CHAPTER VIII. – HERESIES OF THE EIGHTH CENTURY.
THE HERESY OF THE ICONOCLASTS.- 1. -Beginning of the Iconoclasts. 2, 3.-St. Germanus opposes the Emperor Leo. 4.-He resigns the See of Constantinople. 5.-Anastasius is put in his place; Resistance of the Women. 6.- Cruelty of Leo. 7-Leo endeavours to put the Pope to death; opposition of the Romans. 8.-Letter of the Pope. 9. -A Council is held in Rome in support of the Sacred Images, but Leo continues his Persecution. 10. -His hand is miraculously restored to St. John of Damascus. 11. -Leo dies, and is succeeded by Constantine Copronymus, a greater Persecutor; Death of the impious Patriarch Anastasius. 12. -Council held by Constantine. 13.-Martyrs in honour of the Images. 14.-0ther tyrannical Acts of Constantine, and his horrible Death. 15.-Leo IV. succeeds to the Empire, and is succeeded by his Son, Constantine. 16.-The Empress Irene, in her Son’s name, demands a Council. 17.-Seditions against the Council. 18.-The Council is held, and the Veneration of Images established. 19- Erroneous opinion of the Council of Frankfort, regarding the Eighth General Council. 20.-Persecution again renewed by the Iconoclasts.
- The first and fifth Acts of the Eighth General Council attest that the Gentiles, the Jews, the Marcionites, and the Manicheans, had previously declared war against Sacred Images, and it again hroke out, in the year 723, in the reign of Leo Isaurus. About this period, a Captain of the Jews, called Sarantapechis (or four cubits), induced the Caliph Jezzid to commence a destructive war against the Sacred Images in the Christian Churches, and promising him a long and happy reign as his reward. He, accordingly, published an edict, commanding the removal of all Images; but the Christians refused to obey him, and six months afterwards God removed him out of the way. Constantius, Bishop of Nacolia, in Phrygia, introduced this Jewish doctrine among Christians. He was expelled from his See, in punishment of his perfidy, by his own Diocesans, and ingratiated himself into the Emperor’s favour, and induced him to declare war against Images (1).
- Leo had already reigned ten years, when, in the year 727, he declared publicly to the people, that it was not right to venerate Images. The people, however, all cried out against him; and he then said, he did not mean (2) to say that Images should be done away with altogether, but that they should be placed high up, out of the reach, that they should not be soiled by the people kissing them. It was manifest his intention was to do away with them altogether; but he met the most determined resistance from St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople, who proclaimed his willingness to lay down his life for the Sacred Images, which were always venerated in the Church. The Holy Pontiff wrote many letters to those Bishops who held on to the Emperor’s opinion, to turn them from their evil ways, and he also wrote to Pope Gregory II., who answered him in a long letter, approving of his zeal, and stating what was the doctrine of the Catholic Church in the veneration of the Sacred Images which he was contending for (3).
- The Emperor continued his rage against Images, and the displeasure of the people of Continental Greece and the Islands of the Cyclades at length broke out into open rebellion. Zeal for religion was the motive assigned for this outbreak, and one Cosimus was elected as their Emperor, and they marched to Constantinople to have him crowned. They fought a battle near Constantinople, under the leadership of Cosimus, Agallianus, and Stephanus, but were totally defeated; so Agallianus threw him self into the sea, and Stephanus and Cosimus were taken and beheaded. Leo was emboldened by this victory to persecute the Catholics with greater violence. He sent for the Patriarch, St. Germanus, and strove to bring him over to his way of thinking; but (4) the Saint told him openly, that whoever would strive to abolish the veneration of Images was a precursor of Antichrist, and that such doctrine had a tendency to upset the Mystery of the Incarnation; and he reminded him of his coronation oath, not to make any change in the Traditions of the Church.
(1) Nat. Alex. t. 12, sec. 8, c. 2, a. 1; Hermant, t. 1, p. 283; Fleury, t. 6, l. 42, n. 1; Baron. Ann. 723, n. 17, & vide Ann. 726, n. 3. (2) Nat. Alex. loc. cit. , Fleury, loc. cit. (3) Fleury, t. 6, 7. 42, n. 3. (4) Fleury, loc. Git, n. 4, ex Theophil.
