Pursuit of Happiness

From the 5th to the 15th centuries in Europe monastic orders and Christian mysticism flourished. Italy’s painter and architect Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael) (1483-1520), in a work known as the School of Athens (1508-1511) depicted the two worlds of Christianity and paganism facing each other as equals. The ‘pagan world’ was presented as a gathering of the greatest minds of antiquity. Portraits of contemporary intellectuals and artists of the day were incorporated to represent them. At the centre ancient Greek philosophers Plato and his student Aristotle are perhaps discussing truth. This was when a desire for beauty and a renewal of the pagan pursuit of happiness awoke from its long slumber.  The strong social contact people had with one another helped the transmission of ‘humanist ideas’. From humanist writings grew the sense that not only the afterlife, but also the life here and now was a proper concern of humanity. The way religion was interpreted was held up for close examination.

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