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Author Topic: Orthodox and Catholic Icons  (Read 4078 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: April 14, 2008, 02:01:15 AM »

I've been in Roman Catholic churches as well as Orthodox churches. Why is it that Orthodox churches have so many icons, and they don't in the catholic churches?
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« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2008, 08:35:04 AM »

I've been in Roman Catholic churches as well as Orthodox churches. Why is it that Orthodox churches have so many icons, and they don't in the catholic churches? 

I suppose that a major reason for that is because the debate about the appropriateness of icons raged in the East, not the West, and did so for centuries.  Once the Icons were finally restored to their rightful place, there was a flurry of iconography, and certainly many people trained in the art.  So in one sense it is logical that those who placed so much theological and emotional capital in the debate would in the end utilize the form most often.
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« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2008, 12:00:14 AM »

I suppose that a major reason for that is because the debate about the appropriateness of icons raged in the East, not the West, and did so for centuries.  Once the Icons were finally restored to their rightful place, there was a flurry of iconography, and certainly many people trained in the art.  So in one sense it is logical that those who placed so much theological and emotional capital in the debate would in the end utilize the form most often.

For example the way that the Catholics have Eucharistic worship and we haven't developed this tradition as there was no major heresy that denied the full reality of the Holy Eucharist as happened in the West.
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« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2008, 01:07:43 AM »

Wow, I was seriously thinking about this very topic earlier today.  Because the question of icons was settled before the split between the Orthodox and the RCC, it seems that icons should've been prevalent in both churches, no?  I'm curious at what point did the RCC abandon icons or were they ever as important to them?  I've read that icons are slowly making their way into the RCC, and there are RC authors who've explained and advocated icons (such as Henri Nouwen).  A related question would be at what point did statues begin making their way into the RCC AND why don't we see statues in Orthodoxy (I know there are a few incidents of statues in Orthodox countries such as Serbia for example)?
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« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2008, 01:58:12 AM »

I didn't know we had statues in church,,when did this happen,i never heard about it ...
are they inside the church or on the outside...at the libertyville serbian monastery in libertiville ill,they have a statue of jesus over the arch on the main entrance to the church grounds only... thats the only place iv ever seen a statue.....stanislav.... ps we have statues [busts ] hope this is the right word ]of our national hero's on the church grounds allso..
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« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2008, 02:11:14 AM »

I didn't know we had statues in church,,when did this happen,i never heard about it ...
are they inside the church or on the outside...at the libertyville serbian monastery in libertiville ill,they have a statue of jesus over the arch on the main entrance to the church grounds only... thats the only place iv ever seen a statue.....stanislav
The statue I was refering to is the Virgin of Banjska, Serbia, now in the church of the Sokolica monastery dedicated to Archdeacon St. Stephen.  It's believed to have been sculpted between 1313 to 1317.   
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« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2008, 02:47:30 AM »

Thats interesting i never knew about it...is it miraculous in some special way....stanislav
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« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2008, 02:51:46 AM »

Not that I'm aware of; it has, however, along witht the monastery itself, survived arson probably set by the Turks during the Ottoman times or Albanian Muslims since it's in Kosovo.
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« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2008, 10:09:49 AM »

Interesting. Would that mean that sacred sculpture is okay in the EO tradition? For us Latin Catholics, we do not have a great deal of the stylized kind of icons (the closest we have in most churches are the stained-glass figures), but we recognize them as legitimate sacred images. Do EO recognize sculpture as legitimate, though it is not very common in the EO tradition?
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« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2008, 10:57:49 AM »

Not that I'm aware of; it has, however, along witht the monastery itself, survived arson probably set by the Turks during the Ottoman times or Albanian Muslims since it's in Kosovo.

A statue can't burn unless it's a wooden statue.....Huh?...is it wood ....stanislav
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2008, 12:07:14 PM »

Interesting. Would that mean that sacred sculpture is okay in the EO tradition? For us Latin Catholics, we do not have a great deal of the stylized kind of icons (the closest we have in most churches are the stained-glass figures), but we recognize them as legitimate sacred images. Do EO recognize sculpture as legitimate, though it is not very common in the EO tradition?
The Serbian statue may be a unique situation.  I don't believe statues are generally accepted in Orthodoxy.  If anyone knows why feel free to chime in. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2008, 12:08:44 PM »

A statue can't burn unless it's a wooden statue.....Huh?...is it wood ....stanislav
If the fire becomes hot enough, almost anything can become disfigured.  I believe the statue in quesion is made of stone though.
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2008, 12:33:13 PM »

The Serbian statue may be a unique situation.  I don't believe statues are generally accepted in Orthodoxy.  If anyone knows why feel free to chime in. Wink

I don't recall where, but I remember reading somewhere that statuary was frowned upon because it's too lifelike, while traditional iconography is far more stylized.  I really don't see how that argument holds up in the face of the hideous Western-style icons that have popped up.
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2008, 12:49:24 PM »

I don't recall where, but I remember reading somewhere that statuary was frowned upon because it's too lifelike, while traditional iconography is far more stylized.  I really don't see how that argument holds up in the face of the hideous Western-style icons that have popped up.

