of all times. He died in 1616 after a night of heavy drinking, and left most of his money to his two daughters. Shakespeare’s plays were published after his death, and like Elvis, he will probably live on forever (see “Shakespeare in Love” for a glimpse what his life and times may have been like).

    Niccolo Machiavelli-

      Machiavelli was born in 1469 in Florence Italy. He wasmachiavelli.jpg educated although middle class, and eventually became a diplomat for the Florentine government. His missions took him to all parts of Europe and he attempted at first through negotiations, and then through military force to keep his city-state safe from invaders. He knew through history that citizen soldiers fight hard, because they have a lot to lose. He watched the Pope’s army take over parts of Italy to become known as Papal States, and carefully dealt with Pope Alexander, because he knew the pope’s son Cesare Borgia, the leader of the Catholic armies, was a ruthless conqueror. He watched as Borgia called a group of opponents to peace talks, and then had them all hung or murdered. Borgia was later murdered by an opponent.  He watched as the power of Florence changed hands several times. In 1512, the Medici family regained power over Florence again and the Florentine republic was dissolved. On a list found by the Medici family was Machiavelli’s name as a possible person to help lead troops. The Medici took this as a sign of treason, and Niccola was taken to prison for questioning. The idea of questioning in Niccola’s day was to extract a confession by any way possible. For Niccola, his hands were tied behind his back, he was hoisted in the air, and then dropped-until he reached a foot from the floor. Usually such maneuvers pull one’s arms out of the socket. This does not seem to happen in his case however. He is released under house arrest to his family farm in Tuscany. In the boredom of the imprisonment, he wrote two small books to convince the Medici’s that he should once again participate in government. The books, small in size, were packed with all kinds of advice for what Princes should do (“It is better to be feared than loved. But above all, never be hated”) and not do. 

         His most famous, The Prince, is still required reading for politicians everywhere. One thing that Machiavelli said that really hits me when I watch our world today is “the difference between what should be done (in life and government) and what is really done is immense.” In other words, if one searches for what is really done, one can be successful in doing what needs to be done to be successful and can avoid the pitfalls of life. In other words, Machiavelli warns, “Nothing is as it seems”.

    Machiavelli died in 1526 without ever being accepted back into the government that he loved. He sent a copy of the Prince to the Medicis and the Pope, but neither acknowledged ever reading it.

         Niccolo Machiavelli is one of the most demonized writers in history, because he told the truth about politics. Many people think he said “the end justifies the means”. He did not. He said “Get real”, in Italian of course, “about what is really done or should be done in politics”. Nicola felt that if people really understood the “games” of politics and personal relationships, then they would not be hurt as much, and would know what was needed to protect his or her world.

         Machiavelli died in 1526 without ever being accepted back into the government that he loved. He sent a copy of The Prince  the Medici’s and the Pope, but neither acknowledged that they ever read it. Some political scientists say that Nicola was really an inventor of the modern nation state.   Today Machiavelli has a who’s who list of famous readers and admirers. Many of them use his advice. Who are they? George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Vladimir Lenin (Russian Communism), Joseph Stalin (Russian Communism), Adolph Hitler, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Gary Hart, and last but not least President Bill Clinton. In many speeches, Clinton quoted Machiavelli as his political adviser. So like it or not, Machiavelli is still working in the job he loved so much in life, diplomatically solving problems, and as a political adviser to others.

    IF NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI COULD WRITE PRESIDENT OBAMA... Great Books- Discovery Channel: Machiavelli's The Prince;
    Dear Mr. President,
    I am deeply honored to have been asked for my advice as you assume the awesome burdens of your new office. I can offer several rules of thumb, which I believe time and experience has proven sound. Act boldly in the beginning. The public has a short attention span and it will make them forget the accomplishments of your predecessor and impress them with your vigor. Make your first priority the protection of your power. Without it you are useless. Appear steadfast but be flexible. Remember, some of God's greatest gifts are broken campaign promises. Let me close with a few additional words of caution. Choose the most brilliant advisers. Tell them to speak to you candidly and then be wary of their advice. When decision time comes, keep your own counsel and never ever forget that you are in show business. That leadership is nine-tenths acting a role. Never step out of it in public. Don't, for God's sake, carry your own bags. Welcome to the top of the heap and lots of luck
    Your humble and admiring servant,;
    Niccolò Machiavelli.
    P.S. don't look to heaven for your reward.

    This is a playful paraphrase of words written in the year 1513 by a cashiered civil servant in Florence, Italy. What he actually wrote became one of the most hotly debated, deeply disturbing and important books of western civilization. To some it was a veritable guidebook for tyrants and totalitarians. Mussolini loved it. Marxists recognized a fellow revolutionary.
    To others, alternately, it paved the way for ethnic and religious toleration, individual rights, the advancement and restoration of republics, of modern democracies. But, fairly or unfairly, it has caused his name, Machiavelli, to ring through the centuries as a synonym for evil, though this would certainly be a misunderstanding of the man. Produced by NancyLeBrun Directed by Lisa Gannon Narrated by Donald Sutherland Photography by Chip Nusbaum


       Europe had been caught in darkness; the darkness of ignorance and a feudal system that kept the lower class in a near slavery condition for generations. The European Middle Ages was in a time of unquestioned faith, not observation. Medieval Europeans (especially peasants) rarely looked beyond today or the place they were born. Both rich and poor were told by the clergy and the ruling class what to read, or believe, how to dress or whether they could travel. 

          With the invention of the printing press, ordinary humans had access to information that had previously been forbidden or too expensive. The introduction of paper from the Arab world which replaced expensive parchment made books accessible to many more, rich and poor.

         Now using observation, early Renaissance (European) scholars began to notice that some of the ancient scholars had made serious errors.  Nicolas Copernicus, a Polish scientist,watching the night sky came to the conclusion that Aristotle and Ptolemy's "absolutes" about the rotation and location of the earth were not so absolute. Copernicus wrote a small book noting his theory (that the earth revolves around the sun) and almost immediately his book and theory were considered heresy by the Catholic Church. It was, however, too late. Copies had been printed, many sold, too many to track.  Anyone caught with the book or in agreement with Copernicus' theory was persecuted by the Catholic Church. Why? If people began to doubt one "absolute", they may also begin to doubt the "absolutes" of the Church. 

          Muslim infidels were considered another threat, and were spreading the idea to all people they traded with that observation was a God-given (Allah) tool. Muslim empires used the new sciences and knowledge to become rich and powerful.  European nobility and the Catholic Church saw the possibility that their world may be in danger of conquest by their new rivals. Islam offered everyone, man, woman, child, rich and poor was a chance to learn, achieve, and be successful.

          Muslims were open to trade with the Far East (India and China). They traded knowledge, technology and goods. This willingness and their geographical location gave the Muslim Empires untold riches and a monopoly on Far Eastern trade. The power, riches and freedom of thought posed a threat to the already crumbling European feudal system, the European war lords, and the Catholic Church. History proved these fears correct, and Muslim caliphs and their armies invaded Europe finally stopped and turned back by Christian armies at the gates of Venice Italy.

       When the Christian Crusaders in the late 12th century entered Jerusalem as conquerors, and then returned home with the silks and spices, and new knowledge, nobility and rich merchants wanted more, Marco Polo,his father and uncle, traders from Venice Italy, spent 23 years with the Mongols of Asia, and then returned home with magical items and ideas of China, India, and the Far East. Polo wrote a book, and soon Europeans wanted more of the items and magic Polo discussed in his book. Christian merchants, monarchs, and church officials saw an opportunity to profit from such trade.  Christians soon became richer began trading with the Muslims who had almost exclusive access to the Far East (Orient).   
         Some European monarchs with the help of new wealth and power, found their kingdoms expanding to create the first nation-states. These nation-states did not take land by asking the people who lived there, but by acts of war, some lasting one hundred years. Thousands upon thousands died, and thousands struggled just to stay alive. A new realization came upon Europe that survival sometimes depended on being ruthless. Survival also depended upon wealth. The question was how could the Europeans get past what we would call today the Arab “middle man” or the merchant who sells items made by someone else? 

          European traders did not know how to get to these mysterious lands in the Far East, except to travel through the lands of the Muslim rulers. Obstacles for the Europeans (beside the Muslims) were the unknown oceans, no real compass, and very inaccurate maps. Worse yet was the fear that comes in an uneducated society. Would sailors and boats boil the further south they sailed? Would the sun turn the white persons on the ship into the black Negroes of the African continent? These were real fears of Europeans in the 1400's.     
          Europeans finally took some ideas from the Muslims to make the next step of achieving the goal of getting the wealth they wanted and needed. Ships also totally changed to become more sea-worthy. An example of this was the caravel, a ship that was fast and maneuverable. Europeans began to use Arab Sails, which allowed them to sail into the wind and a new invention called an Astrolabe, a tool that allowed sailors, by watching the stars at night to find their latitude or how far south or north they were. Ships did not have a reliable compass if any at all. Sailors did not understand them and some captains who did have them believed that if the crew ate onions, it would affect the magnetic properties. Not until the 1600’s was magnetism somewhat understood, and compasses used frequently. 
         During the 1400's, the most powerful of the nation-states became competitive with each other, not only for wealth but for support by the Pope who had become a major political force. Many of the nations claimed that one of the most important reasons for conquest and colonization was to Christianize the savages, and make them followers of Catholicism.
    Portugal, a tiny nation-state west of Spain, began a series of explorations to by-pass the Muslim middle man by finding a way to sail around the southern tip of the African continent. Led by Prince Henry the Navigator in the 1420’s who had heard stories of gold and ivory in the south of Africa, the Portuguese vessels captured Muslim African ports. Henry also set up a school where navigators and seamen could learn the newest technology in sailing.  The Portuguese voyages paid off. The ships explored the Azores and Canary Islands, west of the African continent, and made their way down the western African coast. By 1488,Bartholomew Diaz reached the very southern tip of Africa. In 1497, Vasco da Gama finally sailed around the tip of Africa, and reached the Orient (Far East). This proved a sea route to the Orient and broke the Muslim monopoly. 

         Another Portuguese explorer was Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan fell out of favor with the Portuguese court and found sponsorship in Spain. In 1519, he left port with 234 sailors and 5 ships. He proposed that he could reach the Spice Islands by sailing around the tip of South America. Magellan found great hardships crossing the Atlantic and Pacific. Finally, he landed in the Philippines. Here he made friends with the natives. About 8 days later, he sailed on to another island and was killed by a poison arrow. In 1522, only one of the ships returned to Spain with 18 survivors and a boatload of cloves which more than repaid the investment. Magellan died, but had proven that sailing the rotundity of the earth was possible.

       Spain, by 1492 under the leadership of Ferdinand and Isabella had succeeded in ousting the Muslim rulers, all Jews and non-Catholics, and uniting all Spanish provinces under their rule. The Spanish monarchs took the “booty” they got from expelling the infidels and funded an expedition to find a sea route to the Orient. This trip is famous to every American school child:

    “In fourteen hundred ninety two,

     Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” 

    Columbus mistakenly thought he found a shorter route to India, therefore calling the natives Indians. He believed this until the day he died. 
    American children are taught that “Columbus discovered America.” This is not true. How can one discover someplace that was already inhabited by millions of inhabitants (Native Americans)? What Columbus did discover was that there were two continents blocking a direct sea route to the Orient. North and South America were two continents that no one knew (except for a few Vikings) existed. Did this new land have riches? 

      Within a few years, Spain sent a number of Conquistadors knight_shield_and_sword_md_wht.gif(conquerors) to take from the native people what Europeans wanted most- wealth. The Inca, Aztec and Mayans were slaughtered and everything was taken from them. Boatloads of gold and other precious gems, as well as new foods such as chocolate were stolen from the Aztec,

    The pope, in order to keep two of the major powers from going to war over who would control what, created the Line of Demarcation.This line said that everything to the east including a section of South America, and Africa would belong to Portugal. Anything west of the line belonged to Spain. This is why the country of Brazil today speaks Portuguese and not Spanish, and why Spain ruled vast sections of western North America, Florida, the Caribbean, and most of South America.  When Spain needed strong hearty slaves in the Caribbean Islands, they turned to the Portuguese who supplied them from their part of the world given to them by the Pope which was Africa.  

         Other powerful nations-states got in on cutting up the prize. The Dutch (Holland) set up a colony called New Amsterdam. This colony flourished until the English established a stronghold in this part of the continent and then the colony became New York..

         When Elizabeth I and the English navy sunk the Spanish Armada, it insured that England would have a place in the new world. The first English explorers claimed that North America was full of possible riches such as furs and pelts. Corn, potatoes, and foods from the new world, helped many English survive the hard times. Tobacco became so popular, that it was sometimes used as currency. Soon the English were becoming rich from their trading companies. Lumber was also in abundance as well as fish. Both helped make England rich.

       Then came France who operated mainly from Canada (fur trade) and in Louisiana. The French-Indian War gave the English control of Canada.  For a while, until 1803, France owned (maintained control) the middle section of North America. In desperation for funding for his troops, Napoleon sold it to Thomas Jefferson in 1803. 

       Eventually the colonies started by many of these explorers became nation-states themselves. One is the United States of America and others are Mexico, Canada, etc.  As time passes,  more explorers came exploring new frontiers and possibilities. Do the explorers of today explore for the same reasons as the Europeans once did? 

        And who are you in this world picture? Are you like the European peasant, ignorant, afraid of his or her own shadow, or to venture too far from the safety of home? Are you an explorer, hoping in some way to achieve goals, and change or contribute to mankind? How will you be remembered?

     If you were an educated person at the beginning of the Renaissance, you would have believed that the universe was shaped like an onion. That is, the earth is at the center of everything and everything circled around it. You would believe this not because it was anything that you had observed or had been proven. You would believe it because that is what you were told to believe. And to believe or say anything else would put your life in danger.

          There were three traditions other than religion that kept people from observation. First there were the artisans and engineers. They figured out how things should be, and with the monarch's and the church's blessing. Everything must be the same.

         Next came magicians-the wise men and women of the villages who could figure out how to use medicines and herbs. These were closely guarded secrets.  Then came philosophers or scholars at universities. Much of their thought and conclusions were reached to please the Church, and not necessarily to find the total truth. They liked the ancient teachings of Aristotle and Ptolemy, but never tried to prove them wrong or right.

        Printing press was invented and more and more people could read. More people began to observe their world, and wondered, "Could this be true?" People like Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543) began to wonder how Ptolemy could be right about the rotation of planets when Copernicus could not match up Ptolemy's conclusions, just by watching the night sky.

        So many others learned from observation, and not by accepting what has always been true. In 1700, the last great outbreak of the plague took place, and the Modern Age began. Life itself, the discovery of germs, the evolution of medicine, flight, motor-driven vehicles, the harnessing of electricity, and building techniques are just a few of the millions of discoveries and scientific inventions that have changed lives forever.

           We are all part of history and it is part of us. Maybe your genetics stood with Julius Caesar in the Roman Forum, or gave a cup of water to the Patriarch Abraham while crossing the Middle East. Your genetics could have stood next to Queen Elizabeth I or visited Galileo at his home. Your genetics could have observed that in the Middle Ages, people stopped observing and only thought about how much better one would be in heaven. After the Black Death, your genetics could have witnessed that humans finally saw the importance of the ancients and that arête was important, and that carpe dium which means "eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you may die", was also an important concept. Your genetics may have witnessed how this curiosity led to the colonization of the Americas, and some day, maybe a cure to cancer. All that has come before you make you what you are today. So as you read your American History textbook next year, understand where many of these traditions came from. When you study the American Revolution, or the Constitution, understand why our forefathers did what they did. They learned much from the lessons of history. The question is, will we?

         This year, we began with the statement, "You are a recipe, a combination of all the events and genetics that have come before you." What lessons have you learned this year? Have you learned that one person can make a difference in our world? Have you learned that YOU may be that person? When you are history, how will you be remembered or will you be remembered at all? Will you give goodness and happiness to the world, or bring sorrow and hatred? The biggest and best lesson of history is that YOU ARE POWERFUL!!

     The Spanish Massacre the French in Florida, 1565
    The religious violence of the Reformation reaches the shores of America.

     Brought Before the Inquisition, 1573
    "Do you know the reasons why you have been called here?" The Inquisition summons a Venetian painter to defend his art.

     An Audience with Queen Mary I, 1557
    "She is of short stature, well made, thin and delicate, and moderately pretty..." The Venetian Ambassador reports on his meeting with England's "Bloody Mary."

     The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, 1587
    "Please help me mount this. This is the last request I shall make of you." An eyewitness account of the death of the "star-crossed" Queen.

    Queen Elizabeth I Crime and Punishment in Elizabethan England
    A contemporary description of crime and punishment in Shakespeare's time
     Torture in the Tower of London, 1597
    "We went to the torture room in a kind of procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles." A victim describes his experience in the tower of London.

     An Audience with Queen Elizabeth, 1597
    "As for her face... it is long and thin, and her teeth are very yellow and unequal." The French Ambassador gives an "up close and personal" description of the Queen.

       Everyone has heard of William Shakespeare, the EnglishShakespeare.jpg playwright, and poet. Who was he really? Did he really write all of the eloquent works he is credited for? Will was born in 1564, the same year as Galileo, and Christopher Marlowe (another English playwright). It was also the year John Calvin, the religious reformer, died.       
        Will was born to what we would call an upper class family in a little town called Stratford (England). We know he was one of six children. Three of the children died before age one. Scholars know little of Shakespeare's education, except that he did have one unlike his parents.      

        The next record of his life was at age 19 (1582), he married an older widow (26), Anne Hathaway. Mistress Hathaway was not the love of his life, but she was three months pregnant with their first child when they went to the altar. They had three children: two girls and a boy. Suzanna was born in 1583, and the twins in 1585. Not much is known about Anne Hathaway and the children except the boy died at age 11. Hathaway died before Shakespeare but his daughters survived him.     

    During this time some dramatic historic events were happening. Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and started his own church. After Henry died, and so did son Edward and daughter Mary, Elizabeth became Queen. She was strongly Protestant. Catholic shakespeare_acting_with_skull_md_wht.gifmonarchs were trying to overthrow Elizabeth and make England Catholic again. One such monarch, Elizabeth's cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, conspired to overthrow Elizabeth. She was eventually beheaded for treason ("Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?"). In 1588, Phillip II of Spain sent 130 Spanish ships filled with troops to overthrow England. The English ships knew how to manuveur in rough seas, and picked these ships off one by one. They also sent fire ships into their midst while they were harbored because the seas were too rough. The Spanish ships filled with explosives were decimated. There was also a race by all the super powers of the day to explore the riches of the new world that Columbus had found. The Spanish were already bringing back vast amounts of gold from the Indians in Mexico. This is the world that young Shakespeare entered. 

      ->Elizabeth I

      Elizabeth did not become queen immediately after her father’seli.jpg death. If fact, she was not sure she would be permitted to live. Her brother, Edward VI was king from 1547-1553 but died because of his weakened state due to tuberculosis. He died at age sixteen. He would not reverse his father’s decision about the Church of England, but was heavily influenced by his tutors and Protestant uncles. Next came Mary I who wanted to return England to Catholicism.  Thousands of Englishmen lost their lives because they would not confess or convert to her true faith. 
         Elizabeth, her step sister, was an unbelievably smart woman. Mary began to question Elizabeth's faith and loyalty. Mary’s Catholic advisers promoted this, but Elizabeth convinced Mary that she was not a threat, and was eventually released. Mary died in 1558, possibly of cancer. The irony in her death is that if you visit her coffin in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Elizabeth is buried on top of her sister in a double coffin.    
         Elizabeth I (Elizabeth Regina) was crowned in 1558 and ruled until 1603. She made England a world power, and brought more riches and power than all the kings before. Phillip, king of Spain, sent the Spanish Armada(the entire navy) against the English navy. This one battle would decide: Would the world be Catholic or would people have a choice? Would England be a world power? Through a series of maneuvers including sailing burning English ships among the Spanish fleet, the English sunk the Armada.
         Over Elizabeth’s long reign, men tried to marry her, or kill her(Mary Queen of Scots in the clip).The pope gave the order to have her killed. England must be returned into the Catholic Church.

    Jan Menzie,
    Dec 28, 2017, 10:21 AM