The Second Council of Nicea, 787
[Note: pagination of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers edition preserved]
THE SECOND COUNCIL OF NICE.
Emperors -- Constantine VI. And Irene. Pope. -- Hadrian.
The Sacra to Hadrian.
The Sacra read at Session 1. Extracts from the Acts, Session 1.
Session II. Session III. Session IV.
Session VI. containing the Epitome of the decree of the iconoclastic
Excursus On the Conciliabulum.
The dogmatic Decree of the Synod. Excursus On the present teaching
of the Latin and Greek Churches on the subject of images.
The Canons, with the Ancient Epitome and Notes.
Synodal Letter to the Emperors.
Excursus On the Two Letters of Gregory II. to the Emperor
Excursus On the Reception of the Seventh Council.
Excursus On the Council of Frankfort, A.D. 794.
Excursus On the Convention of Paris, A.D. 825.
Historical Note On the so-called "Eighth General Council"
and subsequent councils.
Gibbon thus describes the Seventh Ecumenical Council of the
Christian Church: "The decrees were framed by the president
(1) Tarasius, and ratified by the acclamations and subscriptions
of three hundred and fifty bishops. They unanimously pronounced
that the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason,
to the Fathers and councils of the Church; but they hesitated
whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the godhead
and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration.(2)
Of this second Nicene Council the acts are still extant; a curious
monument of superstition and ignorance, of falsehood and folly."
(Decline and Fall, chapter xlix.)
And this has been read as history, and has passed as such
in the estimation of the overwhelming majority of educated English-speaking
people for several generations, and yet it is a statement as full
of absolute and inexcusable errors as the passage in another part
of the same work which the late Bishop Lightfoot so unmercifully
exposed, and which the most recent editor, Bury, has taken pains
I do not know whether it is worth while to do so, but perhaps
it may be as well to state, that whatever may be his opinion of
the truths of the conclusions arrived at by the council, no impartial
reader can fail to recognize the profound learning (3) of the
assembly, the singular acumen displayed in the arguments employed,
and the remarkable freedom from what Gibbon and many others would
consider "superstition." So radical is this that Gibbon
would have noticed it had he read the acts of the synod he is
criticising (which we have good reason for believing that he never
did). There he would have found the Patriarch declaring that at
that time the venerable images worked no miracles, a statement
that would be made by no prelate of the Latin or Greek Church
to-day, even in the light of the nineteenth century.
As I have noted in the previous pages my task is not that
of a controversialist. To me at present it is a matter of no concern
whether the decision of the council is true or false. I shall
therefore strictly confine myself to two points 1. That the Council
was Ecumenical. 2. What its decision was; explaining the technical
meaning of the Greek words employed during this controversy and
finally incorporated in the decree.
1. This Council was certainly Ecumenical.
It seems strange that any person familiar with the facts of
the ease could for a moment entertain a doubt as to the ecumenical
character of the council which met at Nice in 787.
(a) It was called by the Roman Emperors to be an Ecumenical
Council. Vide letter of Tarasius.
(b) It was called with the approval of the Pope (not like
I. Constantinople, without his knowledge; or like Chalcedon, contrary
to his expressed wish), and two papal legates were present at
its deliberations and signed its decrees.
(c) The Patriarch of Constantinople was present in person.
(d) The other Patriarchates were represented, although on
account of the Moslem tyranny the Patriarchs could not attend
in person, nor could they even send proctors.
(e) The decrees were adopted by an unanimous vote of the three
hundred and fifty bishops.
(f) They were immediately received in all the four Eastern Patriarchates.(1)
(g) They were immediately accepted by the Pope.
(h) For a full thousand years they have been received by the
Latin and Greek Churches with but a few exceptions altogether
insignificant, save the Frankish kingdom.
In the face of such undisputed facts, it would be strange
were anyone to doubt the historical fact that the Second Council
of Nice is one of the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church,
and indeed so far as I am aware none have done so except such
as have been forced into this position for doctrinal consistency.