All this had no effect on the Emperor; he continued to press the Patriarch, and strove to entrap him into some unguarded expression, which he might consider seditious, and thus have a reason for deposing him. He was urged on to adopt this course by Anastasius, a disciple of the Patriarch, but who joined the Emperor’s party, and was promised the See of Constantinople, on the deposition of St. Germanus. The Saint, knowing the evil designs of Anastasius, gave him many friendly admonitions. One day, in particular, he was going in to see the Emperor, and Anastasius followed him so closely that he trod on his robe : “Do not be in a hurry,” said the Saint; ” you will be soon enough in the Hyppodrome” (the public circus), alluding to his disgrace fifteen years afterwards, when the Emperor Constantine, who placed him in the See of Constantinople, had his eyes plucked out, and conducted round the Hyppodrome, riding on an ass, with his face to the tail; but, for all that, kept him in the See, because he was an enemy to the Sacred Images. The Emperor, in the meanwhile, continued a bitter enemy of the Patriarch St. Germanus, and persecuted, not alone the Catholics who venerated the Sacred Images, but those also who honoured the Relics of the Saints, and invoked their intercession, not knowing, or, perhaps, not wishing to learn, the difference between supreme worship, which we Catholics pay to God, and that veneration which we pay to Relics and Holy Images (5).
- The Emperor convoked a Council in the early part of the year 730 (6), in which he made a decree against Sacred Images, and wanted the Patriarch to subscribe it, but he firmly refused, and preferred resigning his dignity; he threw off his Pallium, and said : “It is impossible, my Lord, that I can sanction any novelty against the Faith; I can do nothing without a General Council ;” and he left the meeting. The Emperor was enraged, and he sent some armed officials to eject him from the Archiepiscopal Palace, which they did, with blows and outrages, not even respecting his venerable age of eighty years. He went to the house of his family, and lived there as a monk, and left the See of Constantinople, which he had governed for fourteen years, in a state of the greatest desolation. He then died a holy- death, and the Church venerates his memory on the 12th of May (7).
(5) Fleury, t. 6, l. 42, n. 4. (6) Theoph. Ann. 10, p. 340, ap. Fleury, loc. cit.; Baron. Ann. 754, n. 42. (7) Fleury, loc. cit,
- A few days after the banishment of St. Germanus, Anastasius was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, and, by force of arms, was put in possession of the See. The impious usurper, at once, gave up all power over the churches to the Emperor, and he having now no one to contradict him, began vigorously to enforce his decree against the Holy Images. In the vestibule of the imperial palace, at Constantinople, there was an image of our Redeemer crucified, held in extraordinary veneration by the people, as it was believed to have been erected by Constantine, in memory of the Cross that appeared to him in the heavens. Leo intended to begin with this most sacred image, and he ordered Jovinus, one of his guards, to throw it down; a number of women who were present, endeavoured to dissuade him from the sacriligious attempt, but he despised their supplications, mounted on a ladder, and gave three blows with an axe on the face of it. When the women saw this, they dragged back the ladder, threw him on the ground, killed him, and tore him in pieces. Withal, the holy image was cast to the earth and burned, and the Emperor put in its place a plain cross, with an inscription, telling that the image was removed, for the Iconoclasts venerated the cross, and only did away with images representing the human figure. The women, after killing Jovinus, ran off to the Bishop’s palace, hurled stones against it, and poured out all sorts of abuse on Anastasius : Wretch that you are, said they, you have usurped the priesthood, only to destroy everything sacred. Anastasius, outrageous at the insult, went at once to the Emperor, and had the women all put to death; ten more suffered along with them, and the Greek Church honours them as martyrs on the 9th of August (8).
- The Emperor Leo, a man of no learning himself, was a bitter persecutor of learned men, and abolished the schools of sacred literature, which flourished from the time of Constantine. There was a library founded by the ancient Emperors, near the Imperial palace of Constantino, containing over three thousand volumes. The librarian, Lecumenicus, was a man of great merit, and he superintended the labours of twelve professors, who taught gratuitously both the sacred and the profane sciences. This learned corporation had so high a character, that even the Emperor himself could not make any unusual ordinance without consulting them.
(8) Fleury, t. 6, I. 42, n. 5.
