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iconoclasm

iconoclasm (īkŏn´ōklăzəm) [Gr.,=image breaking], opposition to the religious use of images. Veneration of pictures and statues symbolizing sacred figures, Christian doctrine, and biblical events was an early feature of Christian worship (see iconography; catacombs). The humanity of Christ was increasingly emphasized, and images and crucifixes became common. Opponents of their use claimed they led to idolatry. Canon 36 of the Synod of Elvira (c.305) was one of the earliest to prohibit images in churches, "lest that which is worshiped and venerated be depicted on the walls." With the approval of the use of images by the Trullan Synod (692) of the Third Council of Constantinople, the debate was joined again. It was most pronounced in Asia Minor, especially around Constantinople, in the 8th and 9th cent. The movement was paralleled by the iconoclasm of Islam, Judaism, and Manichaeism and was certainly strengthened by the numerous Paulicians in the empire. Leo III, Constantine V, Leo IV, and Leo V were important iconoclastic emperors. Eastern Iconoclasm was opposed in the West by Popes Gregory II, Gregory III, and Adrian I. Empress Irene restored the images and St. Theodore of Studium, St. John of Damascus, St. Nicephorus, and St. Theophanes wrote histories of the controversy. Iconoclasm was rejected at Nicaea (see Nicaea, Second Council of) but ended only during the minority of Michael III. The iconoclastic controversy stimulated Byzantine artists to strive for spiritual revelation in religious art rather than for naturalistic representation. The churches of the Orthodox Eastern Church are generally decorated only with flat pictures, bas-reliefs, and mosaics (see Byzantine art and architecture). Iconoclasm was also a feature of the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans were especially hostile to the use of religious images, and some Protestants still consider their use idolatrous.

See E. J. Martin, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy (1930, repr. 1978); J. Pelikan, Imago Dei (1990).

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Iconoclasm

Iconoclasm (Gk., ‘image-breaking’). A movement which agitated the Church in the E. Roman Empire, c.725–843. The veneration of icons had attracted an undercurrent of opposition for centuries (as early as Epiphanius), but in the wake of a renewed Arab threat to Asia Minor it was widely blamed, especially in the army, for the weakness of the Christian empire. The opposition to icons was taken up by the emperors Leo III (717–41) and Constantine V (741–75). A fierce persecution, especially of monks, ensued. Under the empress Irene (from 780), however, the position was reversed: at the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea in 787 the veneration of icons was officially reintroduced and the degree of veneration to be paid to them was defined.

After a politically unsettled period the new emperor Leo V (813–20) reasoned that iconoclasm ought to be reinstated, but persecution was in general less severe in this second phase of the controversy. An iconophile patriarch, Methodios, was elected in 843, and a great feast (since kept as the Feast of Orthodoxy) was celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent to mark the victory of the icons.

Iconoclasm then becomes a general word for opposition to, and destruction of, visible representations of the divine, and, more colloquially, for the destruction of that which is traditionally revered.

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"Iconoclasm." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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iconoclasm

iconoclasm. Image-destruction has been a constant possibility in Christian history, for while for some artistic expression in sculpture, painting, or stained glass expresses the soaring upthrust of the soul to the divine, for others it is a distraction, ‘obnoxious lumber’ to be abhorred and discarded. For John of Damascus, what the written word was to the lettered ‘the icon is to the unlettered’. The Byzantine iconoclastic controversy (7th–9th cents.), driven by the astringent impact of Monophysitism, Manicheism, and Islam, created widespread devastation and led many to retreat, for instance, to the caves of Cappadocia. Medieval Cistercians, preferring their own stark abbeys, abhorred contemporary Cluniac embellishment. The 16th-cent. Reformation unleashed another iconoclastic trail of destruction, approved by Zwingli, though himself a lover of art and music, but shocking to Luther. Though Calvin was no extreme iconoclast, his followers wreaked havoc in 16th-cent. France and Scotland and 17th-cent. England, where in the Cromwellian period much of her heritage of medieval stained glass and statues was destroyed and wall-paintings whitewashed. Bible and sermon replaced imagery.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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iconoclasm

i·con·o·clasm / īˈkänəˌklazəm/ • n. 1. the action of attacking or assertively rejecting cherished beliefs and institutions or established values and practices. 2. the rejection or destruction of religious images as heretical; the doctrine of iconoclasts.

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iconoclasm

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