Iconoclastic Controversy

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The controversy on the veneration of icons which agitated the Greek Church from c.725 to 842. In 726 the Emp. Leo III published a decree declaring all images idols and ordering their destruction. Disturbances followed persecution, especially of the monks. In 753 the Emp. Constantine V called the Synod of Hieria, which alleged that, by representing only the humanity of Christ, the icon-worshippers either divided His unity as the Nestorians or confounded the two natures as the Monophysites, and declared that the icons of the BVM and the saints were idols and ordered their destruction. Persecution increased. It abated under Leo IV (775–80), and after his death the Empress Irene, regent for her son, reversed the policy of her predecessors. The Second Council of Nicaea in 787 undid the work of the Synod of Hieria, defined the degree of veneration to be paid to icons, and decreed their restoration throughout the country.

The outbreak of the ‘Second Iconoclastic Controversy’ took place in 814 under Leo V the Armenian, who removed icons from churches and public buildings; the Patr. Nicephorus was deposed (815), and St Theodore of Studios was sent into exile. Persecution ended only with the death of the Emp. Theophilus in 842. His widow, Theodora, caused Methodius to be elected patriarch in 843 and on the first Sunday in Lent a feast was celebrated in honour of the icons; it has since been kept in the E. Church as the ‘Feast of Orthodoxy.’

Subjects: Christianity.

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