Religions in Conflict: From Polemics to Wars (Late Antiquity - 18th Century)
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From Invisible to Visible: Why did Early Christian Art change?

Robin Cormack, Courtauld Institute of Art, London

This paper addresses the conflict and rivalry of religions from the viewpoint of art history. It focusses on the beginning of Christianity and its institutions, and asks how the productions of art in society can help to illuminate the conflict between Christianity, Judaism and pagan religions. It argues that missionary activities on all sides were intensified through the use of art and the choices of art forms which were made. It argues that it was conflict which determined the character of early Christian art, which changed its forms around the year 200. The paper will initially focus on the period between 200 and the conversion to Christianity of the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century. By excluding later developments this allows some precision about the nature of this period of conflict, and the ultimate Christian triumph.

The paper will also turn to the period of iconoclasm in Byzantine art of the 8th and 9th century, and ask how far again the evidence of art as part of an integrated missionary activity can illuminate conflicts between Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Iconoclasm is used as comparative evidence of a similar pattern of the war of images.

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2004: Univeristy of Thessaly - Department. of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology