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Theological art designed to convey concepts and ideas in an aesthetic manner. Relies almost exclusively on symbolism to convey certain ideas (large foreheads = wisdom, etc). Icons are designed to elevate the viewer into a more holy world, and as such Icons are generally very glorifying of those portrayed. Function in practice as a symbol of the eastern view of deification.
Began in early 8th century, a movement to condemn/deface/remove icons as in violation of the second commandment. Culminated in the Second Council of Nicea in 787 under Pope Hadrian I. John of Damascus formulated the position which was sucessful at the council (although he died before it occurred): the incarnation means that icons are not in violation of the second commandment because God manifested Himself physically. Iconoclast = opposing icons; Iconodule = supporter of icons.