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From Christ to Coke

A new book on icons stretches the definition too far. Unlike the Coca-Cola bottle, true icons have power and stand at the border of forbidden things

By Roger Scruton   September 2011

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa: Her enigatic smile conveys the highest gentleness to which a human being can attain

The Christos Pantokrator of the Eastern Orthodox Church decorates a hundred ancient apses—and lives in the minds of ordinary believers. Image: © Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai

The Greek word “icon” (eikon, or image) now seems to denote any thing, person, or idea that is, for whatever reason, a centre of attention, and which has acquired a significance that raises it above the flow of ordinary events. It may be difficult to put this significance into words; but the crucial thing is that an icon is common property. You and I can both refer to it, and know instinctively…

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