One would think that the argument is also directed at "Western-style" iconography.
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« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2008, 12:51:36 PM »

I don't recall where, but I remember reading somewhere that statuary was frowned upon because it's too lifelike, while traditional iconography is far more stylized.  I really don't see how that argument holds up in the face of the hideous Western-style icons that have popped up.
Yeah, you're right about the differences in icons.  It seems that Russian icons are definitely more Western and portrait-like than the older, traditional icons.  There are pictures of St. Theophan the Recluse' cell where he has the more contemporary portrait-like icons.  The older, traditional icons look as though they were written by children.  But there is a theology behind their seemingly childish look.  I think the two styles go back to the old Traditionalist/Modernist dichotomy.  In parishes that have the more Western portrait-like icons, it seems you'll also find pews arranged like you'd find in a RC or Protestant church.

Re: statues, I remember reading in a St. Isaac's Skete Icon catalogue about St. Seraphim keeping a small statue of the Theotokos.  They went on to say something like "statues...not typical in Orthodoxy, but not unheard of."  This is believable with St. Seraphim as he was also reputed to have prayed the Rosary too.
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« Reply #15 on: April 16, 2008, 12:54:20 AM »

Obviously I am very partial to the "Byzantine" style icons I grew up with, but the Coptic style appeals to me very much as well.
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« Reply #16 on: April 16, 2008, 06:43:45 AM »

Interesting. Would that mean that sacred sculpture is okay in the EO tradition? For us Latin Catholics, we do not have a great deal of the stylized kind of icons (the closest we have in most churches are the stained-glass figures), but we recognize them as legitimate sacred images. Do EO recognize sculpture as legitimate, though it is not very common in the EO tradition?

I believe the 7th Ecumenical Council discouraged, if not totally rejected, their use. I'm afraid I don't have a reference though.
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« Reply #17 on: April 16, 2008, 07:10:29 AM »

I couldn't find anything from the Council itself, but I found the following commentary on Act 7 of the Council in the Rudder of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite:

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An idol is one thing, a statue is another thing, and an icon (or picture) is a different thing. For an idol differs from an icon in that the icon is a likeness of a true thing and its original, whereas the idol is an image of a false and inexistent thing, and is not the likeness of an original, according to Origen and Theodoret — just as were the idols of the false and inexistent gods of the Greeks. We call those images which embody the whole figure statues and carved or sculptured figures in general. As for this kind of images, namely, the statues, the catholic (Orthodox) Church not only does not adore them, but she does not even manufacture them, for many reasons:

1) because in its present definition this Council says for images to be produced with paints (or colours), with mosaic, or tessellated work, and with any other suitable material (which means with gold and silver and other metals, as Theodosius the bishop of Amorion says in Act 4 of the same Council) upon the sacred utensils, and robes, including sheets and cloths; upon walls and boards, and houses and streets. It did not mention a word about construction of a statue. Rather it may be said that this definition of this Council is antagonistic to statues;

2) because neither the letters written by patriarchs in their correspondence with one another, and to emperors, nor the letters of Pope Gregory to Germanus and of Pope Adrian to the present Council, nor the speeches and orations which the bishops and monks made in connection with all the eight Acts of the present Council said anything at all about statues or sculptured figures. But also the councils held by the iconomachs, and especially that held in Blachernae in the reign of Copronymus, in writing against the holy icons, mention oil paintings and portraits, but never statues or sculptured figures, which, if they existed, could not have been passed over in silence by the iconomachs, but, on the contrary, they would have been written against with a view to imputing greater blame to the Orthodox;
3) because although the woman with an issue of blood made a bronze statue of Christ in memory of and by way of giving thanks for the miracle and the benefaction which it had conferred upon her; and she set it up in the Panead, at the feet of which there sprang up a plant, or herb, which cured various ailments; and, as some say, that statue was smashed to pieces by the Emperor Maximinus, before Constantine the Great, and the bronze was seized by him; or else Julian the Apostate seized it, and put in its place the statue of Jupiter, as an anonymous writer says. Though, I say, the woman who had an issue of blood did make this statue (which the Christians took into the Church and honoured; and people went to see it out of a yearning for the original of it, as Philostorgus the Arian historically records), yet, as a matter of fact, that work of the woman who had an issue of blood was a concession from God, who, for goodness’ sake accepted it, making allowances for the imperfect knowledge of the woman who set it up; and because that was an embodiment and mark not of the grace of the Gospel, but of the old Law, as Pope Gregory II says in writing to St. Germanus (for the old Law had the two Cherubim, which were gold statues and sculptured figures containing all the body of the angelic powers, according to ch. 38 of Exodus, which Cherubim, according to an unknown expositor, had the face of a calf, and adored the Ark of the Covenant (here called the Ark of the Testimony, and by this adoration separated the Israelites from the idolatry of the Egyptians, who used to adore the calf. For the Jews learned from this that if a calf adored the Ark, it followed that the Egyptians were wrong in adoring it as a god).

