Webpages tagged with «Byzantium»

Published May 7, 2013 9:01 PM

Open Guest Lecture by Professor Leslie Brubaker

Icons and Iconoclasm are probably the words most closely associated with Byzantium in the modern mind. This is not surprising, for icons were the dominant visual medium of Orthodox Christianity already in the 7th century, and the 8th- and 9th-century Byzantine debates about the role of religious images shaped most subsequent iconoclast movements, from the English Reformation to the French Revolution and beyond.  Byzantine iconoclasm was not, however, very much like any of these later movements except in one crucial respect: in all cases, the destruction or prohibition of images was a measure of their power. This lecture will consider how and why Byzantine images became so powerful that churchmen felt that they should be repressed; how this debate was framed by arguments about the relative merits of written and visual communication, which  – because texts were restricted to those who were literate and had access to expensive books, while wall paintings and icons were available to all – became a contest about who could have access to God; and the paradoxical resolution that allowed (and still allows) religious portraits to be both ‘real people’ and ‘manufactured artefacts’ at one and the same time.