We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Byzantine Icon?

By J. D. Kenrich
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Broadly defined as a representation or image intended to depict a concept or quality of particular importance, icons have loomed large in the religious and cultural histories of numerous societies throughout the centuries. Icons have been rendered in media such as stone, fabric, tile mosaic and metal, and have been produced in both two- and three-dimensional formats. The tradition of Byzantine icons is of distinct significance, because the typically two-dimensional, painted likenesses played a critical role in the worship practices of followers of Eastern Christianity from 330 A.D. onward, and they continue to be prized for their meaningful, artistic portrayals of biblical themes.

The most common type of Byzantine icon consists of a flat, painted representation of entities of Christian religious significance such as Christ, Mary, saints and angels. Many other icons function as descriptive narratives of events including the crucifixion of Christ. Depictions were traditionally fashioned to emphasize the holy aura of their subjects, not their corporeality. No single size of Byzantine icon can be said to dominate the category, because these images tend to range from tiny, portable representations to massive panels created to adorn the inside spaces of sacred buildings. Three-paneled triptychs were commonly produced, as were larger panels meant to be hoisted on poles for display during combat.

Each Byzantine icon served a key function for worshipers in Eastern Christianity. According to Byzantine tradition, it was possible to communicate with the entity portrayed on the icon's surface simply by gazing upon it. The belief was that prayers could be channeled specifically to the represented figure, and divine assistance was likely to follow. The Byzantine period saw particular interest in a class of icons referred to as being acheiropoieta, meaning they were thought to be created by virtue of a sacred miracle, rather than by the hands of mortals.

Dating back to Christianity's earliest days, debate regarding the use of images and sacred depictions was prevalent. Biblical warnings against the worshiping of graven images called into the question the appropriateness of icons and the significant role they played in Byzantium. The eighth century saw the emergence of an intense disagreement among religious authorities and the state that resulted in blanket prohibition of the use and creation of icons. Widespread destruction of icons ensued and, therefore, no examples of these images created prior the 11th century remain. After the Iconoclastic Period ended, the Byzantine icon re-emerged as a centerpiece of religious belief and expression throughout the geographical reach of Eastern Christianity.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.