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Religious Imagery: Synods and Iconoclasts

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Much to our understanding, The Synod’s and Iconoclasts believed that Christ is uniformly both God and man, having two natures integrated in perfect harmony. Iconic artworks were typified, usually depicting the separation of God and man, and, according to the Synod’s and Iconoclasts, one that indulges in the separation of natures would create blasphemy by visually proposing Christ’s humanity by its lonesome. Thus, typified iconic art, which visually depicted Christ, was seen as heresy. In polytheistic cultures, Gods often did not embody omniscient status. Gods were complicating beings consisting of individuality, much like humans. The Gods of polytheistic cultures often shared similarities to humans, some having more significance and some having less, but each god had skill or knowledge that would set them apart from the rest.

As such, polytheistic religious imagery embodied these ideas, often portraying their Gods to be similar to humans by capturing their personality and individual needs. This was in complete contrast to the Iconoclasts’ understanding of religious imagery. In monotheistic religions such as Christianity there is only one god, thus, religious imagery must encapsulate God in an omnipotent bubble. In Christianity, man must serve the creator more than the creation, and, according to the Iconoclasts, the artwork must be as such. However, religious imagery in polytheistic cultures often had different interpretations of one God. Thus, polytheistic religious imagery was more susceptible to different interpretations, whereas monotheistic religious imagery must not be corruptible by man. Byzantine artists had an infatuation with depicting spiritual ideas that were mysterious at the time. They stayed away from depicting ideal humans. Byzantine artworks were products of pictorial styles. The techniques of the Byzantine Empire consisted of mixtures of Greek and Egyptian art. Mosaics were the preferred art form for depicting religious imagery.

For example, the mosaic of the emperor showed his majesty crowded by his servants. The tight demeanor and fancy robes give the impression of royalty and class. This mosaic was located in a church and was seen in high regard. However, the most famous building of the era is most definitely Hagia Sophia. Created for the Virgin, the architecture of the building is monstrous to the extent where the human eye cannot partake in indulging it all. It was designed by the architects in a way that would lead the human eye to intake the building in small doses. The building was made vast with space so that one would feel heavenly when the human eye meets the eyes of Christ. To invoke a feeling of form, meticulously added domes stack on top of each other. The Tree of Jesse is an example of an iconic artwork. There are four kings next to trunks and branches and on top of the tree lies Christ, who is consequently created after Virgin Mary.

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