Nor have all Protestants allowed their judgment to be warped
in this matter. As a sample I may quote from that stanch Protestant
whom Queen Elizabeth appointed a chaplain in ordinary in 1598,
and who in 1610 was made Dean of Gloucester, the profoundly learned
Richard Field. In his famous "Book of the Church" (Book
V. chap. lj.), he says: "These" [six, which he had just
described] "were all the lawful General Councils (lawful,
I say, both in their beginning and proceeding and continuance)
that ever were holden in the Christian Church, touching matters
of faith. For the Seventh, which is the Second of Nice, was not
called about any question of faith but of manners. So that there
are but Seven General Councils that the whole Church acknowledgeth,
called to determine matters of faith and manners. For the rest
that were holden afterwards, which our adversaries [the Roman
Catholics] would have to be acknowledged general, they are not
only rejected by us but by the Grecians also, as not general,
but patriarchal only, etc."
Of course there are a number of writers (principally of the
Anglican Communion), who have argued thus: "The doctrine
taught by the Second Council of Nice we reject, ergo it cannot
have been an Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church."
And they have then gone on to prove their conclusion. With such
writers I have no concern. My simple contention is that the Council
is admitted by all to have been representative of East and West,
and to have been accepted for a thousand years as such, and to
be to-day accepted as Ecumenical by the Latin and Greek Churches.
If its doctrines are false, then one of the Ecumenical Synods
set forth false doctrine, a statement which should give no trouble,
so far as I can understand, to anyone who does not hold the necessary
infallibility of Ecumenical Synods.(2)
Among those who have argued against the ecumenical character
of the Seventh Council there are, however, two whose eminent learning
and high standing demand a consideration of anything they may
advance on any subject they treat of, these are the Rev. John
Mason Neale and the Rev. Sir William Palmer.
Dr. Neale considers the matter at some length in a foot-note
to his History of the Eastern Church (Vol. II., pp. 132-135),
but I think it not improper to remark that the author ingenuously
confesses in this very note that if he came to the conclusion
that the council was ecumenical, "it would be difficult to
clear our own Church from the charge of heresy." Entertaining
such an opinion at the start, his conclusion could hardly be unbiassed.
The only argument which is advanced in this note which is
different from those of other opponents of the Council, is that
it had not the authentication of a subsequent Ecumenical Synod.
The argument seems to me so extraordinary that I think Dr. Neale's
exact words should be cited: "In the first place, we may
remark that the Second Council of Nicaea wants one mark of authority,
shared according to the more general belief by the six -- according
to the opinions which an English Churchman must necessarily embrace
by the first five Coun-
cils--its recognition as Ecumenical by a later Council undoubtedly
so." But surely this involves an absurdity, for if it is
not known whether the last one is ecumenical or no, how will its
approval of the next to the last give that council any certainty?
If III. Constantinople is doubtful being the sixth, because there
is no seventh to have confirmed it; then II. Constantinople, the
fifth, is doubtful because it has only been confirmed by a synod
itself doubtful and so on, which is absurd. The test of the ecumenicity
of a council is not its acceptance by a subsequent synod, but
its acceptance by the whole Church, and this Dr. Neale frankly
confesses is the case with regard to II. Nice: "It cannot
be denied," he admits, "that at the present day both
the Eastern and the Latin Churches receive it as Ecumenical"
(p. 132). He might have added, "and have done so without
any controversy on the subject for nearly a thousand years."
I do not think there is any need of my delaying longer over
Dr. Neale's note, which I have noticed at all only because of
his profound scholarship, and not because on this particular point
I thought he had thrown any new light upon the matter, nor urged
any argument really calling for an answer.
Sir William Palmer's argument (A Treatise on the Church of
Christ, Pt. IV., Chapter X., Sect. IV.) is one of much greater
force, and needs an answer. He points out how, long after the
Council of Nice, the number of the General Councils was still
spoken of as being Six, and that in some instances this council
is referred to as the "pseudo" General Council of Nice.
