The cult of icons presents several paradoxes. It runs directly counter to the Old Testament prohibition of ’graven images’ , which was binding on early Christian communities, and it represents an essentially pagan art form, the commemoration of the dead, ancestors, rulers, heroes and divinities both mortal and immortal. This prompts the question: how did icons come to hold such a central position in Christian art? Had the church simply ignored the heathen roots and Mosaic interdiction of this type of representative art? Or had it justified a Christian adap­ tation and re-employment of older art forms by theological argu­ ment? One answer was given in the eighth century, when the Byzantine empire tried to resolve the apparent contradiction built into this early Christian art by destroying icons and figurative art. A different one was developed by the western church, which was not prepared to do away with its own tradi­ tion, supported by no less an authority than Pope Gregory the Great: ’For what writing [scriptura] presents to readers, this a picture [pictura] presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow: in it the illiterate read. Hence, and chiefly to the nations [gentibus] , a picture is instead of reading.’1 The challenge of iconoclasm revealed a deep commitment to Christian art, both in the East where icon veneration finally triumphed and in the West where destruction was rejected outright. When under attack the icons found intense support throughout the church, although this iconophile response differed in important respects. In this paper I shall be primarily concerned with the eastern response, that faith in icons which represents a more personal type of dedication to Christian images.