Not only the old Law, but also the custom of the Greeks fostered the erection of statues and sculptured figures, as St. Germanus writes in a letter to Thomas of Claudiopolis which is to be found in Act 4 of the present Council, and which says: “It being obvious that the Saviour levelled His own grace to condescension with the faith of the woman, and showed what has been made evident to us above, namely, that it is not that what is performed is in general the object, but that it is the aim of the one performing it that is being reduced to experience . . . ." And again: “We do not say this, so that we may find an excuse for exercising the art of making bronze pillars, but merely in order to make it plain that the Lord did not discard the national custom at this point, but, instead, availed Himself of it to exhibit therein for a considerable length of time the wonder-working and miracle-working efficiency of His own benevolence; on which account it is not devout to disparage the custom of a somewhat more pious nature which has prevailed among us.”

You see here three things as plainly as day, to wit: 1) that the erection of the statue of Christ was moral, and that the Lord accepted it as a matter of compromise with the times; 2) that statues ought not to be manufactured; and 3) that it is more pious and more decent for the venerable images to be depicted, not by means of statues, but by means of colours in paintings. For the same saint said above by way of anticipation that in historically recording the facts concerning the statues, he historically recounts the fact that the icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul, painted in colours, were still extant . . . Canon LXXXII of the 6th, moreover, says that we ought to prefer the grace of the Gospel to the legal form, and ought to set up the human character, or figure, of Christ in icons instead of the olden lamb even in oil paintings.

So that from all that has been said it is proved that the Westerners are acting contrary to the definition of this holy and Ecumenical Seventh Council, and contrary to the tradition of the Church in making statues and sculptured figures and plaster of paris replicas, and setting them up in their churches. We said hereinabove those representations which embody the whole of that which they represent are called statues and sculptured work and plaster of paris figures in general, whereas those representations which do not embody the whole of the person or other object which they are intended to represent, but at most merely exhibit them in relief, projecting, that is to say, here and there above the level and surface of the background, are not called statues or sculptured work or plaster of paris figures or any such name, but, instead, they are called holy icons (or, if they are not holy, simply pictures). Such are those which are to be found engraved or stamped or otherwise delineated upon the sacred vessels, on divine Gospels, and other holy books, on precious crosses, of silver and gold, according to Dositheus (p. 656 of the Dodecabiblus); to the same class are assigned also images cast in wax and more or less in relief, that is to say, projecting at various points above and receding at other points below the plane surface of the image, concerning which divine Chrysostom (in his Discourse wherein he argues that one and the same Lawgiver is the author of both the Old and the New Testament; and in Discourse 307 on the vesture of priests, the origin of which is to be found in the Gospel of the kingdom of Christ) says the following:

“I myself have loved the images cast in wax as a matter of piety. For I beheld an angel in an image driving back hordes of barbarians. I saw barbarian troops being trodden underfoot, and the words of David coming true, wherein he says: ‘Lord, in thy city Thou wilt do their image havoc’ (p. 852 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records, in Act 6 of the 7th C.; and p. 647 of the sixth vol. of Chrysostom). Oecumenius, too, accepts and approves this kind of image which is cast in wax in the manner above described (in his commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews). Hence, in writing to Symeon the bishop of Bostra, Anastasius the Patriarch of Antioch says: “though, as a matter of fact, an image is nothing else than a piece of wood and colours mixed and mingled with wax” (p. 845 of the second volume of the Conciliar Records). In the same class with these images are placed also the images which are carved in wooden crosses (crucifixes) and medallions. They, too, likewise are wrought in relief and project above the plane of the level surface, and do not compromise the whole body of the person or thing represented.

The reason and cause why statues are not adored or venerated (aside from the legal observation and custom noted hereinabove) seem to me to be the fact that when they are handled and it is noticed that the whole body and all the members of the person or thing represented are contained in them and that they not only reveal the whole surface of it in three dimensions, but can even be felt in space, instead of merely appearing as such to the eye alone, they no longer appear to be, nor have they any longer any right to be called, icons or pictures, but, on the contrary, they are sheer replications of the originals. Some persons, though, assert or opine that the reason why the Church rejected or did away with statues was in order to avoid entirely any likeness to idols. For the idols were statues of massive sculpture, capable of being felt on all sides with the hand and fingers.
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« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2008, 12:56:28 AM »

Here is Act 7, of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, on which St Nicodemus provides the interpretation as posted by orthodox11. The style of English is rather quaint and long-winded in parts, but is still worth reading.

