Flag of Poland
The flag of Poland consists of two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red. The two colors are defined in the Polish constitution as the national colors. A variant of the flag with the national coat of arms in the middle of the white stripe is reserved for official use abroad and at sea. A similar flag with the addition of a swallow-tail is used as the naval ensign of Poland. White and red were adopted as national colours in 1831, they are of heraldic origin and derive from the tinctures of the coats of arms of the two constituent nations of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, i.e. the White Eagle of Poland and the Pursuer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a white knight riding a white horse, both on a red shield. Prior to that, Polish soldiers wore cockades of various color combinations; the national flag was adopted in 1919. Since 2004, Polish Flag Day is celebrated on 2 May; the flag is flown continuously on the buildings of the highest national authorities, such as the parliament and the presidential palace.
Other institutions and many Polish people fly the national flag on national holidays and other special occasions of national significance. Current Polish law does not restrict the use of the national flag without the coat of arms as long as the flag is not disrespected. Horizontal bicolours of white and red being a widespread design, there are several flags that are similar but unrelated to the Polish one. There are two national flags with the red stripe above the white one: those of Monaco. In Poland, many flags based on the national design feature the national colours; the colors and flags of the Republic of Poland are described in two legal documents: the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 1997, the Coat of Arms and Anthem of the Republic of Poland, State Seals Act of 1980 with subsequent amendments. Legislation concerning the national symbols is far from perfect; the Coat of Arms Act has been amended several times and refers extensively to executive ordinances, some of which have never been issued.
Moreover, the Act contains errors and inconsistencies which make the law confusing, open to various interpretations and not followed in practice. According to Chapter I, Article 28, paragraph 2 of the Constitution, the national colours of Poland are white and red; the Coat of Arms Act, Article 4, further specifies that the colours are white and red in two horizontal, parallel stripes of equal width, of which the top one is white and the bottom one is red. If the colours are displayed vertically, the white stripe is placed on the left from the onlooker's viewpoint. Attachment no. 2 to the Act shows the national colors in both horizontal and vertical alignment, as well as the official shades of both colours expressed as coordinates in the CIE xyY colour space with the tolerated colour differences specified in the CIE 1976 colour space. The Constitution contains no mention of a national flag. Instead, the flag is defined by the Coat of Arms Act which specifies two variants of the national flag: the national flag of the Republic of Poland and the national flag with coat of arms of the Republic of Poland.
Both flags are defined in Article 6 of the act as follows: The state flag of the Republic of Poland is a rectangular piece of cloth in the colors of the Republic of Poland hoisted on a flagpole. The state flag of the Republic of Poland is the flag specified in paragraph 1, with the coat of arms of the Republic of Poland placed in the middle of the white stripe; the hoist to fly ratio for both flags is 5:8. For the latter flag, the proportion between the inescutcheon of the coat of arms and the hoist is 2:5. Images of both variations of the flag can be found in attachment no. 3 to the Coat of Arms Act. Polish law says that treating the national symbols, including the flag, "with reverence and respect" is the "right and obligation" of every Polish citizen and all state organs and organizations. Public disrespect, destruction or intentional removal of the flag is considered a crime punishable by a fine, penal servitude or up to one year of imprisonment. Official statistics show that crimes against national symbols are rare: 43 such crimes in 2003 and 96 in 2004 were less than 0.001% of all crimes registered in Poland in those years.
Other, unspecified violation of regulations on the Polish flag is an infraction, punishable by a fine or up to one month imprisonment. According to the Coat of Arms Act, everyone can use the Polish flag during national and cultural events, as long as it is done in a respectful manner; this liberty in the use of national colors is a relative novelty. Until 2004, Polish citizens were only allowed to fly the Polish flag on national holidays; the use of both variants was restricted, but only flying the flag with coat of arms was, from 1955 to 1985, punishable by a fine or arrest for up to one year. After 1985, unauthorized use of any national symbol was an infraction. A possible explanation to such harsh measures was the fact that the promoted holiday of 1 May was separated by only one day from the pre-war national holiday of Poland, the anniversary of signing of the Constitution of 3 May 1791. While hoisting a flag on 1 May was acceptable, no than the following day it must have been hidden; that restriction and kind of state monopoly on the use of national symbols during the Communist regime made flying the Polish flag a symbol of resistance against the government.