Now at first sight this argument seems to be of great force. But
upon further consideration it will be seen to be after all of
no great weight. We may not be able to explain, nor are we called
upon to do so, why in certain cases writers chose still to speak
of Six instead of Seven General Councils, but we would point out
that the same continuance of the old expression can be found with
regard to others of the General Councils. For example, St. Gregory
the Great says that he "revered the four Ecumenical Councils
as he did the four Gospels," but the fifth Ecumenical Synod
had been held a number of years before. Will anyone pretend from
this to draw the conclusion that at that time the Ecumenical character
of the Fifth Synod (II. Constantinople) was not recognized at
Rome? Moreover, among the instances cited (and there are but a
very few all told) one of them is fatal to the argument. For if
Pope Hadrian in 871 still speaks of only six Ecumenical Synods,
he omits two (according to Roman count), for this date is after
the synod which deposed Photius--a synod rejected indeed afterwards
by the Greeks, but always accepted by the Latins as the Eighth
of the Ecumenical Councils. Would Sir William pretend for an instant
that Hadrian and the Church of Rome did not recognize that Council
as Ecumenical and as the Eighth Synod? He could not, for on page
208 he ingenuously confesses that that Council "had been
approved and confirmed by that Pope."
But after all, the contention fails in its very beginning,
for Sir William frankly recognizes that the Popes from the first
espoused the cause of the council and were ready to defend it.
Now this involved the acknowledgment of its ecumenical character,
for it was called as an Ecumenical Synod, this we expressly learn
from the letter of Tarasius to the other Eastern Patriarchs (Labbe,
Conc., Tom. VII., col. 165), from the letter of the Emperor and
Empress to the bishops throughout the empire (L. and C., Conc.,
Tom. VII., col. 53), and (above all) from the witness of the Council
itself, assuming the style of the "Holy Ecu-menical Synod."
In the face of such evidence any further proof is surely uncalled
We come now to the only other argument brought against the
ecumenical character of this council--to wit, that many writers,
even until after the beginning of the XVIth century, call the
Seventh a "pseudo-Council." But surely this proves too
much, for it would seem to imply that even down to that time the
cultus of images was not established in the West, a proposition
too ridiculous to be defended by anyone. It is indeed worthy of
all the authors cited are Frankish, (I) the Annales Francorum (A.D.
808) in the continuation of the same (A.D. 814), in an anonymous
life of Charlemagne, and the Annales written after 819; (2) Eginhard
in his Annales Francorum (A.D. 829); (3) the Gallican bishops
at Paris, 824;(1) (4) Hincmar of Rheims; (5) Ado, bishop of Vienne
(died 875); (6) Anastasius acknowledges that the French had not
accepted the veneration of the sacred images; (7) The Chronicle
of St. Bertinus (after 884); (8) The Annales Francorum after the
council still speak of it as pseudo; (9) Regino, Abbot of Prum
(circa 910); (10) the Chronicle of St. Bertinus, of the Xth Century.
(11) Hermanus Contractus: (12) the author who continued the Gestes
Francorum to A.D. 1165; (13) Roger Hoverden (A.D. 1204); (14)
Conrude a Lichte-nan, Abbot of Urspurg (circa 1230); (15) Matthew
No doubt to these, given in Palmer, who has made much use
of Lannoy, others could be added; but they are enough to shew
that the council was very little known, and that none of these
writers had ever seen its acts.
Sir William is of opinion that by what precedes in his book
he has "proved that for at least five centuries and a half
the Council of Nice remained rejected in the Western Church."
I venture to think that the most he has proved is that during
that period of time he has been able to find fifteen individuals
who for one reason or another wrote rejecting that council, that
is to say three in a century, a number which does not seem quite
sufficient to make the foundation of so considerable a generalization
as "the Western Church." The further conclusion of Sir
William, I think, every scholar will reject as simply preposterous,
vie.: "In fact the doctrine of the adoration of images [by
which he means the doctrine taught by the II. Council of Nice]
was never received in the West, except where the influence of
the Roman See was predominant" (p. 211).
