Adjusting the Image – Processes of Hybridization in Visual Culture: A Perspective from Early Christian and Byzantine Archaeology

  • Ute VerstegenEmail author
Part of the Transcultural Research – Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context book series (TRANSCULT)


Since Christian visual culture emerged from the substratum of antique pagan imagery in the late second – third century AD, the relationship between iconoclastic and iconophile views has oscillated in Christianity. The basis of the criticism against imagery was the ban imposed in the Old Testament, which was interpreted, depending on exegetical stringency, as a strict ban on either the production of images of God or of any representation of animated creatures. In the eighth century, the confrontation between the opposing inner-Christian positions culminated in the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy. With reference to the actual discourse of hybridity in cultural theory, this paper provides a case study of processes in the eighth century which took place in the Syro-Palestinian region during the clash of Christian and Muslim Arab religious ideas and visual cultures. Archaeological investigations of church interiors in this area have documented a trend towards geometrical motifs on the one hand, and deliberate destruction of older figural representations on the other: mosaic tesserae were removed from relevant places in floor mosaics and rearranged on the same spot into abstract or floral motifs. These discoveries raise the questions of the agents’ identity and the backgrounds to these iconophobic acts.


Ninth Century Sixth Century Seventh Century Christian Church Eighth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Angenendt, Arnold. 2001. “Der römische und gallisch-fränkische Anti-Ikonoklasmus.” Frühmittel-alterliche Studien 35: 201–225.Google Scholar
  2. Auzépy, Marie-France. 1997. La vie d’Étienne le Jeune par Étienne le Diacre: Introduction, édition et traduction. Aldershot: Variorum.Google Scholar
  3. Avi-Yonah, Michael. 1932. “Mosaic Pavements in Palestine.” Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 2: 136–181.Google Scholar
  4. Avi-Yonah, Michael. 1933. “Mosaic Pavements in Palestine.” Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 3: 26–47, 49–73.Google Scholar
  5. Barnard, Leslie W. 1974. The Graeco-Roman and Oriental Background of the Iconoclastic Controversy. Byzantina Neerlandica 5. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  6. Bashear, Suliman. 1991. “Qibla Musharriqa and Early Muslim Prayer in Churches.” The Muslim World 81: 267–282, accessed February 11, 2011, doi:  10.1111/j.1478-1913.1991.tb03531.x.
  7. Baumann, Peter. 1999. Spätantike Stifter im Heiligen Land: Darstellungen und Inschriften auf Bodenmosaiken in Kirchen, Synagogen und Privathäusern. Spätantike - frühes Christentum - Byzanz, Reihe B: Studien und Perspektiven 5. Wiesbaden: Reichert.Google Scholar
  8. Baynes, Norman H. 1951. “Idolatry and the Early Church.” The Harvard Theological Review 44: 39–106.Google Scholar
  9. Belting, Hans. 2004. Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst. 6th ed. Munich: Beck.Google Scholar
  10. Belting, Hans. 2008. Florenz und Bagdad: Eine westöstliche Geschichte des Blicks. Munich: Beck.Google Scholar
  11. Besançon, Alain. 2000. The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bhabha, Homi K. 1994. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Bhabha, Homi K. 1998. “Culture’s In-Between.” In Questions of Cultural Identity, edited by Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay, 53–60. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Blázquez Martínez, José M. 1996. “Arte bizantino antiguo de tradición clasica enl desierto jordano: Los mosaicos de Um er-Rasas.” Goya 1996, H. 255: 130–143.Google Scholar
  15. Bonz, Jochen, and Karin Struve. 2006. “Homi K. Bhabha: Auf der Innenseite kultureller Differenz: “in the middle of differences”.” In Kultur: Theorien der Gegenwart, edited by Stephan Moebius and Dirk Quadflieg, 140–153. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Borgolte, Michael, and Bernd Schneidmüller, eds. 2009. Hybride Kulturen im mittelalterlichen Europa: Vorträge und Workshops einer internationalen Frühlingsschule. Europa im Mittelalter 16. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Bowersock, Glen W. 2006. Mosaics as History: The Near East from Late Antiquity to Islam. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Bredekamp, Horst. 1975. Kunst als Medium sozialer Konflikte: Bilderkämpfe von der Spätantike bis zur Hussitenrevolution. Edition Suhrkamp 763. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  19. Brisch, Klaus 1988. “Observations on the Iconography of the Mosaics in the Great Mosque at Damascus.” In Content and Context of Visual Arts in the Islamic World: Papers from a Colloquium in Memory of Richard Ettinghausen, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 2 – 4 April 1980, Monographs on the Fine Arts 44, edited by Priscilla Soucek, 13–20. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Brubaker, Leslie, and John Haldon. 2001. Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era (ca 680 – 850): The Sources: An Annotated Survey. Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Monographs 7. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  21. Bryer, Anthony, and Judith Herrin, eds. 1977. Iconoclasm: Papers given at the ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975. Birmingham: Centre for Byzantine Studies University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  22. Derfler, Steven L. 2003. “The Byzantine Church at Tel Kerioth and Religious Iconoclasm in the 8th Century: The 1991–1994 Seasons of Excavation.” ARAM 15: 39–47, accessed February 11, 2011, doi:  10.2143/ARAM.15.0.504524.
