Author Topic: Why no icons in the west?  (Read 2492 times)

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Offline TruthSeeker

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Why no icons in the west?
« on: November 09, 2005, 12:51:08 AM »
What is the history in regard to why there are icons in the east and not in the west ie: Roman catholic?

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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2005, 01:20:12 AM »
There are many famous icons in the west, mainly frescoes and mosaics, but some portable ones also. Some examples would be the frescos and mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore and the San Damiano Crucifix in Italy.
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Offline TruthSeeker

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2005, 02:37:36 AM »
There are many famous icons in the west, mainly frescoes and mosaics, but some portable ones also. Some examples would be the frescos and mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore and the San Damiano Crucifix in Italy.


I didn't know that thanx.........but what I was getting at was why the RC tradition doesn't have icons in the church but rather statues...and these statues don't have the same meaning as the icon in orthodoxy.
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Offline ozgeorge

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2005, 07:59:46 AM »
I don't think it's specifically statues that Orthodoxy has a problem with- that is, it is not simply the fact that they are three dimensional, but rather the fact that they do not follow standard rules of iconography. An Icon is the Word of God in graphical form and hence they are copied in a very stylized way following strict rules- eg. the Theotokos always has the three stars on her forehead and shoulders, a Deacon Saint holds a censer and wears a stole over one shoulder with "Holy Holy Holy" written on it...etc. This "standardizes" icons so wherever you go in the world, you can "read" the meaning of the icon. Ask an Orthodox child where Christ was born, and they'll tell you He was born in a cave used as a stable and that "swaddling cloths" resemble the wrappings of an Egyptian Mummy, ask a Roman Catholic child the same question and they'll tell you he was born in a purpose built stable resembling ones found in Amish communities and that "swaddling cloths" means a daiper..
Icons allow for a more accurate,ÂÂ  fuller and detailed depiction of the Word of God
« Last Edit: November 09, 2005, 08:01:40 AM by ozgeorge »
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Offline prodromos

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2005, 08:08:36 AM »
It is also near impossible to depict the glorified nature of the saints in statues.

Offline Keble

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2005, 09:05:33 AM »
I didn't know that thanx.........but what I was getting at was why the RC tradition doesn't have icons in the church but rather statues...and these statues don't have the same meaning as the icon in orthodoxy.

This thread is going to degenerate into anti-Roman differentiation, and I would expect someone making the last statement to be able to explain what these two supposedly different meanings are.

Offline TruthSeeker

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2005, 11:46:28 AM »
Good replies..........

But why didn't the church in Rome adopt icons....why is it an "eastern thing"?

Did they have icons in their churches before the east separated from the west or did they always have only statues?


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Offline DavidH

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2005, 12:10:03 PM »
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   The Western Church did have icons almost exclusively (apart from raised reliefs as the East also had) but they began to move toward statues after the Romanesque period of art and into the Gothic period. I don't think it became pervasive to the near exclusion of icons until the Renaissance with the enthusiastic imitation of the Classical Greco-Roman art of the pagan Roman empire.

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Offline Keble

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2005, 01:32:09 PM »
I would largely agree with the last post, with two exceptions. First, mural iconography, to the degree that it did die away in the West, did so only regionally. German and Latin American churches had heavily decorated walls all through the 1700s. It should also be recalled that stained glass is a form of mural iconography.

Second-- and to me this is THE signal difference-- the big difference in architectural evolution between east and west is the development of the iconostasis in the East, versus the altarpiece in the West. One sees both sculptural and painted altarpieces, and Protestant constructions that are neither, but the crucial point is that the altarpiece plays no formal part in the liturgy, whereas the iconostasis does.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2005, 01:32:59 PM by Keble »

Offline Timos

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2005, 02:15:25 PM »
In some ways, Western churches (and by this i mean traditional Romanesque basilica) style is more ancient than that of the East. For example, the iconostasion didn't rise up in the Eastern churches until the early-mid Middle Ages..Before the iconostasion became such it was just an altar rail in front of the altar (about kness length) with some icons hanging down it. (Traditional pre-Vatican II ) churches today have this altar rail before the altar. Icons can be hung on the reredoes behind the altar or statues can be on either side of the altar.

As for not depicting the glory of the saints what does that mean? Some statues have halos which show the glory of the saint. One vivdly comes ot mind--in St. Anne de Beau Pre Cathedral in Quebec, theres an outstanding statue of St. Anne carrying the Theotokos as a baby and there are golden shafts sticking out of the back of the statue making it look like its gleaming (kind of like those cherubic fans in our churches with those sharp pointy golden points meant to symbolize the glory of the angels).

In California there is a GOA church which barely has an iconostasis (St. Pauls in Irvine if I'm not mistaken) and it has a very low iconostasion (about knee height) and some icons on it...kind of like early middle ages byzantine churches before the iconostasion developed. Really, an iconostasion or lack thereof does not automatically take away from the Orthodoxy of a church.


Offline Αριστοκλής

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Re: Why no icons in the west?
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2005, 02:35:43 PM »
In some ways, Western churches (and by this i mean traditional Romanesque basilica) style is more ancient than that of the East. For example, the iconostasion didn't rise up in the Eastern churches until the early-mid Middle Ages..Before the iconostasion became such it was just an altar rail in front of the altar (about kness length) with some icons hanging down it. (Traditional pre-Vatican II ) churches today have this altar rail before the altar. Icons can be hung on the reredoes behind the altar or statues can be on either side of the altar.


Timos is probably pretty correct here. I can't imagine the Church of the Holy Wisdom in Constantinople with the full-blown iconostasis we see today. I would think it's development occurred mostly post-787 when the (then Orthodox) Bishop of Rome guided the Church in the east out of the iconoclastic errors.
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