Worth a Thousand Words: Iconography as Language – Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Worth a Thousand Words: Iconography as Language
JUNE 13, 2016 BY NICHOLAS SENZ 1 COMMENT

The Pascha Icon-for Easter
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” as the saying goes. This common phrase hints at something deeper: the profound ability of images to communicate ideas. This should not surprise us. Words are signs, pointing to something besides themselves. Images, too, can be signs, when they point beyond themselves to indicate something larger. And for these signs, be they words or images, to be intelligible, there must be a sort of structure in which they can be organized and employed to convey their ideas—there must be something like language. Christian iconography has been called a “visual language.” Here we will treat this concept of a “visual language” in greater depth, hoping to give the reader the basics in developing a “conversational iconography.” By setting out the rules and structures by which this language may be said to operate, we will come to a greater understanding of how iconography functions as a medium of communication and education.

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