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The legends about the Mandylion and other acheiropoieta of Christ reveal their inspiration through metaphors of divine craftsmanship encountered in early Christian homilies. The parallels strongly suggest an allegorical meaning of these legends that points to the Incarnation of Christ, which is reinforced by the semantics of the objects’ materials – cloth and clay. This chapter demonstrates that possession of the Mandylion was of key significance for Byzantine claims to religious orthodoxy and superiority, in keeping with the Byzantines’ self-perception as the New Israel, God’s Chosen People.
Seminal iconographic innovations in early Christian images of the divinely inspired evangelists reflect fundamentally changed attitudes toward the authenticity and authority of sacred texts. These portraits depart significantly from relevant pagan and Jewish imagery in that they emphasize the accurate documentation of the revealed texts in writing. The early Byzantine iconography of divine inspiration substantiates visually claims of Christianity being the only “true religion” that were expressed by late antique theologians and are also manifest in imperial legislation.
Responding to obviously persisting concerns regarding the venerability of icons in the post-Iconoclastic era, some of the empire’s leading theologians made the novel claim that it is not human artistry, but divine inspiration that ultimately ensures the icon’s authenticity – its resemblance to its prototype. Just as with Christian literature, the divine inspiration of material images guarantees their faithfulness, and it is divine inspiration that also releases the work of art from the realm of ‘dead’ matter, enlivening it with the divine pneuma.
After Iconoclasm, portraits of the inspired evangelists continue to clearly dominate in number among depictions of biblical authors receiving divine revelations. This chapter’s textual and visual analysis reveals a hierarchy among biblical authors that applies even to those of the canonical Gospels: John is the only evangelist whose divine inspiration is particularly highlighted in the hagiographical literature, and his privileged role is also strongly reflected in art.
In this volume, Karin Krause examines conceptions of divine inspiration and authenticity in the religious literature and visual arts of Byzantium. During antiquity and the medieval era, “inspiration” encompassed a range of ideas regarding the divine contribution to the creation of holy texts, icons, and other material objects by human beings. Krause traces the origins of the notion of divine inspiration in the Jewish and polytheistic cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds and their reception in Byzantine religious culture. Exploring how conceptions of authenticity are employed in Eastern Orthodox Christianity to claim religious authority, she analyzes texts in a range of genres, as well as images in different media, including manuscript illumination, icons, and mosaics. Her interdisciplinary study demonstrates the pivotal role that claims to the divine inspiration of religious literature and art played in the construction of Byzantine cultural identity.
This book presents a sustained examination of conceptions of divine inspiration in the literature and visual arts of Byzantium (c. 330–1453). The subject has hitherto never been treated systematically, and its pivotal relevance to the formation of Eastern Orthodox religious doctrine and identity has thus been underestimated. What the book investigates under the umbrella term “inspiration” encompasses the variety of circumstances under which texts as well as material artifacts were conveyed to human recipients by divine initiative. The thesis guiding this investigation is that arguments about the divine origin of sacred literature and art were variously employed in Byzantium to claim and confirm authenticity in order to derive from it religious authority.
On the first Sunday of Lent in 843, the restoration of the cult of icons was publicly proclaimed in Constantinople by the newly elected Patriarch Methodius. Iconoclasm was condemned as a heresy, joining the numerous other forms of declared religious error that had been anathematized over the centuries. In the following year, the reinstitution of icons was commemorated for the first time in a feast that the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates to this day as the “Sunday of Orthodoxy” or “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.” Significantly, this festival not only commemorates the reinstitution of icons, but serves as an occasion for the public condemnation of all heresies. In the eleventh century, the historian Michael Attaleiates commented that on the first Sunday of Lent, “The Church is wont to separate the orthodox from the heretics and anathematize the heterodox.” The feast thus commemorates the triumph of the “true religion”; indeed, it was regarded by some as a celebration of the very birth of orthodoxy.
This chapter takes a fresh look at the ideological and theological significance of the Mandylion of Edessa, an object of unparalleled importance for the religious identity of the Byzantines. Departing significantly from previous scholarship, it argues that the legend of the Mandylion is not about an especially authentic visual portrait of Christ’s face, but rather about Christ as the true image (eikon) of God the Father, understood in a purely ontological sense. Middle Byzantine theological writings about the Mandylion ought also to be read as late contributions to the debate on the legitimacy of visual representations of Christ.
The deployment of the Church Fathers for the definition and defense of “the correct faith” is reflected in a wealth of images, literary and visual, that showcase the divine inspiration of the patristic literature. Similar to what has been observed with regard to authors of biblical books, a select group of fathers was elevated in importance, among whom John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nazianzus were preeminent. This hierarchy is evidenced by visual images, indeed far more expressly than in literature.