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History of European Culture

Gloria Fiero's account of the history of European culture in the ages of the Baroque (the seventeenth century) and the Enlightenment (the eighteenth century) shows how developments in though were mirrored and promoted by works of art and literature. The Baroque era produced a new interest in scientific observation which led to fascination with the sources of human behavior and human potential to affect the world around us. In the Enlightenment era a belief in the power of human reason led to the conviction that humanity was capable of solving all its own problems through reason and transforming the world to satisfy human needs. Though it was soon seen that human reason had its limits, the transformation of the political and cultural spheres was profound as a new, more optimistic image of humanity emerged by the end of the eighteenth century.

The Baroque style in the arts of painting, sculpture, architecture and music was tied to the emergence of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation movement. The growing success of the Protestant Reformation meant that the Church was forced to find ways to maintain its authority and its appeal. The principal religious reformer of the late sixteenth century, the Spaniard Ignatius Loyola, was a priest who founded the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Order. The Jesuits called for a return to the fundamentals of Catholic teaching and were absolutely loyal to the Popes, whose authority had been so severely challenged by the Protestants.

Aside from becoming a major missionary force in other parts of the world the Jesuits managed to crush any rising Protestantism in Italy, Spain and southern Germany. Loyola also wrote a very influential book called Spiritual Exercises in which he recommended meditations in which the individual used his senses, imaginatively, to evoke such things as the smell and taste of Hell. The mystical experience of God was capable of being sensed, in small part, by the facult...

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History of European Culture. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:04, May 25, 2020, from