In the Byzantine there was concern that people would worship the images of Christ rather than Christ himself. Artists were creators, in the image of God, so could create images that were so beautiful they could distract worshipers from God. The icons themselves were venerated as protective objects. The period of iconoclasm reminds me of the Muslim state ban on images of Muhammad, and the Taliban’s deliberate destruction of images of God or animals. Also, in the earlier lesson on Judaism, the text mentioned that there were no images in early Jewish temples. I think it’s interesting that there is a paradox in wanting to inspire religious belief in people by placing amazing artworks in a church — and worrying that the people would then accidentally worship the art rather than the subject.
Monasteries housed the bones or possessions of holy people who’d died. People believed that the bodies of dead saints had the power of healing. This does appear to be misdirected worship, if the church wants people to get all of their meaning from God.
Byzantine churches contained images of the rulers who presided over the land the worshipers lived on. Rulers looked down on the worshipers from the heavens, proclaiming their association with God. Justinian and his wife were depicted with halos that implied their divinely appointed roles — much like Egyptian rulers used symbols to justify their claim to divine power. People were reminded of their ruler’s earthly power through the images, in that way they could be considered to be graven.
Not quite graven, but interesting: Byzantine art snuck some hoochie into their religious art. There’s a water nymph in one scene of the Vienna Genesis, then one of Jacob’s wives had the booty in another scene.