Aezanis, Temple of Zeus, 117-138 AD 
  
History/Medieval Studies 303
Early Medieval and Byzantine Civilization: Constantine to Crusades

Index 

Syllabus 

Readings: 
 Book List 
 Iconoclasm
 Discussion Topics

Chronologies: 
 Imperial Crisis 
 Later Roman Emperors, 306-395 
 Fall of Western Empire 
 Age of Justinian 
 Islamic Caliphs 
 Byzantine Dark Age 
 Triumph of Christianity 
 Macedonian Resurgence 
 Crusades 
 Restoration and Ottoman Advance 

Handouts: 
 Population
 Finances under Justinian
 Byzantium c.850A.D.

Links

DOCUMENTS OF THE ICONOCLASTIC CONTROVERSY
 
I. Iconodule Position
II. Iconoclast Position

ICONODULE POSITION: 

1.  Qunisextum Council (in Trullo), 692 A.D., ruling by Justinian II (685-695; 705-711).  Mansi XI, cols. 977-80 = A. Bryer and J. Herrin, Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), p. 182, no. 15. 

“Now, in order that perfection be represented before the eyes of all people, even in paintings, we ordain that from now on Christ our God, the Lamb who took upon Himself the sins of the world, be set up, even in images according to His human character, instead of the ancient Lamb.  Through this figure we realize the height of the humiliation of God the Word and are led to remember His life in the flesh, His suffering, and His saving death, and the redemption ensuing from it for the world.” 

2.  John of Damascus (675-749), Oration (PG 94, cols. 1258C-D) = A. Bryer and J. Herrin, Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), p. 183, no. 20. 

“When we set up an image of Christ in any place, we appeal to the senses, and indeed we sanctify the sense of sight, which is the highest among the perceptive senses, just as by sacred speech we sanctify the sense of hearing.  An image is, after all, a reminder; it is to the illiterate what a book is to the literate, and what the word is to the hearing, the image is to sight.  We remember that God ordered that a vessel be made from wood that would not rot, guilded inside and out, and that the tables of the law should be placed in it and the staff and the golden vessel containing the manna--all this for a reminder of what had taken place, and a foreshadowing of what was to come.  What was this but a visual image, more compelling than any sermon?  And this sacred thing was not placed in some obscure corner of the tabernacle; it was displayed in full view of the people, so that whenever they looked at it they would give honor and worship to the God Who had through its contents made known His design to them.  They were of course not worshipping the things themselves; they were being led through them to recall the wonderful works of God, and to adore Him Whose words they had witnessed.” 

3.  Horos (Definition of Faith) at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicaea, 787 A.D., Mansi XIII, col. 252 = A. Bryer and J. Herrin, Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), p. 184, no. 21. 

 “We define with accuracy and care that the venerable and holy icons be set up like the form of the venerable and life-giving Cross, inasmuch as the matter consisting of colors and pebbles and other matter is appropriate in the holy church of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on the roads, as well as the images of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, of our undefiled Lady of the Holy Mother of God, of the angels worthy of honor, and of all the holy and pious men.  For the more frequently they are seen by means of pictorial representation the more those who behold them are aroused to remember and desire the prototypes and to give them greeting and worship of honor--but not the true worship of our faith which befits only the divine nature--but to offer them both incense and candles, in the same way as to the form and the venerable and life-giving Cross and the holy Gospel and to the other sacred objects, as was the custom even of the ancients.” 

ICONOCLASTIC POSITION: 

1.  The Horos (Definition of Faith) at the Council of Hiera, 754 A.D., Mansi XIII, col. 208 = 
A. Bryer and J. Herrin, Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), p. 184, no. 19. 

“The divine nature is completely uncircumscribable and cannot be depicted or represented in any medium whatsoever.  The word Christ means both God and Man, and an icon of Christ would therefore have to be an image of God in the flesh of the Son of God. But this is impossible.  The artist would fall either into the heresy which claims that the divine and human natures of Christ are separate or into that which holds that there is only one nature of Christ.” 

2.  The Horos (Definition of Faith) at Iconoclastic Council of 815 A.D., A. Bryer and J. Herrin, Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), p. 184, no. 22. 

“Wherefore, taking to heart the correct doctrine, we banish from the Catholic Church the unwarranted manufacture of the spurious icons that has been so audaciously proclaimed, impelled as we are by a judicious judgment; nay, by passing a righteous judgment upon the veneration of icons that has been injudiciously proclaimed by Tarasius [Patriarch, 784-802] and so refuting it, we declare his assembly [i.e. Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787] invalid in that it bestowed exaggerated honor to painting, namely, as has already been said, the lighting of candles and lamps and the offering of incense, these marks of veneration being those of worship.  We gladly accept, on the other hand, the pious council that was held at Blachernae, in the church of the all-pure Virgin, under the pious Emperors Constantine V and Leo IV [in 754] that was fortified by the doctrine of the Fathers, and in preserving without alteration what was expressed by it, we decree that the manufacture of ;icons is unfit for veneration and useless.  We refrain, however, from calling them idols since there is a distinction between different kinds of evil.“ 
 

Dr. Kenneth W. Harl 
Office: History 211 (504)862-8621 
Fax: (504) 862-8739 
Home: (504)866-5392 
 
 Tulane University
Last updated 03/19/98
by Annette Lindblom