Leo used every means in his power, both threats and promises, to induce these professors to give their sanction to his proceedings; but when he found it was all in vain, he surrounded the library with faggots and dry wood, and burned both the professors and the literary treasures together. Partly by threat, and partly by seduction, he got all the inhabitants of Constantinople to bring together into the middle of the city, all the images of the Redeemer, the Blessed Virgin, and the Saints, and burn them, and the paintings in the churches were all destroyed, and covered over with whitewash. Many refused obedience, and he beheaded some, and mutilated others, so that many clergy, monks, and even lay people suffered Martyrdom (9).
- When the news of this persecution reached Italy, the images of the Emperor were thrown down and trampled (10), and when he sent his impious decree against holy images, to Rome, and threatened Pope Gregory II. to depose him, if he resisted its execution, the Pontiff rejected the impious command, and prepared to resist him as an enemy to the Church, and wrote to the faithful in all parts, to put them on their guard against this new error. The people of the Pentapolis, and the army quartered in the Venetian territory, refused obedience to the Imperial decree, and proclaimed that they would fight in defense of the Pope. Paul the Exarch of Ravenna, the Emperor, who sent him his orders, and all who would obey them were anathematized, and Chiefs were elected. All Italy, at last, in a general agreement, resolved to elect another Emperor, and conduct him to Constantinople; but the Pope having still some hopes of the conversion of Leo, used all his influence to prevent this plan being put into execution.
(9) Baron. An. 754, n. 37; Fleury, loc. cit. n. 5, con. Anas, in Greg. II. and Theopeil. 15.;p. 543, &c. (10) Fleury, loc. cit. w. 6.
While things were in this state, Exilaratus, Duke of Naples, and his son Adrian, Lord of Campania, persuaded the people of that province to obey the Emperor, and kill the Pope, but both father and son were taken by the Romans, and killed by them, and as it was reported that Peter, the Duke of Rome, had written to the Emperor against the Pope, he was driven out of the city by the people. The people of Ravenna were divided into two factions, one party for the Pope, another for the Emperor; they broke out at last into open warfare, and the Patrician Paul, Exarch of Ravenna, was killed. While all this was going on, the Lombards conquered several strong places of Emilia and Auxumum, in the Pentapolis, and finally took Ravenna itself. Gregory II., therefore, wrote to Ursus, Duke of Venice, or rather of the Province of Ravenna, called Venice, to unite with the Exarch, then in Venice, and recover the city for the Emperor. But the Emperor was only more outrageous, and sent the Patrician Eutychius, a eunuch* to Naples, who sent one of his creatures to Rome, to procure the Pope’s death, and the death of the chief people of the city likewise; when this was discovered, the people wanted to kill the Patrician, but the Pope saved his life. The whole people then, rich and poor, swore that they would die before they would allow the Pope, the defender of the Faith, to be injured. The ungrateful Patrician sent messengers to the Lombard Dukes, and offered them the most tempting bribes if they would desert the Pope, but they, already acquainted with his perfidy, joined with the Romans, and took the same oath as they did to defend the Pope (11).
- Anastasius, the newly-elected Patriarch of Constantinople, sent his Synodical letter to Pope Gregory II., but the Pope knowing him to be a supporter of the Iconoclasts, refused to recognise him as a brother, and gave him notice that if he did not return to the Catholic Faith, he would be degraded from the priesthood (12).
(11) Fleury, t. 6, l. 42, n. 6 (12) Theoph. or. 13, p. 343, apud; Fleur. loc. cit. n. 7.
Gregory did not long survive this; he died in the February of 731, and was succeeded by Gregory III., who, in the beginning of his reign, wrote to the Emperor an answer to a letter sent to his predecessor, rather than to him. In this able production he thus speaks : “You confess an holy Faith in your letters, in all its purity, and declare accursed all who dare to contradict the decisions of the Fathers. What, therefore, induces you to turn back, after having walked in the right road for ten years ? During all that time, you never spoke of the Holy Images, and, now, you say that they are the same as the idols, and that those who venerate them are idolaters. You are endeavouring to destroy them, and do not you dread the judgment of God; scandalizing, not alone the faithful, but the very infidels? Why have you not, as Emperor and chief of the Christian people, sought the advice of learned men? they would have taught you why God prohibited the adoration of idols made by men. The Fathers, our masters, and the six Councils, have handed down as a tradition, the veneration of Holy Images, and you refuse to receive their testimony. We implore of you to lay aside this presumption.” He then speaks of the doctrine of the Church regarding the veneration of Images, and thus concludes : “You think to terrify me by saying : I will send to Rome, and will break the statue of St. Peter, and I will drag away Pope Gregory in chains, as Constans did Martin. Know then that the Popes are the arbiters of peace between the East and the West, and as to your threats, we fear them not” (13).