“We define the rule with all accuracy and diligence, in a manner not unlike that befitting the shape of the precious and vivifying Cross, that the venerable and holy icons, painted or mosaic, or made of any other suitable material, be placed in the holy churches of God upon sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, houses and streets, both of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, and of our spotless Lady the holy Mother of God, and also of the precious Angels, and of all Saints. For the more frequently and oftener they are continually seen in pictorial representation, the more those beholding are reminded and led to visualize anew the memory of the originals which they represent and for whom moreover they also beget a yearning in the soul of the persons beholding the icons. Accordingly, such persons are prompted not only to kiss these and to pay them honorary adoration, what is more important, they are imbued with the true faith which is reflected in our worship which is due to God alone and which befits only the divine nature. But this worship must be paid in the way suggested by the form of the precious and vivifying Cross, and the holy Gospels, and the rest of sacred institutions, and the offering of wafts of incense, and the display of beams of light, to be done for the purpose of honouring them, just as it used to be the custom to do among the ancients by way of manifesting piety. For any honour paid to the icon (or picture) redounds upon the original, and whoever bows down in adoration before the icon, is at the same time bowing down in adoration to the substance (or hypostasis) of the one therein painted. For thus the doctrine of our Holy Fathers, it was the tradition of the universal Church."

This should also help:

From Leonid Ouspensky's book Theology of the Icon:

The decisions of the Quinisext Council were signed by the emperor, and a place was left for the signature of the Pope of Rome; following were the signatures of the Patriarchs Paul of Constantinople, Peter of Alexandria, Anastasius of Jerusalem and George of Antioch. These were followed by the signatures of 213 bishops or their representatives. Among the signatures was that of Basil, archbishop of Gortyna (in Crete), who signed on behalf of the Church of Rome. There were also signatures of other bishops of the West. The authority of these representatives of Western Christianity is contested. Hefele writes: "It is true that the Vita Sergii in the Liber Pontificalis reports that the legates of Pope Sergius, having been deceived by the emperor, signed their names. But these legates of the pope were simply pontifical apocrisiaries living in Constantinople and not legates who had been sent expressly to take part in the council." In any case, as soon as the council had ended, the acts were sent to Rome requesting Pope Sergius' signature. He refused, even rejecting his copy of the acts. He declared that the decisions of the council had no value and asserted that he preferred death to accepting error. The error consisted undoubtedly in some teachings and practices which were condemned by the council, such as, for example, the obligatory celibacy of clergy, the Saturday fast (already forbidden by the First Ecumenical Council), the representation of Christ in the form of a lamb, and others. Yet the Roman Church eventually accepted the Seventh Ecumenical Council, which refers to Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council. Therefore, it can be said that the Roman Church implicitly also recognises this canon. Pope St. Gregory II refers to Canon 82 in his letter to the Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Germanus. Pope Hadrian I, for example, solemnly declares in his letter to Patriarch St. Tarasius his adherence to the Quinisext Council; he does the same in a letter to the Frankish bishops in defence of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Pope John VIII spoke of the decisions of the Quinisext Council without voicing any objection. Later, Pope Innocent III, quoting Canon 82, calls the Quinisext Council the Sixth Ecumenical Council. But all this is only the agreement of some popes, whereas there were others who had contrary opinions. On the whole, the West did not receive the decisions of the Quinisext Council.

The teaching of the Church on the christological basis of the icon, therefore, remained foreign to Western Christianity. This teaching could not enrich the sacred art of the West, which even today retains certain purely symbolic representations such as the lamb. The refusal to accept the decisions of the Quinisext Council later had, in the realm of sacred art, a great importance. The Roman Church excluded itself from the process of a development of an artistic and spiritual language, a process in which all the rest of the Church took an active part, with the Church of Constantinople providentially becoming the leader. The West remained outside of this development.

The Orthodox Church, on the contrary, in accordance with the Quinisext Council, continued to refine its art in form and in contents, an art which conveys, through images and material forms, the revelation of the divine world, giving us a key to approach, contemplate and understand it. It seems to us that it is particularly important for Western Orthodoxy, as it emerges in our own time, to be well aware of the significance of Canon 82 of the Quinisext Council. The canon, in fact, is the theoretical basis of liturgical art. Whatever course Western Orthodox art will take in the future, it will not be able to bypass the basic directive which was formulated for the first time in this canon: the transmission of historical reality and the revealed divine truth, expressed in certain forms which correspond to the spiritual experience of the Church.


The above excerpt goes some way in explaining why there is such divergence in content and form of western religious art and that of canonical Orthodox iconography. Despite the church of Rome accepting the rulings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (convened almost a century later), it seems little mind was paid by that church to the prohibitions of that Council to the portrayal of God the Father as a bearded old man, hence the perpetuation of such images to this day. An indirect conclusion could therefore be drawn, that the west also similarly saw no problem with statues as ecclesiastical art.
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« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2008, 01:12:22 AM »

When i was browsing some of the serbian medieval churches i was shock to see those ugly gargoyles on the out side of the churches.....SmileyCentral.com" border="0 ...thats so odd to see on a orthodox church... why would orthodoxy imitate the west.......Hristos Voskrese......SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2008, 01:28:26 AM »

