The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Byzantine Art

What was the Iconoclastic Controversy?

During the early history of the Christian Church, there was a debate about whether or not it was appropriate to make representational images in religious art. The term “iconoclasm” means “image-breaking” and iconoclasts believed that representational imagery should be forbidden. At the heart of the debate was the relationship between a painted image and the figure being depicted. There was fear of idolatry and a fear that beauty could distract the viewer from the religious sanctity of the figure. It is possible the rise of Islam, and the iconoclastic views of that religion, influenced the Byzantines during the Iconoclastic Controversy.


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