- -He wrote a second letter to Leo soon after, but neither the first or second reached him, for a priest of the name of George, to whom they were entrusted, was afraid to present them, so the Pope put him under penance for his negligence, and sent him again with the same letters, but the Emperor had the letters detained in Sicily, and banished the priest for a year, and would not allow him to come to Constantinople (14). The Pope was highly indignant that his letters were despised, and his Legate, George, detained, so he felt himself called on to summon a Council in Rome, in 732 (15), which was attended by ninety-three Bishops, and by the Consuls, the nobility, the clergy, and people of Rome, and in this assembly it was ordained that all those who showed disrespect to Holy Images should be excluded from the communion of the Church, and this decree was solemnly subscribed by all who attended. The Pope again wrote to the Emperor, but his letters were detained a second time, and the messengers kept in prison for a year, at the termination of which, the letters were forcibly taken from him, and he was threatened and maltreated, and sent back to Rome.
(13) Fleury, t. 6, l. 42, n. 1 & 8. (14) Fleury, loc. cit. n. 9. (15) Anast. in Greg. III., n. 8 & 9 apud; Fleury, l. 42, n. 16
All Italy joined in a petition to the Emperor to re-establish the veneration of the holy Images, but even this petition was taken from the messengers by the Patrician Sergius, Governor of Sicily, and they, after a detention of eight months, were sent back, after having received cruel treatment. The Pope, however, again wrote to the Emperor, and to the Patriarch, Anastasius, but all in vain, and Leo, enraged with the Pope and his rebellious subjects in Italy, sent a great fleet against them, but it was shipwrecked in the Adriatic. This increased his fury, so he raised to a third higher the capitation tax in Calabria and Sicily, and obliged a strict registry to be kept of all the male children that were born, and confiscated in all the countries where his power reached in the East, the estates belonging to the Patrimony of St. Peter. He continued to persecute all who still venerated the Holy Images; he no longer, indeed, put them to death, lest they should be honoured as Martyrs, but he imprisoned them, and tortured them first, and then banished them (16).
- About this time the cruel persecution of St. John of Damascus took place. This Saint defended, in Syria, the honour due to the sacred Images, so Leo endeavoured to ruin him by an infamous calumny; he had him accused as a traitor to the Saracen Caliph Hiokam, and the false charge proved by a forged letter; the Caliph called his Council together, and the Saint was condemned, and sentenced to have his hand cut off as a traitor. His innocence was, however, miraculously proved; animated with a lively faith, he went before an image of the Blessed Virgin, whose honour he constantly defended, placed his amputated hand in connexion with the stump of his arm, prayed to the Holy Mother that his hand might be again united to his body, that he might be able to write again in her defence; his prayer was heard, and he was miraculously healed (17). Noel Alexander says (18), that the wonderful things related of St. John of Damascus, are proved from the book of the life of St. John of Jerusalem.
(16) Fleury, t. 6, l. 42, n. 16 & 17. (17) Hermant, t. 1, c. 187; Gotti. t. 2, c. 80, s. 1, n. 15, 16, 17. (18) Natal, t. 12, c. 2, . 1, s. 1.
- The Almighty, in the end, took vengeance on the crimes of the Emperor, and evils from all sides fell thick upon him; pestilence and famine ravaged both the city and country, and the fairest provinces of Asia were laid waste by the Saracens. He became a prey to the most direful and tormenting maladies himself, and died miserably in 741, leaving the Empire to his son Constantine Copronimus. He surpassed his father in wickedness, his morals were most debased, and he had no principle of Religion; not alone satisfied with destroying the Images and relics of the Saints, he prohibited all from invoking their intercession. His subjects could no longer bear with his vices, so they rose up against him, and proclaimed his relative, Artavesdes, Pretor of Armenia, Emperor. This Prince, brought up in the Catholic Faith, re-established the veneration of Sacred Images; and Religion began to hope once more for happy days, but Constantine recovered the Empire, took Constantinople, and Artavesdes fell into his hands with his two sons, Nicephorus and Nicetus, and he deprived all three of sight. The justice of God now overtook the false Patriarch, Anastasius; he ordered him to be led through the city, as we have already remarked, mounted on an ass, with his face to the tail, and to be severely flogged; but as he could find no one wicked enough to carry out his designs, he continued him in the Patriarchate; he enjoyed the dignity but a short time after this disgrace; he was attacked by a horrible cholic, in which the functions of nature were disgustingly reversed, and he left the world without any signs of repentance (19).
