Latest Issue

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…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect