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§ 103. Iconoclastic Reaction, and Final Triumph of Image-Worship, a.d. 842.


Walch, X. 592–828. Hefele, IV. 1–6; 38–47; 104–109.


During the five reigns which succeeded that of Irene, a period of thirty-eight years, the image-war was continued with varying fortunes. The soldiers were largely iconoclastic, the monks and the people in favor of image-worship. Among these Theodore of the Studium was distinguished by his fearless advocacy and cruel sufferings under Leo V., the Armenian (813–820), who was slain at the foot of the altar. Theophilus (829–842) was the last and the most cruel of the iconoclastic emperors. He persecuted the monks by imprisonment, corporal punishment, and mutilation.550550    Hefele, IV. 105, says that under this reign the famous poets, Theophanes and his brother, Theodore of the Studium, were punished with two hundred lashes and the branding of Greek mock-verses on their forehead, whence they received the name “the Marked” (γραπτοί). But, according to the Bollandists, Theophanes died in 820, and Hefele himself, III. 370, puts his death in 818, although in vol. IV. 108 be reports that Theophanes γράπτοςwas made bishop of Smyrna by Theodora, 842. See on this conflict in chronology above, p. 407.

But his widow, Theodora, a second Irene, without her vices,551551    The tongue of slander, however, raised the story of her criminal intimacy with the patriarch Methodius, whom she had appointed. The court instituted an investigation during which the patriarch by indecent exposure furnished the proof of the physical impossibility of sexual sin on his part; whereupon the accuser confessed that she had been bribed by his iconoclastic predecessor. Hefele, IV. 109. in the thirteenth year of her regency during the minority of Michael the Drunkard, achieved by prudent and decisive measures the final and permanent victory of image-worship. She secured absolution for her deceased husband by the fiction of a death-bed repentance, although she had promised him to make no change. The iconoclastic patriarch, John the Grammarian, was banished and condemned to two hundred lashes; the monk Methodius of opposite tendency (honored as a confessor and saint) was put in his place; the bishops trembled and changed or were deposed; the monks and the people were delighted. A Synod at Constantinople (the acts of it are lost) reënacted the decrees of the seven oecumenical Councils, restored the worship of images, pronounced the anathema upon all iconoclasts, and decided that the event should be hereafter commemorated on the first Sunday in Lent by a solemn procession and a renewal of the anathema on the iconoclastic heretics.

On the 19th of February, 842, the images were again introduced into the churches of Constantinople. It was the first celebration of the “Sunday of Orthodoxy,”552552    ἡκυριακὴτῆςὀρθοδοξίας. which afterwards assumed a wider meaning, as a celebration of victory over all heresies. It is one of the most characteristic festivals of the Eastern church. The old oecumenical Councils are dramatically represented, and a threefold anathema is pronounced upon all sorts of heretics such as atheists, antitrinitarians, upon those who deny the virginity of Mary before or after the birth of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, or the immortality of the soul, who reject the mysteries (sacraments), the traditions and councils, who deny that orthodox princes rule by divine appointment and receive at their unction the Holy Ghost, and upon all iconoclasts. After this anathema follows the grateful commemoration of the orthodox confessors and “all who have fought for the orthodox faith by their words, writings, teaching, sufferings, and godly example, as also of all the protectors and defenders of the Church of Christ.” In conclusion the bishops, archimandrites and priests kiss the sacred icons.553553    See the description of Walch (X. 800-808) from the Byzantine historians and from Allacci, and King (on the Russian church).



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