  23. Dohmen, Christoph, and Thomas Sternberg, eds. 1987. … kein Bildnis machen: Kunst und Theologie im Gespräch. Würzburg: Echter.Google Scholar
  24. El Cheikh, Nadia Maria. 2004. Byzantium Viewed by the Arabs. Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs, 36. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Elliger, Walter. 1930. Die Stellung der alten Christen zu den Bildern in den ersten vier Jahrhunderten: Nach den Angaben der zeitgenössischen kirchlichen Schriftsteller. Leipzig: Dieterich.Google Scholar
  26. Feld, Helmut. 1990. Der Ikonoklasmus des Westens. Studies in the history of Christian thought 41. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  27. Fine, Steven. 2000. “Iconoclasm and the art of late-antique Palestinian synagogues.” In From Dura to Sepphoris: Studies in Jewish art and society in late antiquity. Journal of Roman archaeology, Supplementary series 40, edited by Lee I. Levine and Zeev Weiss, 183–194. Portsmouth, RI: Journal of Roman Archaeology.Google Scholar
  28. Flood, Finbarr Barry. 2001. The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad Visual Culture. Islamic history and civilization 33. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  29. Gero, Stephen. 1973. Byzantine Iconoclasm during the Reign of Leo III: With Particular Attention to the Oriental Sources. Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 346, Subsidia 41. Louvain: Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium.Google Scholar
  30. Giakalis, Ambrosios. 2005. Images of the Divine: The Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Studies in the history of Christian thought 122. Rev. ed. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  31. Gibb, Hamilton A. R. 1958. “Arab-Byzantine Relations under the Umayyad Caliphate.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 12: 219–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Grabar, André. 1957. L’ iconoclasme byzantin: Dossier archéologique. Paris: Collège de France.Google Scholar
  33. Grabar, Oleg. 1977. “Islam and Iconoclasm.” In Iconoclasm: Papers given at the ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975, edited by Anthony Bryer and Judith Herrin, 45–52. Birmingham: Centre for Byzantine Studies University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  34. Griffith, Sidney H. 1997. “Byzantium and the Christians in the World of Islam: Constantinople and the Church in the Holy Land in the Ninth Century.” Medieval Encounters 3: 231–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Griffith, Sidney H. 1998. “What has Constantinople to do with Jerusalem? Palestine in the Ninth Century: Byzantine Orthodoxy in the World of Islam.” In Byzantium in the Ninth Century: Dead or Alive?. Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Publications 5, edited by Leslie Brubaker, 181–194. Aldershot: Ashgate/Variorum.Google Scholar
  36. Griffith, Sidney H. 2008. “John of Damascus and the Church in Syria in the Umayyad Era: The Intellectual and Cultural Milieu of Orthodox Christians in the World of Islam.” Hugoye. Journal of Syriac Studies 11, no. 2. Accessed February 28, 2010.
  37. Hall, Stuart. 1994. Rassismus und kulturelle Identität. Das Argument 226. Hamburg: Argument-Verlag.Google Scholar
  38. Hausammann, Susanne. 2004. Alte Kirche, vol. IV: Das Christusbekenntnis in Ost und West. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag.Google Scholar
  39. Helas, Philine. 2003. “Ikonoklasmus.” In Metzler-Lexikon Kunstwissenschaft: Ideen, Methoden, Begriffe, edited by Ulrich Pfisterer, 155–158. Stuttgart: Metzler.Google Scholar
  40. Irmscher, Johannes. 1980. Der byzantinische Bilderstreit: Sozialökonomische Voraussetzungen - ideologische Grundlagen - geschichtliche Wirkungen. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang.Google Scholar
  41. Jäggi, Carola. 2009. “Das kontrollierte Bild: Auseinandersetzungen um Bedeutung und Gebrauch von Bildern in der christlichen Frühzeit und im Mittelalter.” In Medien unter Kontrolle, edited by Sven Grampp, Daniel Meier, and Sandra Rühr, 18–31. Erlangen: Buchwissenschaft / Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Accessed February 28, 2010.
  42. King, G. R. D. 1985. “Islam, Iconoclasm, and the Declaration of Doctrine.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 48: 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lange, Günter. 2007. “Der byzantinische Bilderstreit und das Bilderkonzil von Nikaia (787).” In Handbuch der Bildtheologie, vol. I: Bild-Konflikte, edited by Reinhard Hoeps, 171–190. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar
  44. Mango, Cyril. (1972)1993. The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312 – 1453: Sources and Documents. Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 16. Reprint,Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  45. Mansi, Giovanni Domenico. 1960. Sacrorum conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio. Unveränd. Nachdr. d. Ausg. Paris 1901–1927. Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt.Google Scholar
  46. Martin, Edward J. (1930)1978. A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy. Church Historical Society’s publications 2. Reprint,London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.Google Scholar
  47. McClanan, Anne L. and Jeff Johnson, eds. 2005. Negating the Image: Case Studies in Iconoclasm. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  48. Möseneder, Karl, ed. 1997. Streit um Bilder: Von Byzanz bis Duchamp. Berlin: Reimer.Google Scholar
  49. Mundell, Marlia. 1977. “Monophysite Church Decoration.” In Iconoclasm: Papers given at the ninth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, University of Birmingham, March 1975, edited by Anthony Bryer, and Judith Herrin, 59–74. Birmingham: Centre for Byzantine Studies University of Birmingham.Google Scholar
  50. Naef, Silvia. 2007. Bilder und Bilderverbot im Islam: Vom Koran bis zum Karikaturenstreit. Munich: Beck.Google Scholar
  51. Noble, Thomas F. X. 2009. Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians. Philadelphia, Oxford: University of Pennsylvania Press, Oxford Creative Marketing.Google Scholar
  52. Ognibene, Susanna. 2002. Umm al-Rasas: La chiesa di Santo Stefano ed ilProblema iconofobico”. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider.Google Scholar
  53. Ovadiah, Asher, and Carla Gomez de Silva. 1981. “Supplementum to the Corpus of the Byzantine Churches in the Holy Land, Part I: Newly Discovered Churches.” Levant 13: 200–261.Google Scholar
  54. Ovadiah, Asher, and Ruth Ovadiah. 1987. Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine Mosaic Pavements in Israel. Bibliotheca Archaeologica 6. Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider.Google Scholar
  55. Paret, Rudi 1960. “Textbelege zum islamischen Bilderverbot.” In Das Werk des Künstlers: Studien zur Ikonographie und Formgeschichte: Hubert Schrade zum 60. Geburtstag dargebracht von Kollegen und Schülern, edited by Hans Fegers, 36–48. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.Google Scholar
  56. Paret, Rudi. 1976–77. “Die Entstehungszeit des islamischen Bilderverbots.” Kunst des Orients 11: 158–181.Google Scholar
  57. Piccirillo, Michele. 1993. The Mosaics of Jordan. Amman: American Center of Oriental Research.Google Scholar