- Constantine, raging more furiously against Sacred Images every day, wished to have the sanction ofEcclesiastical authority for his impiety; he accordingly convoked a General Council, as Danæus tells us, in 754, in Constantinople, and three hundred and thirty-eight Bishops assembled, but the Legates of theApostolic See, or the Bishops of the other Patriarchates were not present. Theodore, Bishop of Ephesus, and Palla, or Pastilla, Bishop of Perga, at first presided, but the Emperor afterwards appointed Constantine, a Monk, President, a man whose only law was the Emperor’s will, and who, having been a Bishop, was degraded and banished from his See, on account of his scandalous vices.
(19) Hermant, l. 1, c. 289; Baron. 763, n. 19.
In the Cabal which they had the hardihood to call the Seventh General Council, all honour shown to the images and saints, was condemned as idolatry, and all who approved of recurring to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, were anathematized. We find no decision against relics, or against the Cross, which they held in great veneration, for they obliged every one to swear on the Cross to receive the Decree of their Council, and to do away with the veneration of Images. Thus, we always remark, as a particular characteristic of heresy, the spirit of contradiction.
- When this Council was brought to a close, the Emperor redoubled his persecutions against the Catholics. Several Bishops and several Solitaries, who forsook their cells to defend the Faith, received the crown of Martyrdom. Among these, three holy Abbots are particularly remembered; the first was St. Andrew Calabita; he had the courage to charge the Emperor to his face with impiety; he called him another Valens, a second Julian, and he was ordered to be flogged to death: he suffered in 761, and the Church honours his memory on the 17th of October (20). The second was the Abbot Paul; he was taken by Lardotirus, Governor of the Island of Theophanos. This wretch placed on the ground an image of Jesus Christ on one side, and the rack on the other. “Now, Paul,” said he, ” choose whichever you like; trample on that image, or you shall be put on the rack.” ” Jesus Christ, my Lord,” said the Saint, ” may God never permit me to trample on your holy image,” and throwing himself on the ground, he most devoutly kissed it. The Governor was furious, and commanded that he should be stripped; he was stretched on the rack; the executioners squeezed him from head to heels, and bored all his limbs with iron nails; he was then suspended by his feet, his head down, and roasted alive, in that posture, with a great fire (21). The third was St. Stephen, Abbot of Mount Auxentium; he was first of all exiled to the Island of Proconesus, near the Hellespont, for two years; afterwards brought to Constantinople, and put into prison, with chains on his hands, and his feet in the stocks.
(20) Fleury, t. 6, l. 43, n. 32. (21 J Fleury, loc. cit. n. 46.
There he had the consolation to meet three hundred and forty-two Monks from different countries some had their noses cut off; some their eyes pulled out, or their hands or ears cut off; some were covered all over with scars, from the floggings they had received; and many were afterwards put to death, and all this because they would not subscribe the Decree against Holy Images. After being detained forty days in prison, a number of the imperial satellites came there one day, furiously calling on the guards to bring out Stephen of Auxentium. The Saint came boldly forward, and said : “I am he whom you seek ;” they immediately threw him on the ground, tied a rope to the irons on his legs, and dragged him through the streets, kicking and trampling him on the head and body, and striking him with clubs and stones all the way. When they dragged him as far as the Oratory of St. Theodore the Martyr, just outside the first gate of the Pretorium, he raised up his head, and recommended himself to the intercession of the Martyr. “See,” said Philomatus, one of his tormentors, ” the scoundrel wishes to die a Martyr,” and he at once struck him on the head with a heavy club, and killed him. The murderer immediately fell to the ground, the devil entered into him, and took possession of him, and he died a death of torment. They still withal continued dragging along the body of St. Stephen; the ground was covered with his blood, and his limbs were torn from his body. If any one refused to insult the sacred remains, he was looked on as an enemy to the Emperor. They came at last to a Convent of Nuns, and the Saint’s sister was one of the community; they thought to make her come out and throw a stone at the remains of her brother, with her own hand; but she concealed herself in a tomb, and they were foiled in this savage intent. Finally, they threw the body of the Saint into a pit at the Church of the Martyr St. Pelagia, where the Emperor commanded that the bodies of malefactors and Pagans should be buried. This Saint was martyred in the year 767 (22).
