Saturday, November 24, 2012

Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium, A MetMuseum essay

Form and Function of Icons
 Icons ranged in size from the miniature to the monumental. Some were suspended around the neck as pendants, others (called "triptychs") had panels on each side that could be opened and closed, thereby activating the icon. Icons could be mounted on a pole or frame and carried into battle, as has been suggested for the Saint Demetrios icon (1970.324.3). Alternatively, icons could be of a more permanent character, such as fresco and mosaic images decorating church interiors. In Byzantine theology, the contemplation of icons allowed the viewer direct communication with the sacred figure(s) represented, and through icons an individual's prayers were addressed directly to the petitioned saint or holy figure. Miraculous healings and good fortune were among the requests.
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Acheiropoieta, or Icons "Not Made by (Human) Hands" Icons created by divine agency were known as acheiropoieta ("not made by (human) hands"). This category of miraculously created image was accorded special veneration throughout the history of Byzantium. A significant number of acheiropoieta originated in the Early Byzantine period, before the advent of Iconoclasm in the early eighth century. The most famous acheiropoieta included the Mandylion, a white cloth imprinted with the face of Christ, and the Keramion, a ceramic tile which received the impression of Christ's face from the Mandylion. The ability to miraculously replicate was a common feature of acheiropoieta.

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