It became customary
Yiddish is the historical language of the Ashkenazi Jews. It originated during the 9th century in Central Europe, providing the nascent Ashkenazi community with a High German-based vernacular fused with elements taken from Hebrew and Aramaic as well as from Slavic languages and traces of Romance languages. Yiddish is written with a vocalized version of the Hebrew alphabet; the earliest surviving references date from the 12th century and call the language לשון־אַשכּנז or טײַטש, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for Middle High German. Colloquially, the language is sometimes called מאַמע־לשון, distinguishing it from לשון־קודש, meaning Hebrew and Aramaic; the term "Yiddish", short for Yidish Taitsh, did not become the most used designation in the literature until the 18th century. In the late 19th and into the 20th century the language was more called "Jewish" in non-Jewish contexts, but "Yiddish" is again the more common designation today. Modern Yiddish has two major forms. Eastern Yiddish is far more common today.
It includes Southeastern and Northeastern dialects. Eastern Yiddish differs from Western both by its far greater size and by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin. Western Yiddish is divided into Southwestern and Northwestern dialects. Yiddish is used in a number of Haredi Jewish communities worldwide; the term "Yiddish" is used in the adjectival sense, synonymously with "Jewish", to designate attributes of Yiddishkeit. Prior to the Holocaust, there were 11–13 million speakers of Yiddish among 17 million Jews worldwide. 85% of the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust were Yiddish speakers, leading to a massive decline in the use of the language. Assimilation following World War II and aliyah, immigration to Israel, further decreased the use of Yiddish both among survivors and among Yiddish-speakers from other countries. However, the number of speakers is increasing in Hasidic communities; the established view is that, as with other Jewish languages, Jews speaking distinct languages learned new co-territorial vernaculars, which they Judaized.
In the case of Yiddish, this scenario sees it as emerging when speakers of Zarphatic and other Judeo-Romance languages began to acquire varieties of Middle High German, from these groups the Ashkenazi community took shape. What German base lies behind the earliest form of Yiddish is disputed. In Max Weinreich's model, Jewish speakers of Old French or Old Italian who were literate in either liturgical Hebrew or Aramaic, or both, migrated through Southern Europe to settle in the Rhine Valley in an area known as Lotharingia extending over parts of Germany and France. Both Weinreich and Solomon Birnbaum developed this model further in the mid-1950s. In Weinreich's view, this Old Yiddish substrate bifurcated into two distinct versions of the language and Eastern Yiddish, they retained the Semitic vocabulary and constructions needed for religious purposes and created a Judeo-German form of speech, sometimes not accepted as a autonomous language. Linguistic research has finessed the Weinreich model or provided alternative approaches to the language's origins, with points of contention being the characterization of its Germanic base, the source of its Hebrew/Aramaic adstrata, the means and location of this fusion.
Some theorists argue. The two main candidates for the germinal matrix of Yiddish, the Rhineland and Bavaria, are not incompatible. There may have been parallel developments in the two regions, seeding the Western and Eastern dialects of Modern Yiddish. Dovid Katz proposes that Yiddish emerged from contact between speakers of High German and Aramaic-speaking Jews from the Middle East; the lines of development proposed by the different theories do not rule out the others. In more recent work, Wexler has argued that Eastern Yiddish is unrelated genetically to Western Yiddish. Wexler's model has met with little academic support, strong critical challenges among historical linguists. By the 10th century, a distinctive Jewish culture had formed in Central Europe which came to be called אַשכּנזי Ashkenazi, "Ashkenazi Jews, from Hebrew: אַשכּנז Ashkenaz, the medieval Hebrew name for northern Europe and Germany. Ashkenaz was centered on the Rhineland and the Palatinate, in what is now the westernmost part of Germany.
Its geographic extent did not
Sarmatism is an ethno-cultural concept with a shade of politics designating the formation of an idea of Poland's origin from Sarmatians, an Iranic people, within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was the dominant Baroque culture and ideology of the nobility that existed in times of the Renaissance to the 18th centuries. Together with another concept of "Golden Liberty", it formed a central aspect of the Commonwealth's culture and society. At its core was the unifying belief that the people of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth descended from the ancient Iranian Sarmatians, the legendary invaders of Slavic lands in antiquity; the term and culture were reflected in 17th-century Polish literature, as in Jan Chryzostom Pasek's memoirs, the poems of Wacław Potocki. The Polish gentry wore a long fur trimmed coat, called kontusz, knee-high boots, carried a saber. Mustaches were popular, as well as varieties of plumage in men's headgear. Poland's "Sarmatians" strove to achieve martial skill on horseback, believed in equality among themselves, for invincibility in the face of the enemy.
Sarmatism lauded past victories of the Polish military, required Polish noblemen to cultivate the tradition. An inseparable element of the parade costume was a light saber called karabela. Sarmatia was a semi-legendary, poetic name for Poland, fashionable into the 18th century, which designated qualities associated with the literate citizenry of the vast Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Sarmatism affected the culture and ideology of the Polish nobility, it was unique for its cultural mix of Eastern and native traditions. Sarmatism influenced the noble cultures of other contemporary states—Ukraine, Transylvania, Serbian Despotate, Habsburg Hungary and Croatia and Muscovy. Criticized during the Polish Enlightenment, Sarmatism was rehabilitated by the generations that embraced Polish Romanticism. Having survived the literary realism of Poland's "Positivist" period, Sarmatism enjoyed a triumphant comeback with The Trilogy of Henryk Sienkiewicz, Poland's first Nobel laureate in literature; the term Sarmatism was first used by Jan Długosz in his 15th century work on the history of Poland.
Długosz was responsible for linking the Sarmatians to the prehistory of Poland and this idea was continued by other chroniclers and historians such as Stanisław Orzechowski, Marcin Bielski, Marcin Kromer, Maciej Miechowita. Miechowita's Tractatus de Duabus Sarmatiis became influential abroad, where for some time it was one of the most used reference works on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; the idea appeared due to the humanists' romantic admiration of Antiquity and an attempt to return an outdated onomastics. According to the "Geography" by Ptolemy, Sarmatia was considered to be territory of Poland and Tartary and consisted of Asian and European parts divided by the Don River; as a geographical term, Sarmatia was always indistinct, but stable. The presumed ancestors of the szlachta, the Sarmatians, were a confederacy of predominantly Iranian tribes living north of the Black Sea. In the 5th century BC Herodotus wrote that these tribes were descendants of the Scythians and Amazons; the Sarmatians were infiltrated by the Goths and others in the 2nd century AD, may have had some strong and direct links to Poland.
The legend of Polish descent from Sarmatians stuck and grew until most of those within the Commonwealth, many abroad, believed that many Polish nobles were somehow descendants of the Sarmatians. Another tradition came to surmise that the Sarmatians themselves were descended from Japheth, son of Noah; some holding to Sarmatism tended to believe that their ancestors had conquered and enserfed the local Slavs and, like the Bulgars in Bulgaria or Franks who conquered Gaul adopted the local language. Such nobility might believe. "Roman maps, fashioned during the Renaissance, had the name of Sarmatia written over most of the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, thus'justified' interest in'Sarmatian roots'."Centuries modern scholarship discovered evidence showing that the Alans, a late Sarmatian people speaking an Iranian idiom, did invade Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe before the sixth century, that these "Sarmatians evidently formed the area's ruling class, Slavicized." Their direct political connection to Poland, would remain somewhat uncertain.
