Praying with the senses: Examples of icon devotion and the sensory experience in medieval and early modern Balkans
1 On the senses and synaesthesis in Byzantine icon devotion: B. V. Pentcheva, The sensual icon. Space, ritual, and the senses in Byzantium, University Park 2010, in particular 1-15. The literature on As eikones, i.e matter imbued with divine pneuma, releasing charis, icons were intented to be physically experienced through the ritual act of proskynesis which implied touching, kissing and an all-encompassing "seeing" of an icon of which touch, smell, taste and sound were an integral and defining
... tegral and defining part. Icons, and in particular those in luxury media such as mosaic, gold and silver repussé adorned with enamel and precious stones or carved in semi-precious stone, dating from the Middle and Late Byzantine periods, were transformed into true empsychoi graphes under the lights of candles or oil lamps, thus inducing pathema, internal agitation, in the spiritual eyes and the souls of the faithful. The tactile visuality or the haptic and visual experience of the holy thus produced a feeling of true communion with the divine and partaking in Christian mysteries. 2 The present state of research of the cult of icons and icon painting as significant part of the visual culture of the Balkans is focused mainly on historical, stylistic and iconographic analysis and has so far shed little light on the role and impact of sensory experience in icon devoicons of the Holy Mother of God, and in particular those venarated in the Mediterranean world, their performativity and visuality, is vast and in this instance we point out some of the most recent seminal publications: The Mother of God. Representations of the Virgin in Byzantine art, ed. M. Vassilaki, Athens-Milan 2000; Images of the Mother of God. Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium, ed. M. Vassilaki, Aldershot 2005; B. V. Pentcheva, Icons and power: The Mother of God in Byzantium, University Park 2006; The cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Texts and images, eds. L. Brubaker, M. B. Cunningham, Aldershot 2011. On miraculous images and their veneration in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period see: The miraculous image in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.