In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Icons

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Catalogues
  • Various Media
  • Social Questions
  • Epigrams
  • Icons and Ritual
  • Essay Collections
  • Conservation and Technical Research
  • Cross-Cultural Analyses

Medieval Studies Icons
Glenn Peers
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0086


In Greek, “icon” comprises the widest possible range of meanings for images, from mental impressions to material objects. This article focuses exclusively on the latter, but in all media, from panel painting to pilgrimage token. It provides some guidance into theoretical and theological understandings of icons from the medieval period to the present. In that sense, icons also have a long history, from the Early Christian period to the modern world, and their essential place in devotion represents faith traditions throughout the Western world, the Middle East, and Orthodox communities everywhere.

Introductory Works

Bibliography for icons is widely scattered, but this study also demands understanding of cultural and historical contexts that are not always provided in art historical or theological studies. Both Jeffreys, et al. 2008 and Kazhdan 1991 provide accessible material on essential aspects of medieval icon culture.

  • Jeffreys, Elizabeth, John Haldon, and Robin Cormack, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    Several essays in this handbook give concise treatments of media, types, and contexts for icons.

  • Johnson, Scott F., ed. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195336931.001.0001

    A more up-to-date (than the other introductory works cited here) set of essays that deal with the period transitioning from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, a period of great change and momentous events.

  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

    Essential reference work for all aspects of Byzantine culture and history, as they pertain to icons.

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