I didn't know we had statues in church,,when did this happen,i never heard about it ...
are they inside the church or on the outside...at the libertyville serbian monastery in libertiville ill,they have a statue of jesus over the arch on the main entrance to the church grounds only... thats the only place iv ever seen a statue.....stanislav.... ps we have statues [busts ] hope this is the right word ]of our national hero's on the church grounds allso..
There's a monastery in Libertyville? That's interesting. I will be going there in a couple weeks. Maybe I can stop by. Do they take visitors who don't speak Serbian? Wink
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« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2008, 02:01:20 AM »

There's a monastery in Libertyville? That's interesting. I will be going there in a couple weeks. Maybe I can stop by. Do they take visitors who don't speak Serbian? Wink


the liturgy is in  old slovanic .. there another new Byzantine monastery  in third lake ..grayslake ill..not far but not close either....it has semanary like the one in libertyville ,,the one in graylake[third lake] is called gracanica monastery dedicated to the Most Holy Mother of God..the one in libertyville is St.Sava monastery....New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Grayslake, Illinois,  ... .......Church of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery - ArchiplanetChurch of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery. Designer, Unknown. Location, Libertyville, Illinois, USA. Date, 1925. Building Type, Religion ...
www.archiplanet.org/wiki/Church_of_the_St._Sava_Serbian_Orthodox_Monastery - 25k - 


New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Grayslake, Illinois, USA ...New Gracanica Serbian Orthodox Church in Grayslake, Illinois, USA. ... Click this icon to see all public photos and videos tagged with Monastery Monastery ...
www.flickr.com/photos/97213807@N00/266693244/ - 68k - Cached - Similar pages

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« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2008, 05:39:30 AM »

I've been in Roman Catholic churches as well as Orthodox churches. Why is it that Orthodox churches have so many icons, and they don't in the catholic churches?

It could be more about economics than theology.  The West--as the rest of the world--used to import icons from Byzantium at a premium price.  We all know that the West wasn't as rich as it is now, so naturally, the churches there couldn't get as much icons as they wanted to.

Wink
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« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2008, 05:59:11 PM »

Theognosis, this argument doesn't stand up. In earlier centuries, the papacy often had more (earthly) power and money than kings. In fact, many well-known artworks from the Renaissance, Baroque and other periods were the results of papal commissions. Perhaps the most famous of these is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings.
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« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2008, 09:34:58 PM »

Theognosis, this argument doesn't stand up. In earlier centuries, the papacy often had more (earthly) power and money than kings. In fact, many well-known artworks from the Renaissance, Baroque and other periods were the results of papal commissions. Perhaps the most famous of these is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings.

Nothing in the Sistene Chapel can be construed to be an icon because 3D entites are being depicted in 2 space thanks to the use of Perspective.
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« Reply #25 on: May 23, 2008, 11:07:36 PM »

It is a matter of theological and doctrinal approach by the West, not economics. Please look again at posts #17 and #18 on this thread. It must also be remembered that iconography from quite early times was rendered in an abstracted, geometric, non-naturalistic style. It is a common misconception that the iconographers of the early Christian period “couldn’t draw or paint”, that this was a primitive or naïve art form. In this regard, it must be remembered that the Byzantines were the descendants of the Greeks and Romans who gave the world the physical perfection of Classical sculpture and murals (such as the sculptures of Praxiteles and Pheidias, or the frescoes of Pompeii), and where the development of geometry allowed the refinement of linear perspective in depicting three dimensions on a flat surface.

It would be a mistake to study iconography within the framework of Renaissance realism. The spiritual universe created by the Byzantines and their successors requires very different criteria to comprehend it.

We are conditioned by the art of the Renaissance to appreciate the architectural details rendered in mathematical linear perspective, to admire the beauty of the human body and the lush landscapes stretching far towards the horizon. Unfortunately, we cannot use this kind of approach on iconography because, in contrast to the art of the Renaissance, icon painting is not illusionistic, that is, it does not try to convince the viewer that the world depicted on the panel is naturalistic, but, on the contrary, tries to make sure by the use of an abstracted artistic style, that what is represented is spiritually transfigured, and therefore not of this world. Byzantine iconographers consciously and purposely employed a completely different convention of painting, a completely different artistic language. The purpose of iconography was to depict the reality beyond this earthly world, the beauty and truth of the spiritual world. In other words, it did not try to depict natural, "realistic" good and beauty, but to serve the ideals of the faith.

It is clear that the west, by never taking up the rulings of the Quinisext and Seventh Ecumenical Councils, did not develop its religious art in the same way, i.e. to produce religious art in the form of icons, as distinct from religious paintings and statues. The religious art of the west was essentially decorative and illustrative, not grounded in liturgical and doctrinal tradition. I agree that the art of the Sistine Chapel is not iconography (and, not to put too fine a point on it, I never said it was), but the west by that stage had long abandoned the idea of the liturgical and doctrinal image (which we call iconography) as an integral part of worship, both in corporate (church) worship, and in personal devotion.
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« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2008, 11:48:46 PM »

Theognosis, this argument doesn't stand up. In earlier centuries, the papacy often had more (earthly) power and money than kings. In fact, many well-known artworks from the Renaissance, Baroque and other periods were the results of papal commissions. Perhaps the most famous of these is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel paintings.

