A symposium on art and cult can review the questions and come to terms with the notion of religious art in a society as complex as Byzantium. Is there anything in which religion and cult is not embedded?
What is a cult object? Is it limited to church use? Can the recent publications of Typika by Dumbarton Oaks help us to decide how archaeological and museum objects functioned in ceremonial and ritual? Can we say what the required cult objects were for any church from the inventories that we have? What are the problems in using typika and their inventories?
Perhaps the fundamental way in which art historians use the word cult is in connection with the worship of particular saints and places. The recent study of military saints by Christopher Walter attempts to distinguish fact and fiction in the cult of saints like St George and St Demetrios. How far can art history document the history of their cults and explain their power? What is the relation between their cult, their art and their relics?
Emperors, monasteries and towns used saints, and hence relics, in order to establish both authority and boundaries. Relics were probably the most important treasure brought to the West from Constantinople as a result of the Fourth Crusade. Relics became the special locus of access to the divine in western Christianity, a role played increasingly in the East by holy images: icons.
In the cult of Mary, the question remains why it took such a central place in Byzantine life. How far did the use of Apocryphal Gospels help this development, or is there some other explanation for the cult of the Virgin Mary in Byzantium? In this area, as in that of military saints, we might want to reconsider whether there is such as thing as "popular religion" in Byzantium. It is worth asking whether the anthropological studies of Tinos and other cult centers, which are still the centre of cult pilgrimage, can contribute to the understanding of the Byzantine experience.
There have been many studies on the development of the templon/iconostasis in Byzantium and how the screen influenced the character of Byzantine ritual, ceremonial and indeed the participation of the congregation in the liturgy. But with new information, which is now emerging from recent research about icons and functions, it is time to revisit the iconostasis.