August 787 A.D. Seventh Ecumenical Council
The Iconoclast Controversy
The iconophilles believed that icons served to preserve the doctrinal teachings of the Church; they considered icons to be man's dynamic way of expressing the divine through art and beauty. The Iconoclast controversy was a form of Monophysitism: distrust and downgrading of the human side.
The Council's Proclamation
Defenders of Orthodoxy
St. John of Damascus (675-745)
The Triumph of Orthodoxy
- The First Ecumenical Council
- The Second Ecumenical Council
- The Third Ecumenical Council
- The Fourth Ecumenical Council
- The Fifth Ecumenical Council
- The Sixth Ecumenical Council
- The Quinisext Ecumenical Council
- The Seventh Ecumenical Council
The Seventh Ecumenical Council took place in Nicea in 787 AD, and is also known as the Second Council of Nicaea. The last of the seven Ecumenical Councils dealt with the icons.
Disputes concerning the Person of Christ did not end with the sixth Council in AD 681, but continued through the eighth and ninth centuries. This time, the controversy focused on icons—pictures of Christ, the Theotokos, the saints, and holy events—and lasted for 120 years, starting in AD 726. Icons were kept and venerated in both churches and private homes. The two groups in the controversy were:
The controversy, however, was more than a struggle over different views of Christian art. Deeper issues were involved, and it is these the Council addressed:
- The character of Christ's human nature
- The Christian attitude toward matter
- The true meaning of Christian redemption and the salvation of the entire material universe
The controversy falls into two periods:
The iconoclasts had support from both inside and outside the Church. Outside the Church, there may have been influence from Jewish and Muslim ideas, and it is important to note that just prior to the iconoclast outbreak Muslim Caliph Yezid ordered the removal of all icons with his territory. Inside the Church there had always existed a "puritan" outlook which saw all images as latent idolatry.
Largely through the work of St. John of Damascus (c. 676-749), who, ironically, was housed in Muslim-controlled lands and therefore outside the reach of the Empire, the iconodules' position won out. He addressed the charges of the iconoclasts thus:
The Decision of the Council
The seventh and last Ecumenical Council upheld the iconodules' postion in AD 787. They proclaimed: Icons... are to be kept in churches and honored with the same relative veneration as is shown to other material symbols, such as the 'precious and life-giving Cross' and the Book of the Gospels. The 'doctrine of icons' is tied to the Orthodox teaching that all of God's creation is to be redeemed and glorified, both spiritual and material.
The Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council are commemorated in October, on the Sunday of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council.
- The Orthodox Church, Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia