What Caused the Renaissance to End?

PeopleImages.com/Digital Vision/Getty Images

The end of the Renaissance was caused primarily by the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which set off violent conflict throughout Europe and eliminated much of the funding for art. Printing, the discovery of the New World, and Vasco da Gama’s navigation of the Cape of Good Hope also contributed to its end.

The Renaissance contained the seeds of its own end. The widespread development of art, science and literacy created an educated class who began to question Catholic teachings. Prominent among these was Martin Luther, a German monk who, while translating the Bible from the original Greek, discovered that church teachings like transubstantiation were not supported by the text. Already disturbed by the church’s selling of salvation through indulgences and art patronage, Luther set off the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of his own church.

Much of the Renaissance was driven by the wealth of the Catholic Church and the Italian provinces, and when the wealthy and noble classes started turning away from the church, they also began to fund less art. The discovery of the New World and da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India shifted trade routes away from Italy and toward Portugal and Europe’s west coast, decreasing Italian income. The Renaissance shifted northward first to France, Holland and Britain, following the wealth, before it died out altogether in the early 17th century, giving way to the Age of Enlightenment.