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Unrivalled InfluenceWomen and Empire in Byzantium$
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Judith Herrin

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691153216

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691153216.001.0001

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Women and the Faith in Icons in Early Christianity

Women and the Faith in Icons in Early Christianity

(p.38) 3 Women and the Faith in Icons in Early Christianity
Unrivalled Influence

Judith Herrin

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the place of icons in worship, their character, and the way they came to symbolize the holy and mediate between earth and heaven. In particular, as icons became a vivid focus of devotion, they began to embody human relations with God the Creator and Ruler of the entire Christian world. It is argued that women played a notable part in this developing cult of icons. The chapter concentrates on some features of Late Antique Mediterranean culture, shared by Jews and Gentiles, pagan and Christian alike. These provided a common social experience within which the artistic evolution of the Christian church took place. In particular, the first part of this chapter is devoted to a discussion of funerary art, for this represents one of the most striking ways whereby Christians transmitted pagan rituals and artistic forms to their new faith. The second part examines some of the reasons for the preservation of these forms, once assimilated to a Christian mode, when they came under attack in the East. It asks how much that response informs us about the role of women in the cult of icons.

Keywords:   icons, worship, Late Antique Mediterranean, Christian church, funerary art, Byzantium, Byzantine women, devotion, pagan rituals

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