Sir William is always, however, honest, and the following
quotation which he himself makes from Cardinal Bellarmine may
well go far toward explaining the erroneous or imperfect statements
he has so learnedly and laboriously gathered together. "Bellarmine
says: 'It is very credible that St. Thomas, Alexander of Hales,
and other scholastic doctors had not seen the second synod of
Nice, nor the eighth general synod;' he adds that they 'were long
in obscurity, and were first published in our own age, as may
be known from their not being extant in the older volumes of the
councils; and St. Thomas and the other ancient schoolmen never
make any mention of this Nicene Synod.' (Bell. De Imag. Sanct.
Lib. II. cap. xxij.)"
2. What the Council decreed.
The council decreed that similar veneration and honour should
be paid to the representations of the Lord and of the Saints as
was accustomed to be paid to the "laurata" and tablets
representing the Christian emperors, to wit, that they should
be bowed to, and saluted with kisses, and artended with lights
and the offering of incense.(2) But the Council was most explicit
in declaring that this was merely a veneration of honour and affection,
such as can be given to the creature, and that under no circumstances
could the adoration of divine worship be given to them but to
The Greek language has in this respect a great advantage over
the Hebrew, the Latin and the English; it has a word which is
a general word and is properly used of the affectionate regard
and veneration shown to any person or thing, whether to the divine
Creator or to any of his creatures, this word is
it has also another word which can properly be used to denote
only the worship due to the most high, God, this word is
When then the Council defined that the worship of "latria
"was never to be given to any but God alone,
it cut off all possibility for idolatry, mariolatry, iconolatry,
or any other "larry" except "theo-larry."
If therefore any of these other "latries" exist or ever
have existed, they exist or have existed not in accordance with,
but in defiance of, the decree of the Second Council of Nice.
But unfortunately, as I have said, we have neither in Hebrew,
Latin, nor English any word with this restricted meaning, and
therefore when it became necessary to translate the Greek acts
and the decree, great difficulty was experienced, and by the use
of "adoro" as the equivalent of
many were scandalized, thinking that it was divine adoration which
they were to give to the sacred images, which they knew would
be idolatry. The same trouble is found in rendering into English
the acts and decrees; for while indeed properly speaking "worship"
no more means necessarily divine worship in English than "adoratio"
does in Latin (e.g. I. Chr. xxix. 20, "All the congregation
bowed down their heads and worshipped the Lord and the King"
[i.e. Solomon]; Luke xiv. 10, "Then shalt thou have worship
in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee "), yet
to the popular mind "the worship of images" is the equivalent
of idolatry. In the following translations I have uniformly translated
as follows and the reader from the English will know what the
word is in the original.
, to venerate;
, to adore;
, to serve;
The relative force of
cannot better be set forth
than by Archbishop Trench's illustration of two circles having
the same centre, the larger including the less (New Testament
Synonyms, sub vote
To make this matter still clearer I must ask the reader's
attention to the use of the words abadh and shachah in the Hebrew;
the one abadh, which finds, when used with reference to God or
to false gods its equivalent in
the other shachah, which is represented by
Now in the Old Testament no distinction in the Hebrew is drawn
between these words when applied to creator or creature. The one
denotes service primarily for hire; the other bowing down and
kissing the hand to any in salutation. Both words are constantly
used and sometimes refer to the Creator and sometimes to the creature--e.g.,
we read that Jacob served (abadh) Laban (Gen. xxix. 20); and that
Joshua commanded the people not to serve the gods of their fathers
but to serve (abadh) the Lord (Josh. xxiv. 14). And for the use
of shachah the following may suffice: "And all the congregation
blessed the Lord God of their fathers and bowed down their heads
and worshipped (Hebrew, shachah; Greek,
Latin, adoro) the Lord and the King" (I. Chr. xxix. 20).
