Critical phases in the development of the iconography of the Crucifixion in Byzantine art
Banner, Diane K.
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The iconography of the Crucifixion underwent much development and change during the long history of Byzantine art. The development followed the course of theological debate, and was particularly influenced by the Christological controversies which centered around the Divine and human Natures as they were combined in Christ. Generally, it was the variation in the emphasis placed upon either Christ's Divinity or humanity, as was demanded by the dogmatic needs and trends of a particular era, which influenced the way in which the Crucifixion was depicted. Chapter I examines the attitudes of early Christians toward the practice of crucifixion, their reluctance to depict the Crucifixion of Christ in art and its relatively late appearance in the history of Christian imagery. The iconography of the Crucifixion during the pre-iconoclastic period, as it evolved from the fifth through the early eighth century, is discussed in Chapter II. This development was strongly influenced by the growth of pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land. Furthermore, during this era, it was considered vital to stress Christ's Divinity and the certainty of the Resurrection, by always representing Christ as the victor over death, alive upon the Cross. The Iconoclastic Controversy (A.D. 726-843) resulted in dogmatic debate over the degree to which the Divine and human Natures were combined in the Person of Christ. The victorious iconodule position stressed Christ's human Nature; and, therefore, post-iconoclastic representations of the Crucifixion emphasize Christ's human Nature by representing Him as dead upon the Cross. Chapter III discusses theological aspects of the Iconoclastic Controversy relative to the Crucifixion, and by examining a number of transitional works, including four icons and two monastic psalters, seeks to analyze the nature of the changes seen in the iconography of the Crucifixion as it evolves from its pre-iconoclastic form to its post-iconoclastic form. The post-iconoclastic iconography of the Crucifixion reached its culmination in monumental representations, which functioned as visual symbols for the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church. Chapter IV examines the post-iconoclastic monumental manifestation of the Crucifixion as seen in five churches of the Middle Byzantine Period (A.D. 843-1204) .