Key Points

Isaurian Emperor Leo III interpreted his many military failures together a referee on the empire by God, and decided the it was being judged for the praise of religious images. That banned religious images in about 730 CE, the beginning of the byzantine Iconoclasm.At the board of directors of Hieria in 754 CE, the Church endorsed one iconoclast position and declared picture worship to it is in blasphemy.At the 2nd Council that Nicaea in 787 CE, the decrees of the previous iconoclast council to be reversed and also image prayer was restored, noting the end of the first Iconoclasm.Emperor Leo V instituted a second duration of iconoclasm in 814 CE, again possibly motivated by armed forces failures viewed as indicators of divine displeasure, yet only a few decades later, in 842 CE, symbol worship to be again reinstated.

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The deliberate devastation within a culture of the culture’s own religious icons and also other icons or monuments.

Council the Hieria

The an initial church council concerned with spiritual imagery. On instead of of the church, the the supervisory board endorsed an iconoclast position and declared image worship to it is in blasphemy.

Second board of directors of Nicaea

This council reversed the decrees the the the supervisory board of Hieria and restored image worship, marking the finish of the an initial Byzantine Iconoclasm.

Iconoclasm, Greek for “image-breaking,” is the deliberate devastation within a society of the culture’s own religious icons and other signs or monuments. Iconoclasm is generally motivated by an translate of the Ten Commandments the declares the making and also worshipping the images, or icons, of holy numbers (such as Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and also saints) to it is in idolatry and therefore blasphemy.

Most enduring sources worrying the oriental Iconoclasm were composed by the victors, or the iconodules (people who worship religious images), so that is daunting to obtain precise account of events. However, the oriental Iconoclasm describes two durations in the background of the byzantine Empire when the usage of spiritual images or icons was opposed by religious and royal authorities. The “First Iconoclasm,” together it is sometimes called, it is long between about 730 CE and also 787 CE, during the Isaurian Dynasty. The “Second Iconoclasm” was in between 814 CE and 842 CE. The movement was motivated by transforms in Orthodox prayer that to be themselves generated by the significant social and political upheavals of the seventh century because that the oriental Empire.


Byzantine Iconoclasm. A explicate of the destruction of a spiritual image under the oriental Iconoclasm, through Chludov Psalter, nine century CE.


Traditional explanations for byzantine Iconoclasm have actually sometimes focused on the prominence of Islamic prohibitions against images influencing byzantine thought. According to Arnold J. Toynbee, because that example, it to be the reputation of Islamic army successes in the 7th and also 8th centuries the motivated oriental Christians to take on the Islamic position of rejecting and also destroying idolatrous images. The function of women and also monks in sustaining the veneration of pictures has additionally been asserted. Social and class-based debates have been placed forward, such together the assertion the iconoclasm produced political and also economic departments in oriental society, and that that was typically supported by the eastern, poorer, non-Greek individuals of the realm who had to constantly attend to Arab raids. On the other hand, the wealthier Greeks that Constantinople, and also the peoples of the Balkan and Italian provinces, strongly opposed iconoclasm. In recent years in Greece, iconoclasm has come to be a favourite topic that progressive and also Marxist historians and also social scientists, who think about it a form of medieval course struggle and also have drawn inspiration native it. Re-evaluation that the written and material evidence relating come the duration of byzantine Iconoclasm through scholars, including John Haldon and also Leslie Brubaker, has tested many that the simple assumptions and factual assertions that the timeless account.

The an initial Iconoclasm: Leo III

The saturday century had actually been a period of significant crisis because that the byzantine Empire, and also believers had begun to lean much more heavily on divine support. The use of photos of the divine increased in Orthodox worship, and these pictures increasingly happened regarded as points of accessibility to the divine. Leo III interpreted his countless military failures together a judgment on the realm by God, and decided that they to be being judged because that their worship of religious images.

Emperor Leo III, the founder that the Isaurian Dynasty, and the iconoclasts the the east church, banned spiritual images in around 730 CE, claiming the worshiping them was heresy; this ban continued under his successors. He accompanied the ban v widespread damage of spiritual images and also persecution the the world who worshipped them.

The west church stayed firmly in support of the usage of images throughout the period, and also the entirety episode widened the growing divergence in between the eastern and also western heritages in what was still a merged church, and facilitating the palliation or remove of oriental political manage over parts of Italy.

Leo passed away in 741 CE, and his son and also heir, Constantine V, furthered his views till the end of his own preeminence in 775 CE. In 754 CE, Constantine summoned the an initial ecumenical council concerned with religious imagery, the council of Hieria; 340 bishops attended. On instead of of the church, the council endorsed one iconoclast position and also declared photo worship to be blasphemy. Man of Damascus, a Syrian monk life outside oriental territory, ended up being a major opponent that iconoclasm v his theological writings.

The brief Return of icon Worship

After the fatality of Constantine’s son, Leo IV (who rule from 775 CE-780 CE), his wife, Irene, took strength as regent for her son, Constantine by means of (who rule from 780 CE-97 CE). After Leo IV as well died, Irene called an additional ecumenical council, the second Council the Nicaea, in 787 CE, that reversed the decrees of the ahead iconoclast board of directors and restored image worship, marking the finish of the first Iconoclasm. This may have actually been an attempt to soothing the strained relations between Constantinople and Rome.

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The 2nd Iconoclasm (814 CE-842 CE)

Emperor Leo V the Armenian describe a second duration of Iconoclasm in 814 CE, again possibly encouraged by army failures checked out as indications of magnificent displeasure. The Byzantines had actually suffered a collection of humiliating defeats in ~ the hands of the Bulgarian cannes Krum. It was made main in 815 CE at a meeting of the clergy in the Hagia Sophia. Yet only a few decades later, in 842 CE, the regent Theodora again reinstated icon worship.