But while it is true of the Hebrew of the Old Testament that there
is no word which refers alone to Divine Worship this is not true
of the Septuagint Greek nor of the Greek of the New Testament,
for in both
has always its
general meaning, sometimes applying to the creature and sometimes
to the Creator; but
to denote divine worship alone, as St. Augustine pointed out long
This distinction comes out very clearly in the inspired translation
of the Hebrew found in Matthew iv. 10, "Thou shalt worship
) the Lord thy God, and
him only shalt thou serve
"Worship" was due indeed to God above all but not exclusively
to him, but latria is to be given to "him only." (1)
I think I have now said enough to let the reader understand
the doctrine taught by the council and to prove that in its decree
it simply adopted the technical use of words found in the Greek
of the Septuagint and of the New Testament. I may then dose this
introduction with a few remarks upon outward acts of veneration
Of course, the outward manifestation in bodily acts of reverence
will vary with times and with the habits of peoples. To those
accustomed to kiss the earth on which the Emperor had trodden,
it would be natural to kiss the feet of the image of the King
of Kings. The same is manifestly true of any outward acts whatever,
such as bowing, kneeling, burning of lights, and offering of incense.
All these when offered before an image are, according to the mind
of the Council, but outward signs of the reverence due to that
which the image represents and pass backward to the prototype,
and thus it defined, citing the example of the serpent in the
wilderness, of which we read, "For he that turned himself
toward it was not saved by the thing that he saw, but by thee,
that art the Saviour of all" (Wisdom xvi. 17). If anyone
feels disposed to attribute to outward acts any necessary religious
value he is falling back into Judaism, and it were well for him
to remember that the nod which the Quakers adopted out of protest
to the bow of Christians was once the expression of divine worship
to the most sacred idols; that in the Eastern Church the priest
only bows before the Lord believed to be present in the Holy Sacrament
while he prostrates himself before the infidel Sultan; and that
throughout the Latin communion the acolytes genuflect before.
the Bishop, as they pass him, with the same genuflection that
they give to the Holy Sacrament upon the Altar. In this connexion
I quote in closing the fine satire in the letter of this very
council to the Emperor and Empress. St. Paul "says of Jacob
(Heb. xi. 2I), ' He worshipped the top of his staff,' and like
to this is that said by Gregory, surnamed the theologian, ' Revere
Bethlehem and worship the manger,' But who of those truly understanding
the Divine Scriptures would suppose that here was intended the
Divine worship of latria? Such an opinion could only be entertained
by an idiot or one ignorant of Scriptural and Patristic knowledge.
Would Jacob give divine worship to his staff? Or would Gregory,
the theologian, give command to worship as God a manger!"
THE DIVINE(1) SACRA(2) SENT BY THE EMPERORS CONSTANTINE AND
IRENE TO THE MOST HOLY AND MOST BLESSEDHADRIAN, POPE OF OLD ROME.
(Found in Zabbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 32.)
They who receive the dignity of the empire, or the honour
of the principal priesthood from our Lord Jesus Christ, ought
to provide and to care for those things which please him, and
rule and govern the people committed to their care according to
his will and good pleasure.
Therefore, O most holy Head (Caput), it is incumbent upon
us and you, that irrepre-hensibly we know the things which be
his, and that in these we exercise ourselves, since from him we
have received the im-peratorial dignity, and you the dignity of
the chief priesthood.
But now to speak more to the point. Your paternal blessedness
knows what hath been done in times past in this our royal city
against the venerable images, how those who reigned immediately
before us destroyed them and subjected them to disgrace and injury:
(O may it not be imputed to them, for it had been better for them
had they not laid their hands upon the 'l Church!)-- and how they
brought over to their own opinion all the people who live in these
parts--yea, even the whole of the East, in like manner, up to
the time in which God hath exalted us to this kingdom, who seek
his glory in truth, and hold that which has been handed down by
his Apostles together with all other teachers. Whence now with
pure heart and unfeigned religion we have, together with all our
subjects and our most learned divines, had constant conferences
respecting the things which relate to God, and by their advice
have determined to summon a General Council. And we entreat your
paternal blessedness, or rather the Lord God entreats, "who
will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of
the truth," that you will give yourself to us and make no
delay, but come up hither to aid us in the confirmation and establishment
of the ancient tradition of venerable images. It is, indeed, incumbent on your holiness to do
this, since you know how it is written--" Comfort ye, comfort
ye, my people, ye priests, saith the Lord," and "the
lips of the priest shall keep knowledge, and the law shall go
forth out of his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts."
