The Dark Ages of the Western European intellectual tradition lasted for 1,000 years. When the Renaissance triggered a rebirth of learning and scholarly activity beginning in the fifteenth century, European man awoke to new possibilities. The ways of the past, so steeped in tradition and superstition, no longer suited the challenges of the day. Craftsmen, artisans, painters, sculptors, writers, philosophers, and religious leaders undertook new ventures that revolutionized western culture. On the heels of the initial rebirth, the Age of Enlightenment, a philosophical and political analogue to the artistic renaissance, hastened the pace of reform, wrenching open the European mind in the latter half of the seventeenth century and forever closing off the darkness of the Middle Ages. Although it appeared in slightly modified form in different countries, the movement shared common features: faith in human reason as a tonic for western ailments, a firm commitment to scientific principles and processes, the radical idea that government need not be left to despots to dictate policies to the masses, and a desire to correct the abuses of an increasingly autocratic Catholic Church.