The 1300s were a time on the brink of change. People were putting a higher price on education, literature was coming into the hands of the populace, and art was beginning to reflect life. Aquinas, Dante, and Giotto represented the intellectual, literary, and artistic genius of the 1300s. These men were ahead of their time by bringing a humanistic aspect to their works. They were concerned with the human being as a creature of this world as well as the next. These men truly show the transition from Medieval to Renaissance. They also showed a balance in their concern with the human soul as well as their concern with the human as an earthly individual.
During this time of higher education some scholars challenged the thought of blind faith as the guide to truth. Students of Aristotelian philosophy believed that everything in nature could be understood without reference to a divine creator. Two schools of thought in the finding of truth had developed, one reached through human reason alone and the other reached through divine revelation. St. Thomas Aquinas refused to accept this dichotomy stating that human reason, a gift from god, could not lead to contradictions with divine revelation. The Summa of Theology was Aquinass way of defending the integrity of human reason while reconciling it with divine revelation. He believed that faith and reason must work harmoniously but when in conflict, faith takes precedence over reason.
Dante Alighieri was a man of his time. He was living on the brink of the Renaissance and yet still captured the essence of a man of the Middle Ages in his great work the Divine Comedy. Dantes reasoning for writing this work came from the sentence bestowed on him from the people of Florence. This work was a way for him to understand and make sense of what his life had become while trying to understand what may come in the afterlife. The Divine Comedy was also a way for him to settle a vendetta against Florence and the Church. Dante tried to make sense out of the afterlife, Gods plan and the imperfections of the Church. The Inferno was Dantes version of hell and Reason was his guide. In the Inferno the punishment fit the crime and many well-known and respected men of the time, including some clergymen, resided there. The reasoning behind this great work was both personal, coming to terms with being sentenced as a sinner, and public, bringing to light the hypocritical nature of the church.
Giotto Di Bondone was another genius of the 1300s that symbolizes the transition from Medieval to Renaissance. The art of the Medieval times depicted humans as stiff, two-dimensional, symbolic spiritual abstraction. Giotto brought a more humanistic approach to art by portraying humans in a more realistic light. He used light and darkness, conveyed depth and perspective, and is noted for anatomical realism. He gave his figures a range of emotion and made them appear lifelike. No longer was religious art just symbolic and hard to relate to, now people were becoming more emotional about art. Giotto brought passion and realism to his art and this in turn affected the future of art.
These three men truly represent the genius of the 1300s. It was a time of change and rebirth. Old thinking was challenged and replaced with creative ideas and new ways of thinking. Greek and Roman ideals were being reborn and classical humanism was being brought into literature, art, and education. Aquinas, Dante, and Giotto helped in this rebirth and therefore represent the brilliance of their time.