And again, the divine Apostle, the preacher of the truth, who,
"from Jerusalem and round about unto Il-lyricum, preached
the Gospel," hath thus commanded--" Feed with discipline
the flock of Christ which he purchased with his own blood."
As then you are the veritable chief priest (primus sacerdos) who
presides in the place and in the see of the holy and superlaudable
Apostle Peter, let your paternal blessedness come to us, as we
have said before, and add your presence to all those other priests
who shall be assembled together here, that thus the will of the
Lord may be accomplished. For as we are taught in the Gospels
our Lord saith--"When two or three are met together in my
name, there am I in the midst of them" --let your paternal
and sacred blessedness be certified and confirmed by the great
God and King of all, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by us his servants,
that if you come up hither you shall be received with all honour
and glory, and that everything necessary for you shall be granted.
And again, when the definition (capitulum) shall be completed,
which by the good pleasure of Christ our God we hope shall be
done, we take upon us to provide for you every facility of returning
with honour and distinction. If, however, your blessedness cannot
attend upon us (which we can scarcely imagine, knowing what is
your zeal about divine things), at least, pray select for us men
of understanding, having with them letters from your holiness,
that they may be present here in the person of your sacred and
paternal blessedness. So, when they meet
with the other priests who are here, the ancient tradition of
our holy fathers may be synodically confirmed, and every evil
plant of tares may be rooted out, and the words of our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ may be fulfilled, that "the gates of
hell shall not prevail against her." And after this, may
there be no further schism and separation in the one holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church, of which Christ our true God is the Head.
We have had Constantine, beloved in Christ, most holy Bishop
of Leontina in our beloved Sicily, with whom your paternal blessedness
is well acquainted, into our presence; and, having spoken with
him face to face, have sent him with this our present venerable
jussio to you. Whom, after that he hath seen you, forthwith dismiss,
that he may come back to us, and write us by him concerning your
coming--what time we may expect will be spent in your journeying
thence and coming to us. Moreover, he can retain with him the
most holy Bishop of Naples, and come up hither together with him.
And, as your journey will be by way of Naples and Sicily we have
given orders to the Governor of Sicily about this, that he take
due care to have every needful preparation made for your honour
and rest, which is necessary in order that your paternal blessedness
may come to us. Given on the with before the calends of September,
the seventh indic-tion, from the Royal City.
THE IMPERIAL SACRA.READ AT THE FIRST SESSION.
(Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 49.)
CONSTANTINE and Irene--Sovereigns of the Romans in the Faith,
to the most holy Bishops, who, by the grace of God and by the
command of our pious Sovereignty, have met together in the Council
The Wisdom which is truly according to the nature of God and
the Father--our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God--who, by his most
divine and wonderful dispensation in the flesh, hath delivered
us from all idolatrous error: and, by taking on him our nature,
hath renewed the same by the co-operation of the Spirit, which
is of the same nature with himself; and having himself become
the first High Priest, hath counted you holy men, worthy of the same dignity.
He is that good Shepherd who, bearing on his own shoulders
that wandering sheep --fallen man, hath brought him back to his
own peculiar folds-that is, the party of angelic and ministering powers (Eph. if. 14, 15), and
hath reconciled us in himself and having taken away the wall of
partition, hath broken down the enmity through his flesh, and
hath bestowed upon us a rule of conduct tending to peace; wherefore,
preaching to all, he saith in the Gospel, Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called the children of God
(Matt. v. 9). Of which blessedness, confirming as it does the
exaltation of the adoption of sons, our pious Sovereignty desiring
above all things to be made partakers, hath ever applied the utmost
diligence to direct all our Roman Commonwealth into the ways of
unity and concord; and more especially have we been solicitous
concerning the right regulation of the Church of God, and most
anxious in every way to promote the unity of the priesthood. For
which cause the Chiefs of the Sacerdotal Order of the East and
of the North, of the West and of the South, are present in the
person of their Representative Bishops, who have with them respectively
the replies written in answers to the Synodical Epistle sent from
the most holy Patriarch; for such was from the beginning the synodical
regulation of the Church Catholic, which, from the one end of
the earth to the other, hath received the Gospel. On this account
we have, by the good will and permission of God, caused you, his
most holy Priests, to meet together --you who are accustomed to
dispense his Testimony in the unbloody sacrifice--that your decision
may be in accordance with the definitions of former councils who
decreed rightly, and that the splendour of the
Spirit may illumine you in all things, for, as our Lord teaches,
No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on
a candlestick, that it may give light to all that are in tim
house; even so, should ye make such use of the various regulations
which have been piously handed down to us of old by our Fathers,
that all the Holy Churches of God may remain in peaceful order.
