Full Text



Subject Religion

Key-Topics arts and architecture, heresy , orthodoxy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405185394.2011.x


Iconoclasm (literally, “icon-smashing”) refers to a period in church history, usually considered as spanning 730 to 842, in which the legitimacy of the veneration of icons was questioned in parts of the Byzantine Empire. Generally considered as beginning with Emperor Leo III, policies of removing icons from Orthodox churches were followed by the destruction of the icons themselves. The origin of the name lies in this pattern of destroying the sacred images, whether by smashing, burning, or the whitewashing of churches. Those in opposition to the destruction of the icons ( iconodules , “those who venerate icons”) successfully defended their use on theological and traditional grounds at the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (787), given impetus by the support of the Empress Irene. A resurgence of iconoclastic fervor took place under Leo V, who from 813 instituted a second period of iconoclastic imperial policy, albeit less severe in tone than the first. The definitive restoration of the icons did not take place until the first Sunday of Great Lent, 842, when, under the leadership of regent Theodora, a synod was held in Constantinople that culminated with a procession from the Blachernae to Hagia Sophia, restoring the icons to the Great Church and establishing a feast in honor of the event (commemorated ever after as the Triumph of Orthodoxy). These periods of iconoclasm ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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