(22) Fleury, t. 6, l. 43, n. 36,
- The churches themselves did not escape the fury of Constantine; numberless sacrileges were committed in them by his soldiers. When the Decree of the Council was promulgated in the provinces, the heretics at once commenced the destruction of all pictorial and sculptural ornaments; the images were burned or broken, the painted walls whitewashed, the frames of the paintings were burned (23) in a word, more barbarity was exercised in the name of a Christian Emperor than under any of his Pagan predecessors. Michæl, the Governor of Anatolia (24), collected together, by order of the Emperor, in the year 770, all the religious men of the province of Thrace in a plain near Ephesus, and then addressed them: ” Whosoever wishes to obey the Emperor, let him dress himself in white, and take a wife immediately; but those who refuse it shall lose their eyes, and be banished to Cyprus. The order was immediately put into execution. Many underwent the punishment (though some apostatized), and were numbered among the Martyrs. The next year the Governor sold out all the Monasteries, both male and female, with all the sacred vessels, stock, and entire property, and sent the proceeds to the Emperor; he burned all their books and pictures, burned also whatever reliquaries he could lay hands on, and punished those who had them in their possession as guilty of idolatry. Some he put to death by the sword; more expired under the lash; he deprived an immense multitude of sight; he ordered the beards of others to be anointed with oil and melted wax, and then set on fire; and more he banished, after subjecting them to various tortures. Such was the furious persecution by Constantino of the venerators of Holy Images; but with all his cruelty, he could not destroy Religion, and in the end God destroyed him by an extraordinary sickness in the year 775. According to Danæus, his death was like that of Antiochus, and his repentance of the same sort as that of his prototype (25). Fleury says (26), that Constantino having cast his eye on a crown of gems presented to the Patriarchal Church by the Emperor Heraclius, seized it; but he had scarcely put it on his head, when he was covered with carbuncles, and tortured, besides, with a violent fever, and that he died in the most excruciating agony. Van Ranst adds (27), that he died consumed by an internal fire, and crying out that he was burning alive as a penalty for the irreverence he showed to the Images of the Mother of God.
(23) Fleury, n. 8. (24) Nat. Alex. t. 12, c. 2, art. 1, s. 2; Fleury, t. 6, l. 44, n. 7. (25) Hermant, t. 1, c. 299, 300.
(26) Fleury, l. 44, n. 16. (27) Van Ranst, sec. 8, p. 147.
- Constantino Copronimus was succeeded by his son, Leo IV.; he pretended to be a Catholic in the commencement of his reign, with the intention of cementing his authority, and more especially he expressed his wishes that the Mother of God should be treated with the greatest respect; he permitted the Religious scattered in the late persecution to inhabit their monasteries once more, and assisted them to do so, and he appointed Catholic Bishops to the Sees; but when he felt himself firmly established on the throne, he threw off the mask, and renewed the persecution with all his father’s fury : he even banished the Empress Irene, his wife, because he suspected that in private she venerated the Holy Images, and nothing would induce him to see her again. His reign, however, was short; he was attacked by a strange disorder like his father’s, and died, having only reigned about five years. He had associated his son Constantino in the empire with him, but as he was only ten years old at his father’s death, his mother, the Empress Irene, took the reins of government, and under her pious care the Christian Religion flourished once more. Paul, then Patriarch of Constantinople, was attacked with a severe sickness, and took the sudden resolution of retiring into a Monastery, and declared to the Empress, that against his conscience he condemned the veneration of Images to please the Emperor Copronimus. Withal, he was a virtuous man, and the Empress endeavoured to force him to resume the government of his Church, but he was firm in his refusal, and said he would spend the remainder of his days weeping for his sins (28).
