Holy images and the relics of saints are an essential component of liturgical life and worship in the Christian Orthodoxy, representing at the same time one of the most important elements of the different hierotopic projects. By investigating the form, purpose, and nature of the holy icons and sacred relics, this unit will critically evaluate the cult related to them in both Coptic and Byzantine Orthodox Traditions.
The leading idea of this unit is that the creation of the sacred space in Orthodoxy represents one of the most creative expressions of its theology. At the same time, the unit will ask how the visual and sensory context in Orthodox worship communicates meaning.

Unit code: DL9460A

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Liturgy

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Analyse the form and function of holy images and relics in sacred spaces in the Orthodox Tradition


Critically compare and evaluate the patristic texts relating to the theology of the icon/relics of the saints in Orthodox Tradition


Analyse the liturgical aspects of holy icons and relics in their historical context


Demonstrate research capabilities in the academic field of hierotopy


Critically apply the principles of hierotopy in devotional, liturgical, pastoral, and educational settings


Demonstrate a capacity to research a specific topic in a critically rigorous, sustained and self-directed manner

Unit sequence

1xDL unit


Mixed mode: Face to face, online Blending learning: Lectures and tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

Atalla S, Nabil. Coptic Icons I-II. Cairo: Lehnert and Landrock, 1998. Bryer, Anthony; Judith Herrin (ed.). Iconoclasm. University of Birmingham: Centre for Byzantine Studies, 1977. Brown, Peter. Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity. Berkley: University of California Press, 1989. Cox Miller, Patricia. The Corporal Imagination: Signifying Holy in Late Antiquity Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009. Evans, Helen C. (ed.). Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557). NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art/ New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004. Hahn, Cynthia et. al. Saints and Sacred Matter: The Cult of Relics in Byzantine and Beyond. Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Symposia and Colloquia, 2015. Jensen, Robin Margaret. Understanding Early Christian Art. Routledge, 2013. Mango, Cyril. The Art of the Byzantine Empire 312-1453: Sources and Documents. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972. Maguire, Henry. Icons of their Bodies: Saints and their Images in Byzantium. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996. Nelson, Robert S. and Kirsten M. Collins, eds. Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006. Pantcheva, Bissera V. The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual, and the Senses in Byzantium. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013. Peers, Glenn. Subtle Bodies: Representing Angels in Byzantium. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Safran, Linda, ed. Heaven on Earth: Art and the Church in Byzantium. Penn State University Press, 1997. Saint John of Damascus. Three Treatises on the Divine Images, tr. Andrew Louth. Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2003. On-line resources: Hierotopy – studies in the making of sacred space (

(PG version) Andreopoulos, Andreas. Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography. New York: SVS Press, 2005. Barber, Charles. Figure and Likeness: On the Limits of Representation in Byzantine Iconoclasm. Princeton: Princeton University, 2002. Maguire, Henry. Art and Eloquence in Byzantium. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. Maguire, Henry. Image and Imagination in Byzantine Art. Routledge, 2019. Ouspensky, Leonid. Theology of the Icon I-II. New York: SVS Press, 1992. Pantcheva, Bissera V. Icons and Power: Mother of God in Byzantium. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014. Quenot, Michael. The Resurrection and the Icon. New York: SVS Press, 1997. Walker Bynum, Caroline. Christian Materiality: An Essay on Religion on Medieval Europe. New York: Zone Books, 2011. White, Andrew Walker. Performing Orthodox Ritual in Byzantium. Cambridge University Press, 2015.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Variant 1

Essay 2500 35.0
Essay 0 65.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 27 Jul, 2021

Unit record last updated: 2021-07-27 09:55:26 +1000