"Decoding The Ascent of Mount Ventoux: How ‘Renaissance’ is Francesco Petrarch?

Historians from Georgio Vasari to Jacob Burckhardt, in conceptualising Renaissance, may well be intoxicated by the use of perspectives. In defining the Renaissance world and its natural man, the proses of Petrarch, such as The Ascentof Mount Ventoux, could have been over cited for the purpose of supporting the general thesis in establishing the argument of genuine existence of the a historical tradition of Renaissance since the beginning of 14thCentury.

Small wonder that in reading The Ascent of Mount Ventoux with a Renaissance perspective in mind, one could readily perceive some of the essential Renaissance concepts, such as Humanism, Search for Truth, Humanism, Morality, Classicism, Scepticism, Secularism, Happiness, Individualism, Human All-roundness. Indeed, The Ascent of Mount Ventoux also gives various novel ideas of human being and the world unknown to the medieval times.

This paper argues for the dearth of renaissance in Francesco Patrarch. It tries, on the one hand, to convince that Petrarch, in writing The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, is just writing for the joy of writing, as his background and his upbringing very much testify that. On the other, it tells that Petrarch as a man of letters, could have been pigeonholed as most of his writings are on literature really does not concern that much with philosophical thoughts and history.

Search for Truth, Morality and Humanism

The Ascent of Mount Ventoux, however, points clearly to the moral greatness of mankind and of the individual and his or her ability to discover truth and wisdom, which is often cited as a hallmark of Humanistic Renaissance. Therefore, Petrarch’s determination to climb the 6000-feet Mount Ventoux, albeit just for the view, points to his commitment to the search for of truth and morality through human means in support of purely personal interest. The ascent of Mount Ventoux is not for the glorification of God, but rather for the sake of knowing. He does not climb for anyone but for himself. Nor does he act so on any transcental justification such as a blind, dependent faith, the supernatural, sacred text, or religious creeds he climbs because he thought it right to do so, and he chose to do so.

Skepticism and Secularism

Experiencing is also a hallmark of Renaissance. Human experience, past and present, is thekey to opening the door his new world; God’s scripture is not the only source to explain this world. But then, Petrach turns his back to Scholasticism but not to God.


Petrarch choice to climb with his brother instead of with his other friends, as well as his taking of an easier road in the climb, involves mundane choices. Patrarch is just following his ‘personal taste and characteristics’, a clear sign of individualism. Those choices, which could be considered as new found individualism unknown to Medieval citizens, are clear manifestations of the spirit of Humanistic Renaissance, which point to his stance that humans can shape their own destiny. Small wonder if Petrach were still with us today, he should have said that human is the centre of the universe and human is, as Protagoras rightly put, the measure of all things.

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