  58. Piccirillo, Michele. 1996. “Iconofobia o iconoclastia nelle chiese di Giordania?” In Bisanzio e l’Occidente. Arte, archeologia, storia. Studi in onore di Fernanda de’ Maffei, edited by Claudia Barsanti and Alessandra Acconci, 173–191. Rome: Viella.Google Scholar
  59. Piccirillo, Michele. 1998. “Les mosaïques d’époque omeyyade des églises de la Jordanie.” Syria 75: 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Piccirillo, Michele. 2002. L’ Arabia cristiana: Dalla provincia imperiale al primo periodo Islamico. Milan: Jaca Book.Google Scholar
  61. Piccirillo, Michele, and Eugenio Alliata. 1994. Umm al-Rasas Mayfa’ah, vol. I: Gli scavi del complesso di Santo Stefano. Jerusalem: Studium Biblicum Franciscanum.Google Scholar
  62. Ribak, Eliya. 2007. Religious Communities in Byzantine Palestina: The Relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, AD 400–700. BAR International series 1646. Oxford: Archaeopress.Google Scholar
  63. Said, Edward W. 1994. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  64. Schick, Robert. 1995. The Christian Communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic Rule: A Historical and Archaeolgical Study. Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam 2. Princeton, NJ: Darwin Press.Google Scholar
  65. Seibel, Klaudia. 2008. “Hybridisierung.” In Metzler Lexikon Literatur- und Kulturtheorie. Ansätze - Personen – Grundbegriffe, 4th ed., edited by Ansgar Nünning, 297. Stuttgart: Metzler.Google Scholar
  66. Shboul, Ahmad, and Alan Walmsley. 1998. “Identity and Self-Image in Syria-Palestine in the Transition from Byzantine to Early Islamic Rule: Arab Christians and Muslims.” Mediterranean Archaeology 11: 255–287.Google Scholar
  67. Shiyyab, Adnan. 2006. Der Islam und der Bilderstreit in Jordanien und Palästina: Archäologische und kunstgeschichtliche Untersuchungen unter Berücksichtigung der "Kirche von Ya’mun". Kunstwissenschaften 14. Munich: Utz.Google Scholar
  68. Speck, Paul. 1990. Ich bin’s nicht, Kaiser Konstantin ist es gewesen: Die Legenden vom Einfluß des Teufels, des Juden und des Moslem auf den Ikonoklasmus. Poikila Byzantina 10. Bonn: Habelt.Google Scholar
  69. Stam, Robert. 1999. “Palimpsestic Aesthetics: A Meditation on Hybridity and Garbage.” In Performing Hybridity, edited by Joseph May and Jennifer Natalya Fink, 59–78. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  70. Stock, Alex. 2007. “Frühchristliche Bildpolemik. Das Neue Testament und die Polemik des 2. Jahrhunderts.” In Handbuch der Bildtheologie, vol. I: Bild-Konflikte, edited by Reinhard Hoeps, 120–138. Paderborn: Schöningh.Google Scholar
  71. Thomsen, Christian W, ed. 1994. Hybridkultur: Bildschirmmedien und Evolutionsformen der Künste: Annäherungen an ein interdisziplinäres Problem. Arbeitshefte Bildschirmmedien 46. Siegen: DFG Sonderforschungsbereich 240.Google Scholar
  72. Tschernokoshewa, Elka, and Marija Juri-Pahor. 2005. Auf der Suche nach hybriden Lebensgeschichten: Theorie - Feldforschung - Praxis. Hybride Welten 3. Münster: Waxmann.Google Scholar
  73. Tzaferis, Vassilios. 1984. “The Early Christian Basilica of Kursi.” In Actes du Xe Congrès International d’Archéologie Chrétienne, Thessalonique 28 septembre – 4 octobre 1980. Πρακτικά τoυ 10oυ Διεθνoύς Συνεδρίoυ Χριστιανικής Aρχαιoλoγίας, Θεσσαλoνίκη 28 Σεπτεμβρίoυ – 4 Oκτoβρίoυ 1980, vol. II: Communications, B: Aνακoινώσεις, 605–611. Studi di antichità cristiana 27. Città del Vaticano, Thessaloniki.Google Scholar
  74. Tzaferis, Vassilios. 1993. “The Early Christian Monastery at Kursi.” In Ancient Churches Revealed, edited by Yoram Tsafrir, 77–79. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.Google Scholar
  75. van Reenen, Dan. 1990. “The Bilderverbot: A New Survey.” Der Islam 67: 27–77.Google Scholar
  76. Vasiliev, Alexander Alexandrovich. 1955–56. “The Iconoclastic Edict of the Caliph Yazid II. A.D. 721.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 9–10: 23–47.Google Scholar
  77. Wüstenfeld, Ferdinand. 1860. Geschichte der Stadt Medina im Auszuge aus dem Arabischen des Samhûdi. Abhandlungen der K. Ges. d. Wiss. zu Göttingen 9. Göttingen: Dieterich.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehrstuhl Christliche Archäologie und KunstgeschichteFriedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-NürnbergNurembergGermany

Personalised recommendations