- 1: a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration
- 2: a person who attacks settled beliefs or institutions
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually for religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes. The term encompasses the more specific destruction of images of a ruler after his death or overthrow (damnatio memoriae), for example, following Akhenaten's death in Ancient Egypt.
People who engage in or support iconoclasm are called "iconoclasts", a term that has come to be applied figuratively to any person who challenges established dogma or conventions. Conversely, people who revere or venerate religious images are (by iconoclasts) called "iconolaters". In a Byzantine context, they are known as "iconodules", or "iconophiles".
Iconoclasm may be carried out by people of a different religion, but is often the result of sectarian disputes between factions of the same religion. The two Byzantine outbreaks during the 8th and 9th centuries were unusual in that the use of images was the main issue in the dispute, rather than a by-product of wider concerns. In Christianity, iconoclasm has generally been motivated by a literal interpretation of the Ten Commandments, which forbid the making and worshiping of "graven images", though the application of Biblical law in Christianity has always been in dispute.