In his 1970 publication The Sarmatians Tadeusz Sulimirski, an Anglo-Polish historian and researcher on the ancient Sarmatians, discusses the abundant evidence of the ancient Sarmatian presence in Eastern Europe, e.g. the finds of various grave goods such as pottery and jewelry. Possible ethnological and social influences on the Polish szlachta would include tamga-inspired heraldry, social organization, military practices, burial customs. Poles tracing their descent to the Sarmatians was part of wider tendency evident all over Europe, of various peoples tracing their descent to an ancient people who had lived in their country in Roman times: the Dutch taking up the Batavians as their forbears, the French - the Gauls, the Portuguese - the Lusitanians, the Scots - the Caledonians, the Swiss - the Helvetii, the Romanians - the Dacians, etc. Sarmatian belief and customs became an important part of szlachta culture, penetrating all aspects of life. Sarmatism enshrined equality among all szlachta, celebrated their life style and traditions, including horseback riding, provincial
National symbols of Poland
National symbols of Poland are the symbols that are used in Poland to represent what is unique about the nation, reflecting different aspects of its cultural life and history. They intend to unite people by creating visual, verbal, or iconic representations of the national people, goals, or history; these symbols are rallied around as part of celebrations of patriotism or nationalism and are designed to be inclusive and representative of all the people of the national community. The official symbols of the Republic of Poland are described in two legal documents: the Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 1997 and the Coat of Arms and Anthem of the Republic of Poland, State Seals Act of 1980 with subsequent amendments; the Jack of the President is defined in the Ordinance of the Minister of National Defense on the Use of Insignia of the Armed Forces of January 26, 1996 with subsequent amendments. The Flag of Poland consists of two horizontal stripes of equal width, the upper one white and the lower one red.
The two colors are defined in the Polish constitution as the national colors. They are of heraldic origin and derive from the tinctures of the coats of arms of the two constituent nations of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, i.e. the White Eagle of Poland and the Pursuer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a white knight riding a white horse, both on a red shield. The White Eagle is the national coat of arms of Poland, it is a stylized white eagle with a golden beak and talons, wearing a golden crown, in a red shield. The White Eagle emblem originated; when he looked at the bird, a ray of sunshine from the red setting sun fell on its wings, so they appeared tipped with gold, the rest of the eagle was pure white. He was delighted and placed the eagle on his emblem. Dąbrowski's Mazurka is the national anthem of Poland; the English translation of its Polish incipit is "Poland is not yet lost". The lyrics were written by Józef Wybicki in July, 1797, two years after the Third Partition of Poland; the music is an unattributed mazurka and considered a "folk tune", altered to suit the lyrics.
It was meant to boost the morale of Polish soldiers serving under General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski's Polish Legions in the Italian campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars. "Dabrowski's Mazurka", expressing the idea that the nation of Poland, despite lack of independence, had not disappeared as long as the Polish people were still alive and fighting in its name, soon became one of the most popular patriotic songs in Poland. When Poland re-emerged as an independent state in 1918, "Dabrowski's Mazurka" became its de facto anthem, it was adopted as the national anthem of the Second Polish Republic in 1926. The Jack of the President of the Republic of Poland – Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Poland is a jack flag used in the Polish Armed Forces to mark the presence and pay respect to the President of the Republic of Poland, ex officio the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces; the jack is raised on Polish Navy ships when the president is on board, as well as on land, if the president is present.
The design of the jack is based directly on the pre-war Banner of the Republic of Poland which used to be part of presidential insignia. The ordinance defines the jack of the President as "a piece of red cloth with the image of the state eagle in the middle, bordered with a wężyk generalski", an ornate wavy line used in the Polish military as a symbol of general's rank. There are a number of official symbols used to represent Poland; the European Bison has a long history with Poland and is believed to be the national animal of the country. It is believed to be the white-tailed eagle shown in the coat of arms of Poland. Poland has no official motto of the State, namely the one, recognized as such by the Polish national law. However, there are some common phrases which appear on banners and other symbols of the Polish State. One of the most common of such unofficial mottos is Za wolność Naszą i Waszą. Another one is Bóg, Ojczyzna; the ethnonyms for the Poles and Poland include exonyms. Endonyms and most exonyms for Poles and Poland derive from the name of the West Slavic tribe of Polans, while in some languages the exonyms for Poland derive from the name of another tribe – the Lendians.