The West was invaded by the barbarians.  You may have skipped the dark ages.

Quote
It is a matter of theological and doctrinal approach by the West, not economics. Please look again at posts #17 and #18 on this thread. It must also be remembered that iconography from quite early times was rendered in an abstracted, geometric, non-naturalistic style. It is a common misconception that the iconographers of the early Christian period “couldn’t draw or paint”, that this was a primitive or naïve art form. In this regard, it must be remembered that the Byzantines were the descendants of the Greeks and Romans who gave the world the physical perfection of Classical sculpture and murals (such as the sculptures of Praxiteles and Pheidias, or the frescoes of Pompeii), and where the development of geometry allowed the refinement of linear perspective in depicting three dimensions on a flat surface.

No, the theological repercussions came right after.  By the time of the Renaissance, the West had already developed its own style of liturgical art over many centuries. In the first place, why was it necessary for the West to develop its own style where in fact they could have just imported icons elsewhere? 

My answer is economics.

The situation is no different in the manufacture and development of automobiles.  For instance, it was more economical for the Japanese to make their own cars rather than import the goods from the US.  And then, after many decades, the cars in Japan developed on their own such that one could easily distinguish a Toyota from a Ford.
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« Reply #27 on: May 24, 2008, 01:50:12 AM »

Theognosis, if you care to look, it wasn't until the early 1300s at least where Giotto and his contemporaries began painting religious art in a style diverging from the strictured, non-naturalistic art of iconography. You only need to look at illuminations of that time, and previous to that time, such as the Book of Kells, and other illuminated manuscripts, if not before, to see parallels with iconography in content, if not in artistic style. In many areas of western Europe, a "naturalistic" artistic style did not appear until the 15th C. This is not insignificant.

Quote
By the time of the Renaissance, the West had already developed its own style of liturgical art over many centuries.

The church of Rome had lost the notion of "liturgical art" progressively after the 8th C, as I earlier posted. To this day, there is little to compare the liturgical veneration of icons as has been continuously practiced by the Orthodox Church with the regard that Roman Catholics have for their religious art. Do Roman Catholics have a tradition of venerating their religious paintings as do the Orthodox? Do Roman Catholic churches have their religious art displayed in such a way where they can be venerated, in the way that Orthodox churches have their icons on analogia/analoiy or on iconostases which the faithful venerate? Is there a Roman Catholic equivalent equivalent of the liturgical censing of the icon of the saint or feast commemmorated on any particular day, being at Matins, at Vigil (combined Vespers and Matins), or at any other office of the Orthodox Church? The only Roman Catholic equivalent I am aware of is the censing of the Crucifix during Good Friday services. There may be others, but there is nowhere near the same praxis as is the case with the Orthodox.
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« Reply #28 on: May 24, 2008, 02:24:47 AM »

Theognosis, if you care to look, it wasn't until the early 1300s at least where Giotto and his contemporaries began painting religious art in a style diverging from the strictured, non-naturalistic art of iconography. You only need to look at illuminations of that time, and previous to that time, such as the Book of Kells, and other illuminated manuscripts, if not before, to see parallels with iconography in content, if not in artistic style. In many areas of western Europe, a "naturalistic" artistic style did not appear until the 15th C. This is not insignificant.

I never said it was insignificant.  The West did indeed develop their own style over many centuries, as you have illustrated.

Quote
The church of Rome had lost the notion of "liturgical art" progressively after the 8th C, as I earlier posted.

I must disagree.  Rome never lost the tradition of liturgical art.  Afterall, Iconoclasm was an Eastern phenomenon.  The East actually had to rediscover iconography after the period of heresy.

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To this day, there is little to compare the liturgical veneration of icons as has been continuously practiced by the Orthodox Church with the regard that Roman Catholics have for their religious art. Do Roman Catholics have a tradition of venerating their religious paintings as do the Orthodox? Do Roman Catholic churches have their religious art displayed in such a way where they can be venerated, in the way that Orthodox churches have their icons on analogia/analoiy or on iconostases which the faithful venerate? Is there a Roman Catholic equivalent equivalent of the liturgical censing of the icon of the saint or feast commemmorated on any particular day, being at Matins, at Vigil (combined Vespers and Matins), or at any other office of the Orthodox Church? The only Roman Catholic equivalent I am aware of is the censing of the Crucifix during Good Friday services. There may be others, but there is nowhere near the same praxis as is the case with the Orthodox.

That's easy for a Catholic to dismiss.
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« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2008, 02:39:04 AM »

In fairness to our Catholic brethren, people should not underestimate the theology behind Western Art.  Here's a beautiful apostolic letter by the late great Pope John Paul II.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19871204_duodecim-saeculum_en.html

8. The terrible "quarrel over images" that tore the Byzantine Empire apart under the Isaurian emperors Leo III and Constantine V, between 730 and 780, and again under Leo V, from 814 to 843, is explained mainly by the theological debate which was originally at stake.

Without ignoring the danger of an ever possible resurgence of the idolatrous practices of paganism, the Church permitted that the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the martyrs and the saints should be represented in pictorial form or in sculpture to sustain the prayer and devotion of the faithful. It was clear to everyone, according to Saint Basil's formula recalled at Nicaea II, that "the honor rendered to the icon reaches the prototype."(29) In the West, Pope Saint Gregory the Great had insisted on the didactic aspect of the paintings in the churches, which were useful for the illiterate "to read on the walls what they were incapable of reading in books," and stressed that this contemplation should lead to the adoration of the "one and omnipotent Holy Trinity."(30) It is in that context that there developed, particularly in Rome in the eighth century, the cult of images of the saints which gave rise to an admirable artistic production.

In breaking with the authentic tradition of the Church, the iconoclast movement considered the veneration of images as a return to idolatry. Not without contradiction or ambiguity, they forbade representations of Christ and religious images in general but continued to allow profane images, in particular those of the Emperor with the signs of reverence that were attached to them. The basis of the iconoclast argument was of a Christological nature. How was it possible to depict Christ, who unites in his person, without confusing or separating them, the divine nature and the human Nature? To represent his unfathomable divinity would be impossible; to represent him in his humanity would only be to divide him, to separate the divinity and humanity in him. To choose one or the other of these options would lead to the opposed Christological heresies of Monophysitism and Nestorianism. For, in trying to represent Christ in his divinity, one would necessarily have to absorb his humanity; in showing only a human picture, one would hide the fact that he is also God.

9. The dilemma posed by the iconoclasts involved much more than the question of the possibility of Christian art; it called into question the whole Christian vision of the reality of the Incarnation and therefore the relationships of God and the world, grace and nature, in short, the specific character of the "new covenant" that God made with humanity in Jesus Christ. The defenders of images saw it well: according to the Patriarch of Constantinople, Saint Germain, an illustrious victim of the iconoclast heresy, it is "the divine economy according to the flesh"(31) that was being questioned. For, to see represented the human face of the Son of God, "image of the invisible God," (Col. 1, 15), is to see the Word made flesh (cf. John 1, 14), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. John 1, 29). Therefore art can represent the form, the effigy of God's human face and lead the one who contemplates it to the ineffable mystery of God made man for our salvation. Thus Pope Hadrian could write: "By means of a visible face, our spirit will be carried by a spiritual attraction towards the invisible majesty of the divinity through the contemplation of the image where is represented the flesh that the Son of God deigned to take for our salvation. May we thus adore and praise him together while glorifying in spirit this same Redeemer for, as it is written, `God is Spirit,' and that is why we spiritually adore his divinity."(32)

Hence, Nicaea II solemnly reaffirmed the traditional distinction between "the true adoration (latreia)" which "according to our faith is rendered to the unique divine nature" and "and the prostration of honor (timetike proskynesis) "which is attributed to icons, for "he who prostrates before the icon does so before the person (hypostasis) who is represented therein."(33)


Here's more.

In the West, the Church of Rome distinguished herself by the unbroken continuity of her action in favor of images,(36) especially at the critical moment between 825 and 843, when both the Byzantine and Frankish Empires were hostile to Nicaea II. At the Council of Trent the Catholic Church reaffirmed the traditional doctrine against a new form of iconoclasm that was then manifesting itself. More recently, Vatican II recalled with sobriety the permanent attitude of the Church regarding images (37) and sacred art in general.(38)

11. Over the past several decades we have observed a resurgence of interest in the theology and spirituality of Oriental icons, a sign of the growing need for a spiritual language of authentically Christian art. In this regard, I can only invite my brothers in the episcopate to "maintain firmly the practice of proposing to the faithful the veneration of sacred images in the churches"(39) and to do everything so that more works of truly ecclesial quality may be produced. The believer of today, like the one yesterday, must be helped in his prayer and spiritual life by seeing works that attempt to express the mystery and never hide it. That is why today, as in the past, faith is the necessary inspiration of Church art.

Art for art's sake, which only refers to the author, without establishing a relationship with the divine world, does not have its place in the Christian concept of the icon. No matter what style is adopted, all sacred art must express the faith and hope of the Church. The tradition of the icon shows that the artist must be conscious of fulfilling a mission of service to the Church.

Authentic Christian art is that which, through sensible perception, gives the intuition that the Lord is present in his Church, that the events of salvation history give meaning and orientation to our life, that the glory that is promised us already transforms our existence. Sacred art must tend to offer us a visual synthesis of all dimensions of our faith. Church art must aim at speaking the language of the Incarnation and, with the elements of matter, express the One who "deigned to dwell in matter and bring about our salvation through matter" according to Saint John Damascene's beautiful expression.(40)

The rediscovery of the Christian icon will also help in raising the awareness of the urgency of reacting against the depersonalizing and at times degrading effects of the many images that condition our lives in advertisements and the media, for it is an image that turns towards us the look of Another invisible one and gives us access to the reality of the eschatological world.

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« Reply #30 on: May 24, 2008, 03:11:25 AM »

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In fairness to our Catholic brethren, people should not underestimate the theology behind Western Art.

All very well and lovely. How does this square with the following:

1. During the iconoclastic periods, icons continued to be painted, and icons continued to be defended, in the face of persecution, both of individuals, and via the destruction of icons, by those such as St John of Damascus, St Theodore of the Studion, St Kassiane the Hymnographer, St Stephen the New, and many others. The tradition of iconography remained unbroken.

2. The Roman Catholic church has persisted in portraying God the Father as a bearded old man, and Christ as a lamb, and in other symbolic forms, in its religious art which post-dates the 8thC.

The art of the Roman Catholic church may well have its own theology, but the fact remains that this theology is not comparable to that of the Orthodox Church, nor are Roman Catholic images on the same level, either devotionally, liturgically or doctrinally, as Orthodox iconography. I welcome statements made in recent times by western Christians in their turning towards iconography, but we must be careful to distinguish between true icons and religious art rendered in an "iconographic" style, as well as knowing that icons in the west are not treated liturgically in the same way as in Orthodox practice.

A good case of recently-appeared religious images rendered in an "iconographic" style, but which are contrary to Orthodox doctrine and theology are the images of the "Holy Family" (Mother of God, St Joseph, and the young Christ), and the image of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child. Such portrayals may be acceptable in western churches, but are completely contrary to Orthodox liturgical, doctrinal, and iconographic tradition. However, because of their similarity in appearance to traditional icons, they can be mistaken by well-meaning Orthodox people as being valid icons.
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« Reply #31 on: May 24, 2008, 10:48:28 AM »

A good case of recently-appeared religious images rendered in an "iconographic" style, but which are contrary to Orthodox doctrine and theology are the images of the "Holy Family" (Mother of God, St Joseph, and the young Christ), and the image of St Joseph the Betrothed holding the Christ-child. Such portrayals may be acceptable in western churches, but are completely contrary to Orthodox liturgical, doctrinal, and iconographic tradition. However, because of their similarity in appearance to traditional icons, they can be mistaken by well-meaning Orthodox people as being valid icons.

Could you elaborate on this?
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« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2008, 11:20:58 AM »

I don't believe statues are generally accepted in Orthodoxy.  If anyone knows why feel free to chime in. Wink


Years ago I was talking with a (Serbian) deacon about "carved" Orthodox icons/crosses... and he told me that the "unofficial" rule is:
"If you can pinch the nose then its too 3-D."

Sounds like a good rule of thumb to me.  Its just so much easier and makes so much more sense for "windows to heaven" to be flat.  Whoever heard of a sphere or box-shaped window?... that's not a window at all... its a display case that totally encompasses and locks in the object.  So instead of looking through it, we look directly at it.  We can't walk through a flat surface and explore every single part/perspective of the subject(s), therefore, we are humbled and the mystery remains.  But we can walk around a completely 3-D object, viewing it from any perspective we choose, therefore, we feel powerful because nothing remains unknown.

I find it interesting that the two phrases in bold above pretty much sum up the general differences between the theological tendencies/approaches of Orthodoxy and RC... so it would make sense why they each emphasize the particular mediums (icons/statues) that they do.  RC's attempts to scientifically define transubstantiation and Orthodoxy's willingness to leave it out of the realm of logic is a prime case in point.
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« Reply #33 on: May 26, 2008, 01:52:41 AM »

Sounds like a good rule of thumb to me.  Its just so much easier and makes so much more sense for "windows to heaven" to be flat.  Whoever heard of a sphere or box-shaped window?... that's not a window at all... its a display case that totally encompasses and locks in the object.  So instead of looking through it, we look directly at it.  We can't walk through a flat surface and explore every single part/perspective of the subject(s), therefore, we are humbled and the mystery remains.  But we can walk around a completely 3-D object, viewing it from any perspective we choose, therefore, we feel powerful because nothing remains unknown.
Which also fits quite well with the word of an iconographer friend of mine who once stated as a rule of her ministry that [2-D] icons must never show the subject in profile, that both of the subject's eyes must be visible...
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« Reply #34 on: May 26, 2008, 03:19:55 AM »

Could you elaborate on this?

The Roman Catholic church has developed, since the time of St Theresa of Avila, and even more so, in the last century, a very different view to the Orthodox of St Joseph the Betrothed, which is reflected in its religious art, much of which has, in recent years, been rendered in an abstracted, "iconographic" style. As with so many areas of Orthodox doctrine and theology, answers can be found in the Orthodox Church's iconographic and liturgical traditions. The Orthodox position on St Joseph is quite different from that held by the Roman Catholic church, and this is reflected in the liturgical and iconographic repository of the Church.

If you would like me to post more details on this, I would be happy to do so.
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