Art and Iconoclasm

Robin Cormack

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Art and Iconoclasm

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Iconoclasm (from the word eikonoklastes, "imagebreaker") can be interpreted in two ways. It may refer to the process of the reassertion of imperial power in the state after a period of decline. It may also be seen as an intellectual debate about the admissibility of imaging God and the holiness of icons that showed Christ, the Virgin, and the saints. Iconoclasm can be traced to 730 (if not 726), when the emperor Leo III issued an imperial edict against the use of icons, and his son Constantine V summoned a church council at the palace of Hieria at Chalcedon in 754 condemning the veneration and production of icons as idolatry. The decrees and definition of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea II in 787, reaffirmed in 843, reflect the profound impact of iconoclasm on the Byzantine Church. This article, which provides a background on iconoclasm, including its causes and its significance, also discusses the extent of iconoclasm, how invisible figural art was during iconoclasm, and whether iconoclasm had any deep impact on Byzantium.

Keywords: Byzantium; iconoclasm; icons; Leo III; Constantine V; Ecumenical Council; figural art; God; saints; Christ

Article.  2818 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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