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Icons and Imagery

Holy one, be the guardian of my words and my life.

Seals can be viewed as microcosms of wider Byzantine visual culture, both religious and secular. Designs on seals could function as expressions of piety, affiliation, social status, or social aspiration that connect outwards to other media. The inspiration for the design of a seal could come from the empire, a neighboring culture, or the past. Whether to make their owner stand out, fit in, or both, the images used on seals were an important part of projecting self-identity.

Through their interplay of text and image, seals could express deeply personal devotion while also publicly broadcasting that piety to the world. The evolution of their iconography and invocative inscriptions reveals popular engagement with theological debates and how pious expression evolved in response to changing religious practices and the growing importance of individualism in Byzantium.

 

Exhibit Items