The Polish words for a Pole are Polak and Polka, Polki being the plural form for two or more women and Polacy being the plural form for the rest. The adjective "Polish" translates to Polish as polski and polskie; the common Polish name for Poland is Polska. The full official name of the Polish state is Rzeczpospolita Polska which loosely translates as "Republic of Poland"; the word rzeczpospolita has been used in Poland since at least the 16th century a generic term to denote any state with a republican or similar form of government. Today, the word is used solely in reference to the Polish State. Polonia, the name for Poland in Latin and many Romance and other languages, is most use
Cinema of Poland
The history of cinema in Poland is as long as history of cinematography, it has universal achievements though Polish films tend to be less commercially available than films from several other European nations. After World War II, the communist government built an auteur-based national cinema, trained hundreds of new directors and empowered them to make films. Filmmakers like Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland, Andrzej Wajda, Andrzej Żuławski, Andrzej Munk, Jerzy Skolimowski impacted the development of Polish filmmaking. In more recent years, the industry has been producer-led with finance being the key to a film being made, with a large number of independent filmmakers of all genres, Polish productions tend to be more inspired by American film; the first cinema in Poland was founded in Łódź in 1899, several years after the invention of the Cinematograph. Dubbed Living Pictures Theatre, it gained much popularity and by the end of the next decade there were cinemas in every major town of Poland.
Arguably the first Polish filmmaker was Kazimierz Prószyński, who filmed various short documentaries in Warsaw. His pleograph film camera had been patented before the Lumière brothers' invention and he is credited as the author of the earliest surviving Polish documentary titled Ślizgawka w Łazienkach, as well as the first short narrative films Powrót birbanta and Przygoda dorożkarza, both created in 1902. Another pioneer of cinema was Bolesław Matuszewski, who became one of the first filmmakers working for the Lumière company - and the official "cinematographer" of the Russian tsars in 1897; the earliest surviving feature film, the Antoś pierwszy raz w Warszawie was made in 1908 by Antoni Fertner. The date of its première, October 22, 1908, is considered the founding date of Polish film industry. Soon Polish artists started experimenting with other genres of cinema: in 1910 Władysław Starewicz made one of the first animated cartoons in the world - and the first to use the stop motion technique, the Piękna Lukanida.
By the start of World War I the cinema in Poland was in full swing, with numerous adaptations of major works of Polish literature screened (notably the Dzieje grzechu, Meir Ezofowicz and Nad Niemnem. During the World War I the Polish cinema crossed borders. Films made in Warsaw or Vilna were rebranded with German language intertitles and shown in Berlin; that was how a young actress Pola Negri gained fame in Germany and became one of the European super-stars of silent film. During the World War II Polish filmmakers in Great Britain created anti-nazi color film Calling Mr. Smith about current nazi crimes in occupied Europe and about lies of nazi propaganda, it was one of the first anti-nazi films in history being both documentary film. In November 1945 the communist government founded the film production and distribution organization Film Polski, put the well-known Polish People's Army filmmaker Aleksander Ford in charge. Starting with a few railway carriages full of film equipment taken from the Germans they proceed to train and build a Polish film industry.
The FP output was limited. In 1947 Ford moved to help establish the new National Film School in Łódź, where he taught for 20 years; the industry used film stocks. At first ORWO black and white film stock from East Germany and Eastman colour negative stock and ORWO print stocks for rushes and release prints. Poland made its own lighting equipment; because of the high costs of film stock Polish films were shot with low shooting ratios, the amount of film stock used in shooting the film to length of the finished film. The equipment and film stock were not the best and budgets were modest but the film makers received the best training in the world from the Polish Film School. Another advantage was that as Film Polski was a state organisation film makers had access to all Polish institutions and their cooperation in making their films. Film cameras were able to enter every aspect of Polish life; the first film produced in Poland following the World War II was Zakazane piosenki, directed by Leonard Buczkowski, seen by 10.8 million people in its initial theatrical run.
Buczkowski continued to make films until his death in 1967. Other important films of early post-World War II period were The Last Stage, directed by Wanda Jakubowska, who continued to make films until the transition from communism to capitalism in 1989, Border Street, directed by Aleksander Ford. By the mid 1950s, following the end of Stalinism in Poland, Film production was organised into film groups. A film group was a collection of film makers, led by an experienced film director and consisting of writers, film directors and production managers, they would write scripts, create budgets, apply for funding off the Ministry of Culture and produce the picture. They would hire actors and crew, use studios and laboratories controlled by Film Polski; the change in political climate gave rise to the Polish Film School movement, a training ground for some of the icons of the world cinematography, e.g. Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Zanussi. Andrzej Wajda's films offer insightful analyses of the universal element of the Polish experience - the struggle to maintain dig
Polish cuisine is a style of cooking and food preparation originating in or popular in Poland. Polish cuisine has evolved over the centuries to become eclectic due to Poland's history and it shares many similarities with other West Slavic countries like neighbouring Czech and Slovak, it has been influenced by other Central European cuisines, namely German and Hungarian as well as Jewish, French and Italian culinary traditions. Polish-styled cooking in other cultures is referred to as à la polonaise. Polish cuisine is rich in meat pork and beef, in addition to a wide range of vegetables and herbs, it is characteristic in its use of various kinds of noodles as well as cereals and grains. In general, Polish cuisine is hearty and heavy in its use of butter, cream and extensive seasoning; the traditional dishes are demanding in preparation. Many Poles allow themselves a generous amount of time to serve and enjoy their festive meals Christmas Eve supper or Easter breakfast, which could take a number of days to prepare in their entirety.
Among the well-known Polish national dishes are bigos. A traditional Polish dinner is composed of three courses, beginning with a soup like the popular rosół broth and tomato soup. At restaurants, the soups are followed by an appetizer such as herring; the main course includes a serving of meat, such as roast, breaded pork cutlet, or chicken, with a surówka, shredded root vegetables with lemon and sugar or sauerkraut. The side dishes are boiled potatoes, rice or less kasza. Meals conclude with a dessert including makowiec, a poppy seed pastry, napoleonka cream pie or sernik cheesecake. Internationally, if a Polish culinary tradition is used in other cuisines it is referred to as à la polonaise, from French meaning'Polish-style'. In France the use of butter instead of cooking oil, frying vegetables with buttered breadcrumbs, minced parsley and boiled eggs as well as adding horseradish, lemon juice or sour cream to sauces like Velouté is know under this term. Polish cuisine in the Middle Ages was based on dishes made of agricultural produce and cereal crops, meats of wild and farm animals, forest berries and game, honey and local spices.
It was known above all for abundant use of salt from Wieliczka and permanent presence of groats. A high calorific value of dishes and drinking beer or mead as a basic drink was typical of Middle Ages Polish cuisine. During the Middle Ages the cuisine of Poland was heavy and spicy. Two main ingredients were meat and cereal; the latter consisted of proso millet, but in the Middle Ages other types of cereal became used. Most commoners did not use bread and instead consumed cereals in the forms of kasza or various types of flatbread, some of which are considered traditional recipes in the 21st century. Apart from cereals, a large portion of the daily diet of mediaeval Poles consisted of beans broad beans and peas; as the territory of Poland was densely forested, usage of mushrooms, forest berries and wild honey was widespread. Among the delicacies of the Polish nobility were honey-braised bear paws served with horseradish-flavoured salad, smoked bear tongue and bear bacon. Thanks to close trade relations with Turkey and the countries in the Caucasus, the price of spices was much lower in Poland than the rest of Europe, hence spicy sauces became popular.
The usage of two basic sauces remained widespread at least until the 18th century. The daily beverages included milk, whey and various herb infusions; the most popular alcoholic beverages were beer and mead. Mead was so widespread that in the 13th century Prince Leszek I the White explained to the Pope that Polish knights could not participate in a crusade as there was no mead in the Holy Land. Vodka became popular among the lower classes first. There is written evidence suggesting that vodka originated in Poland; the word "vodka" was recorded for the first time in 1405 in Akta Grodzkie, the court documents from the Palatinate of Sandomierz in Poland. At that time, the word wódka referred to chemical compounds such as medicines and cosmetic cleansers, while the popular beverage was called gorzałka. Along with the Italian queen Bona Sforza many Italian cooks came to Poland after 1518. Although native vegetable foods were an ancient and intrinsic part of the cuisine, this began a period in which vegetables like lettuce, leeks and cabbage were more used.