- Tarasius, as yet a layman, and who had been Secretary of State, was, with the good will of all, appointed to succeed Paul; but as the See was separated from the communion of the other Patriarchates, he accepted it solely on condition that as soon as possible a General Council should be convoked, to reunite all the Churches in one faith. This condition was agreed to by all, and he was consecrated Patriarch, and immediately sent his profession of faith to Pope Adrian, and at the same time the Empress also wrote to the Holy Father, both in her own and her son’s name, imploring him to consent to the convocation of a General Council, and to assist at it himself in person to re-establish the ancient tradition in regard to the veneration of Holy Images, and if he could not attend himself, at least to send his Legates.
(28) Hermant, t. 1, c. 304, 305.
The Pope answered this letter of the Empress, and besought her to use all her influence to get the Greeks to pay the same veneration to Holy Images as did the Romans following the tradition of the Fathers; and should it be found impossible, he says, to re-establish this point without a General Council, the first thing of all to be done should be, to declare the nullity of the false Council, held in the reign of the Emperor Leo. He besides required that the Emperor should send a declaration sworn in his own name, and in the names of the Empress his mother, of the Patriarch, and of the whole Senate, that the Council should enjoy full and perfect liberty (29).
- The Pope then sent two Legates to Constantinople Peter, Archpriest of the Roman Church, and Peter, Abbot of the Monastery of St. Saba, and they arrived at their destination while the Emperor and Empress were in Thrace. The Iconoclast Bishops, who were more numerous, and supported by a great number of the laity, took courage from this, and insisted that it was necessary to maintain the condemnation of Images, and not allow a new Council. The Emperor and Empress returned to Constantinople, and the 1st of August of the year 786 was appointed for opening the Council in the Church of the Apostles. The evening before, however, the soldiers went to the Baptistery of the church, crying out that they would have no Council. The Patriarch notified this to the Empress; but, not withstanding the disturbance, it was determined not to postpone the Council, and it was opened the following day. When the Bishops were assembled, and while the Synodical letters were being read, the soldiers, urged on by the schismatical Bishops, came round the church, and thundering at the doors, told the assembled Prelates that they would never allow what was decreed under the Emperor Constantine to be revoked, and they then burst into the church with drawn swords, and threatened the Patriarch and Bishops with death.
(29) Fleury, t. 6, l. 44, n. 25.
The Emperor sent his own body-guards to restrain them, but they could not succeed, and the schismatical Bishops sung the song of victory. The Patriarch and the Catholic Bishops went into the Sanctuary, in the meantime, and celebrated the Holy Mysteries, without showing any signs of fear; but the Empress sent him word to retire for that time, and avoid the extremity the schismatics might be led to. Everyone then went to his own lodging, and the disturbance was quelled. The Empress then, in the ensuing month, brought in a reinforcement of new troops from Thrace, and sent out of the city all those, together with their families, who had served under her father-in-law, Constantino, and were tainted with his errors (30).
- Being thus secured against the violence of the soldiery, and the intrigues of the chiefs of the sedition, on the May following, in the year 787, the Bishops were again called on to hold the Council in Nice, in Bythynia; and, on the 24th of September (31), the same year, the first Session was held in the Church of St. Sophia, in that city. Three hundred and fifty Bishops, the Legates of the Apostolic See, and of the three Patriarchal Sees, and a great number of Monks and Archimandrites, attended. The Legates of Pope Adrian presided in this Council, as we gather from the Acts, in which they are named before the Patriarch Tarasius, and before the Legates of the other Patriarchal Sees. Graveson remarks, that the statement of Photius, that Tarasius presided in the Seventh Council, is as false as what he asserts in another place, that the Patriarchs of Constantinople presided at all the former General Councils. Seven Sessions were held in this Council. In the first Session the petition of a great many Bishops was read, condemning the heresy of the Iconoclasts, and asking pardon, at the same time, for having subscribed the false Council of Copronimus. The Council having examined their case, admitted them to mercy, and re-established them in their dignity; but deferred the admission of those Bishops who had lived for a long period in heresy.
(30) Fleury, t. 6, l. 44, 28. (31) Fleury, n. 39; Nat. Alex. t. 11, c. 3, d. 3; Graves, t. 3, col. 4.