As for us, such was our zeal for the truth -- such our earnest
desire for the interests of religion, our care for ecclesiastical
order, our anxiety that the ancient rules and orders should maintain
their ground -- that though fully engaged in military councils
-- though all our attention was occupied in political cares --
yet, treating all these affairs as but of minor importance, we
would allow nothing whatever to interfere with the convocation
of your most holy council. To every one is given the utmost freedom
of expressing his sentiments without the least hesitation, that
thus the subject under enquiry may be most fully discussed and
truth may be the more boldly spoken, that so all dissensions may
be banished from the Church and we all may be united in the bonds
For, when the most holy Patriarch Paul, by the divine will,
was about to be liberated from the bands of mortality and to exchange
his earthly pilgrimage for a heavenly home with his Master Christ,
he abdicated the Patriarchate and took upon him the monastic life,
and when we asked him, Why hast thou done this? he answered, Because
I fear that, if death should surprise me still in the episcopate
of this royal and heaven-defended city, I should have to carry
with me the anathema of the whole Catholic Church, which consigns
me to that outer darkness which is prepared for the devil and
his angels; for they say that a certain synod hath been held here
in order to the subversion of pictures and images which the Catholic
Church holds, embraces, and receives, in memory of the persons
whom they represent. This is that which distracts my soul -- this
is that which makes me anxiously to enquire how I may escape the
judgment of God -- since among such men I have been brought up
and with such am I numbered. No sooner had he thus spoken in the
presence of some of our most illustrious nobles than he expired.
When our Pious Sovereignty reflected on this awful declaration
(and truly, even before this event, we had heard of similar questionings
from many around), we took counsel with ourselves as to what ought
to be done; and we determined, after mature deliberation, that
when a new Patriarch had been elected, we should endeavour to
bring this subject to some decisive conclusion. Wherefore, having
summoned those whom we knew to be most experienced in ecclesiastical
matters, and having called upon Christ our God, we consulted with
them who was worthy to be exalted to the chair of the Priesthood
of this Royal and God-preserved city; and they all with one heart
and soul gave their vote in favour of Tarasius -- he who now occupies
the Pontifical Presidency. Having, therefore, sent for him, we
laid before him our deliberations and our vote; but he would by
no means consent, nor at all yield to that which had been determined.
And when we enquired, Wherefore he thus refused his consent? --
at first he answered evasively, That the yoke of the Chief Priesthood
was too much for him. But we, knowing this to be a mere pretext
coveting his unwillingness to obey us, would not desist from our
importunity, but persisted in pressing the acceptance of the dignity
of the Chief Priesthood upon him. When he found how urgent we
were with him, he told us the cause of his refusal. It is (said
he) because I perceive that the Church which has been founded
on the rock, Christ our God, is rent and torn asunder by schisms,
and that we are unstable in our confession, and that Christians
in the East, of the same faith with ourselves, decline communion
with us, and unite them with those of the West; and so we are
estranged from all, and each day are anathematized by all: and,
moreover, I should demand that an Ecumenical Council should be
held, at which should be found Legates from the Pope of Rome and
from the Chief Priests of the East. We, therefore, fully understanding
these things, introduced him to the assembled company of the Priests
-- of our most illustrious Princes -- and of all our Christian
people; and then, in their presence, he repeated to them all that
he had before said to us; which, when they heard, they received
him joyfully, and earnestly entreated our peace-making and
pious Sovereignty that an Ecumenical Council might be assembled.
