The Structure of Byzantine and European Iconoclasm

Freedberg, David A.

While Byzantine Iconoclasm has received much attention from scholars, European Iconoclasm, until very recently, has been a surprisingly neglected phenomenon. Byzantinists have been prepared to explore the implications and significance of Iconoclasm generally, for both doctrinal history and for the history of art, and have not stunk from arguing tenaciously about its genesis, motivation and scope. But the same cannot be said for European historians: Iconoclasm in post-Byzantine Europe still awaits adequate comprehensive treatment.

Outbreaks of Iconoclasm in Europe have not always been minor and isolated events. In the Reformation it swept countries like England, Germany, France and the Netherlands - to say nothing of Eastern Europe - with a vigor that was as great as anything in the eighth and ninth centuries, and with a polemical backing that was perhaps greater. But the issues it raises parallel this of Byzantine Iconoclasm. Evan the arguments against images were entirely derivative. Nothing could be more misleading that to insist on the absence of a connection, either in fact or in spirit, between the Iconoclasm of the eighth and ninth centuries and that of the Reformation.


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Also Published In

Iconoclasm: Papers Given at the Ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975
Centre for Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham

More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
April 6, 2010


This paper is available in "Iconoclasm" by David A. Freedberg, The University of Chicago Press, Fall 2020.