In the Second Session, the letter of Pope Adrian to the Emperor, and to Tarasius, was read, and several other Bishops were re-established in their Sees. In the Fourth Session, several proofs of the veneration of Holy Images were read from the Scriptures, and from the Holy Fathers. In the Fifth, it was proved that the Iconoclasts had drawn their erroneous doctrines from the Gentiles, the Jews, the Manicheans, and the Saracens. In the Sixth, chapter by chapter of every thing that was defined in the late Cabal of Constantinople was refuted (32); and, in the Seventh Session, the veneration of Sacred Images was defined. Cardinal Gotti (33) gives the Decree in full; this is the substance of it : ” Following the tradition of the Catholic Church, we define that, in the same manner as the image of the precious Cross, so should be likewise venerated, and placed in churches, on walls in houses, and streets, the images of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Mother of God, of the Angels, and of all the Saints. For those who frequently have before their eyes, and contemplate those Sacred Images, are more deeply impressed with the memory of those they represent, and give them an honorary adoration, but do not, indeed, offer them that real adoration which Faith teaches should be given to God alone; for the honour paid to the image is referred to the principal, and he who venerates an image venerates the person it represents.” It then anathematizes all those who profess or teach otherwise, and who reject the Images, Crosses, Pictures, or Relics, which the Church honours. This Decree was subscribed by all the Bishops.
- When the Acts of this Council were brought to France, the Bishops of that nation (34), assembled in Synod, in Frankfort, absolutely rejected them; and so did Charlemagne, in the ” Four Books,” either composed by him, or more properly published in his name, in the year 790, and called the Four Caroline Books. But as Selvaggi, in his notes on Mosheim, remarks (35), all this was caused by an error of fact, as the Frankfort Fathers believed that the Fathers of Nice decided that images should be absolutely worshipped, and this he proves from the Second Canon of the Council of Frankfort itself. ” A question has been submitted to us,” it says, ” concerning the new Synod the Greeks have holden in Constantinople, relative to the worship of images, in which it is reported to have been decided, that those should be anathematized who would not worship them. This doctrine we totally reject :” “Allata est in medium quæstio de nova Græcorum Synodo, quam de adorandis Imaginibus Constantinopoli fecerunt, in qua scriptum habebatur, ut qui Imaginibus Sanctorum, ita ut Deifies Trinitatis servitium, aut adorationem non impenderent, anathema judicarentur. Qui supra sanctissimi Patres nostri omnimodis adorationem renuentes contempserunt atque consentientes condemnaverunt.”
(32) Fleury, t. 6, 7. 44, n. 29. (33) Gotti, Ver. Rel. t. 2, c. 80, s. 4. (34) Graves. Hist. Eccl. t. 3, col. 4.
(35)Selvag. nota, 65, ad 1. 10, Mosh. p. 1063,
This mistake occurred, as Danæus says, on account of the unfaithful version of the Acts of the Council of Nice received in France, and translated from the Greek; whereas the Council of Nice itself, as we have already seen, makes the distinction between honorary reverence and absolute adoration very clearly.
- Besides, Graveson informs us, that the French Bishops did not consider this Council of Nice as a General one at all, but merely a Greek National Synod, since it was almost altogether composed of Eastern Bishops, and they did not see the customary letter of confirmation from the Pope to the Emperor, and to the whole Church : but, as Danasus says, as soon as the matter was cleared up, there was no longer any disagreement. Still, he says, in the ninth century, several Emperors, adherents of the Iconoclasts, renewed the persecution of the Catholics, and especially Nicephorus, Leo the Armenian, Michael the Stammerer, and, above all, Theophilus, who surpassed all the rest in cruelty. He died, however, in 842, and the Empress Theodora, his wife, a pious and Catholic lady, administered the Empire for her son, Michael, and restored peace to the Church, so that the Iconoclasts never after disturbed the peace of the Eastern Church. This erroneous doctrine began to spring up in the West, in the twelfth century the Petrobrussian first, and then the Henricians and Albigenses followed it. Two hundred years after, the same error was preached by the followers of Wickliffe; by the Hussites, in Bohemia; by Carlostad, in Wittemburg, though against Luther’s will; and by the disciples of Zuinglius and Calvin, the faithful imitators of Leo and Copronimus; and those, as Danæus says, who boast of following the above-named masters, should add to their patrons both the Jews and the Saracens. I have explained the doctrine of the Veneration of Holy Images in my dogmatic work on the Council of Trent (sess. 25, sec. 4, n. 35), in which this matter is discussed, and the veneration due to the Holy Images of the Trinity, of the Cross of Jesus Christ, of his Divine Mother, and the Saints, is proved from tradition, and from the authority of Fathers, and ancient history; and the objections made by heretics are there answered likewise.