The existence of powerful commerce-based city-states in Italy during the late 1300s gave birth to a wealthy and well-educated aristocratic class ready to focus attention and lend financial backing to artists and thinkers involved in reviving Classical art and philosophy. These artists, thinkers and wealthy Italian patrons felt less pressured to interpret and filter the contributions of the Classical world though the restrictive lens of medieval Christianity. This resulted in the rebirth of Classical art and thought known as the Renaissance; a comparatively more secular than ecclesiastical outlook that represents a perspective now referred to as Humanism.
The effect of the Black Death, or bubonic plague, between 1348 and 1350 was particularly devastating in the Italian city-state of Florence. One theory holds that the familiarity with death and human mortality caused by the plague resulted in a shift in perspective from the Medieval preoccupation with the afterlife to a more earthly, or "humanistic," outlook. Florence is considered one of the great centers of the Renaissance and is commonly viewed by historians as its birthplace. Debate exists, however, among scholars regarding why the Renaissance would have begun in that particular Italian city-state, but many have pointed out the influence and patronage of the Medici family, the city-state's ruling family, and the fact that three of the most significant contributors to Renaissance art and thought, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, all lived in Florence.