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Byzantine Art on Icon

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Byzantine Art on Icon

The artwork of Hodegetria Mother of God in the Byzantine Empire is an iconographic depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus Christ on her left arm while pointing to him with the right signaling mankind that He is their salvation. This form of art mostly appears in form of a mosaic in the many versions that were made across the empire. This style known as the tempera consists plaster ground on canvas, the base being on a wooden board. Although copies were made the original is thought to have been brought back from the holy land and is also thought to have been painted by Saint Luke himself.

The original icon however, was displayed in the Monastery of the Panaghia Hodegetria in Constantinople built specially to contain it. During this time the icon was used particularly in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches. During this period referred to as the iconoclast period there was continued opposition to misuse of images within early Christianity. This image together with other icons gained influence within the church but at the same time created great opposition from theologians who sought to strip them of their power. This icon was important to the spread of the religious doctrine across Western Europe although it was seriously challenged by the Byzantine imperial authority. Through the early centuries different emperors participated in forbidding image veneration and restoring it. It was the empress Regent Theodora that had the last laugh and decisively restored icon veneration. From then all Byzantine coins had a religious image or symbol on one side of the coin with the head of the emperor on the other. The use of this imagery on the coin was supposed to enforce the fact that there was a bond between the state and Christianity.

The spread of this image went hand in hand with the spread of early Christianity. After the period of iconoclasm in Byzantine art the image became more widely used as many versions were created and taken to different parts of the world as Christianity spread. From the Hodegetria developed other slightly different icons of the Virgin Mary And infant Christ that carried different meaning for the church.



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