An article I have written has been published by the online Orthodox Arts Journal under the title The Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Council of Frankfurt and the Practice of Painting. The Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 AD gave authoritative approval to the veneration of icons. The Council of Frankfurt (794 AD) was summoned by Charlemagne as part of his project of distancing the Western Church from the Roman Empire centred on Constantinople. Charlemagne wanted to condemn the practise of venerating icons but was inhibited by the Pope (Hadrian I). I am arguing that although this was all obviously political there was a real difference between the classical culture of Rome and the culture of the peoples gathered round Charlemagne who had never been part of the Empire, most notably the Celts (Irish and Welsh) and Anglo Saxons (in particular the Northumbrians who had been converted to Christianity from Ireland). The main texts arguing for the veneration of icons, by St John of Damascus and St Theodore the Studite, were unknown in the West, but if they had been known, I suggest that the ‘insular’ monks would not have understood them. The argument was based on the idea that the artist’s job was to produce a likeness of something in the natural world. The insular (Celtic/Anglo Saxon) idea was quite different. I characterise it as ‘rhythmic’ and try to give a summary account of it.
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