Today, some of those vegetables are referred to in Polish as włoszczyzna, a word derived from Włochy, the Polish name of Italy. During this period the use of spices, which arrived in Poland via Western Asian trade routes, was common among those who could afford them, dishes considered elegant could be very
The Renaissance is a period in European history, covering the span between the 14th and 17th centuries and marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. The traditional view focuses more on the early modern aspects of the Renaissance and argues that it was a break from the past, but many historians today focus more on its medieval aspects and argue that it was an extension of the middle ages; the intellectual basis of the Renaissance was its version of humanism, derived from the concept of Roman Humanitas and the rediscovery of classical Greek philosophy, such as that of Protagoras, who said that "Man is the measure of all things." This new thinking became manifest in art, politics and literature. Early examples were the development of perspective in oil painting and the recycled knowledge of how to make concrete. Although the invention of metal movable type sped the dissemination of ideas from the 15th century, the changes of the Renaissance were not uniformly experienced across Europe: the first traces appear in Italy as early as the late 13th century, in particular with the writings of Dante and the paintings of Giotto.
As a cultural movement, the Renaissance encompassed innovative flowering of Latin and vernacular literatures, beginning with the 14th-century resurgence of learning based on classical sources, which contemporaries credited to Petrarch. In politics, the Renaissance contributed to the development of the customs and conventions of diplomacy, in science to an increased reliance on observation and inductive reasoning. Although the Renaissance saw revolutions in many intellectual pursuits, as well as social and political upheaval, it is best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term "Renaissance man"; the Renaissance began in the 14th century in Italy. Various theories have been proposed to account for its origins and characteristics, focusing on a variety of factors including the social and civic peculiarities of Florence at the time: its political structure, the patronage of its dominant family, the Medici, the migration of Greek scholars and texts to Italy following the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks.
Other major centres were northern Italian city-states such as Venice, Milan and Rome during the Renaissance Papacy. The Renaissance has a long and complex historiography, and, in line with general scepticism of discrete periodizations, there has been much debate among historians reacting to the 19th-century glorification of the "Renaissance" and individual culture heroes as "Renaissance men", questioning the usefulness of Renaissance as a term and as a historical delineation; the art historian Erwin Panofsky observed of this resistance to the concept of "Renaissance": It is no accident that the factuality of the Italian Renaissance has been most vigorously questioned by those who are not obliged to take a professional interest in the aesthetic aspects of civilization – historians of economic and social developments and religious situations, most natural science – but only exceptionally by students of literature and hardly by historians of Art. Some observers have called into question whether the Renaissance was a cultural "advance" from the Middle Ages, instead seeing it as a period of pessimism and nostalgia for classical antiquity, while social and economic historians of the longue durée, have instead focused on the continuity between the two eras, which are linked, as Panofsky observed, "by a thousand ties".
The word Renaissance meaning "Rebirth", first appeared in English in the 1830s. The word occurs in Jules Michelet's 1855 work, Histoire de France; the word Renaissance has been extended to other historical and cultural movements, such as the Carolingian Renaissance and the Renaissance of the 12th century. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that profoundly affected European intellectual life in the early modern period. Beginning in Italy, spreading to the rest of Europe by the 16th century, its influence was felt in literature, art, politics, science and other aspects of intellectual inquiry. Renaissance scholars employed the humanist method in study, searched for realism and human emotion in art. Renaissance humanists such as Poggio Bracciolini sought out in Europe's monastic libraries the Latin literary and oratorical texts of Antiquity, while the Fall of Constantinople generated a wave of émigré Greek scholars bringing precious manuscripts in ancient Greek, many of which had fallen into obscurity in the West.
It is in their new focus on literary and historical texts that Renaissance scholars differed so markedly from the medieval scholars of the Renaissance of the 12th century, who had focused on studying Greek and Arabic works of natural sciences and mathematics, rather than on such cultural texts. In the revival of neo-Platonism Renaissance humanists did not reject Christianity. However, a subtle shift took place in the way that intellectuals approached religion, reflected in many other areas of cultural life. In addition, many Greek Christian works, including the Greek New Testament, were brought back from Byzantium to Western Europe and engaged Western scholars for the first time since late antiquity; this new engagement with Greek Christian works, the return to the original Greek of the Ne