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Destruction of religious images. In Christianity and Islam, iconoclasm was based on the Mosaic prohibition against making graven images, which were associated with idolatry. The making of portraits of Christ and the saints was opposed in the early Christian church, but icons had become popular in Christian worship by the end of the 6th century, and defenders of icon worship emphasized the symbolic nature of the images. Opposition to icons by the Byzantine emperor Leo III in 726 led to the Iconoclastic Controversy, which continued in the Eastern church for more than a century before icons were again accepted. Statues and portraits of saints and religious figures were also common in the Western church, though some Protestant sects eventually rejected them. Islam still bans all icons, and iconoclasm has played a role in the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus in India.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on iconoclasm, visit Britannica.com.