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 Source: Wikimedia Commons
This 1657 self-portrait of Rembrandt includes light and deep shadows. It shows him realistically instead of trying to make him look more handsome or younger than he actually was.
In response to his critics, Rembrandt said, “Life etches itself onto our faces as we grow older, showing our violence, excesses, or kindnesses.”
Christian Humanists Seek
Religious Reform
The growing Renaissance interest in secular matters strongly affected the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. The desire for fine art and material wealth caused the Church to be a patron for painters, such as Michelangelo, and to build grand cathedrals. Thus, in the view of reformers, many church officials had turned away from their true religious responsibilities. In response to this and other practices, Christian humanists called for religious reform. Their motto was “Ad fontes” (“back to the source”). Christian humanists began reading the Bible in Greek and Hebrew and studying writings of early Christian leaders.
Erasmus Pleads for Reform One of the best representatives of Christian Humanism was the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus. He received a traditional education as well as a new liberal arts education at the University of Paris.
Erasmus called for literate people to read the Bible themselves. He encouraged the reading of the New Testament in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew in order to understand its original meaning. With a deep understanding of Roman Catholic teachings, Erasmus began writing extensively about the need for reform. Particularly important was his book Praise of Folly (1509). In the title, Erasmus used folly to mean foolishness. In it, he satirized the lack of knowledge among much of the clergy and the focus of the papacy on money and power rather than spiritual concerns.
While Erasmus called for reform, he feared splintering the Roman Catholic Church. Although Erasmus agreed with concerns raised by another church critic, Martin Luther, he felt Luther’s manner was too harsh and his action too defiant. (See Topic 1.4 for more about Martin Luther.)
Thomas More Calls for a Utopia An English Christian humanist and close friend of Erasmus’s, Thomas More, studied at the University of Oxford. This helped him gain government positions such as a member of Parliament and advisor to Henry VIII, king of England. In 1516, More wrote the book Utopia about an imaginary land that possessed a perfect, orderly society. Calling for the creation of a more just society, More argued in favor of education for women and abolition of private property.

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