This event has now finished.
  • Date and time: Friday 7 June 2024, 7.30pm to 8.30pm
  • Location: In-person only
    Heslington Church (Map)
  • Admission: Free admission, booking not required

Event details

Why do some images spark intense controversy? Historian Huw Foden explores how early Christian ideas about the power of images created a diverse spectrum of attitudes towards art. 

The early centuries of Christian art remain enigmatic. Surviving artworks are limited and theological discussion was fragmented. Rather than outright hostility, an image anxiety pervaded, characterised by persistent fears of idolatry and tensions over figurative versus symbolic forms. But this changed dramatically in the eighth and ninth centuries. Discord erupted within the Greek (later Orthodox) Church over the value of images as devotional tools, with fissures even beginning to split it from the Latin (later Catholic) Church on this issue. All parties claimed the support of tradition, casting their shadows over the power of the image in the early Church.

Through a selection of ten late antique and early medieval objects, these early developments in Christian art and discourse around the power of images will be illuminated. From the Reformation to the present day, this legacy has continued to affect our relationships with symbolic objects, ranging from outcry over iconoclastic acts to suspicions of idolatry.

Join Huw and discover the history of ideas that have shaped these image anxieties.

About the speaker

Huw Foden is a York-based historian of early medieval thought and religion. A research project with the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht - the Netherlands' national museum of religious art - provided the genesis for this talk.


Venue details

  • Wheelchair accessible
  • Hearing loop