To this their request, we gave our hearty consent; for, to speak
the truth, it is by the good will and under the direction of our
God that we have assembled you together. Wherefore as God, willing
to establish his own counsel, hath for this purpose brought you
together from all parts of the world, behold the Gospels now lying
before you, and plainly crying aloud, "Judge justly ;"
stand firm as champions of religion, and be ready with unsparing
hand to cut away all innovations and new fangled inventions. And,
as Peter the Chief of the Apostolic College, struck the mad slave
and cut off his Jewish ear with the sword, so in like manner do
ye wield the axe of the Spirit, and every tree which bears the
fruit of contention, of strife, or newly-imported innovation,
either renew by transplanting through the words of sound doctrine,
or lay it low with canonical censure, and send it to file fires
of the future Gehenna, so that the peace of the Spirit may evermore protect the whole body of the
Church, compacted and united in one, and confirmed by the traditions
of the Fathers; and so may all our Roman State enjoy peace as
well as the Church.
We have received letters from Hadrian, most Holy Pope of old
Rome, by his Legates -- namely, Peter, the God-beloved Archpresbyter,
and Peter, the God - beloved Presbyter and Abbot -- who will be
present in council with you; and we command that, according to
synodical custom, these be read in the hearing of you all; and
that, having heard these with becoming silence, and moreover the
Epistles contained in two octavos sent by the Chief Priest and
other Priests of the Eastern dioceses by John, most pious Monk
and Chancellor of the Patriarchal throne of Antioch, and Thomas,
Priest and Abbot, who also are present together with you, ye may
by these understand what are the sentiments of the Church Catholic
on this point.
EXTRACTS FROM THE ACTS.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 53.)
[Certain bishops who had been led astray by the Iconoclasts
came, asking to be received back. The first of these was Basil
The bishop Basil of Ancyra read as follows from a book; Inasmuch
as ecclesiastical legislation has canonically been handed down
from past time, even from the beginning from the holy Apostles,
and from their successors, who were our holy fathers
and teachers, and also from the six holy and ecumenical synods,
and from the local synods which were gathered in the interests
of orthodoxy, that those returning from any heresy whatever to
the orthodox faith and to the tradition of the Catholic Church,
might deny their own heresy, and confess the orthodox faith,
Wherefore I, Basil, bishop of the city of Ancyra, proposing
to be united to the Catholic Church, and to Hadrian the most holy
Pope of Old Rome, and to Tarasius the most blessed Patriarch,
and to the most holy apostolic sees, to wit, Alexandria, Antioch,
and the Holy City, as well as to all orthodox high-priests and
priests, make this written confession of my faith, and I offer
it to you as to those who have received power by apostolic authority.
And in this also I beg pardon from your divinely gathered holiness
for my tardiness in this matter. For it was not right that I should
have fallen behind in the confession of orthodoxy, but it arose
from my entire lack of knowledge, and slothful and negligent mind
in the matter. Wherefore the rather I ask your blessedness to
grant me indulgence in God's sight.
I believe, therefore, and make my confession in one God, the
Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten
Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life. The Trinity,
one in essence and one in majesty, must be worshipped and glorified
in one godhead, power, and authority. I confess all things pertaining
to the incarnation of one of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and God,
Jesus Christ, as the Saints and the six Ecumenical Synods have
handed down. And I reject and anathematize every heretical babbling,
as they also have rejected them. I ask for the intercessions (
of our spotless Lady the Holy Mother of God, and those of the
holy and heavenly powers, and those of all the Saints. (1)
And receiving their holy and honourable reliques with all
), I salute and venerate
these with honour (
hoping to have a share in their heliness. Likewise also the venerable
) of the incarnation
of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the humanity he assumed for our salvation;
and of our spotless Lady, the holy Mother of God; and of the angels
like unto God; and of the holy Apostles, Prophets, Martyrs, and
of all the Saints -- the sacred images of all these, I salute
and venerate -rejecting and anathematizing with my whole soul
and mind the synod which was gathered together out of stubbornness
and madness, and which styled itself the Seventh Synod, but which
by those who think accurately was called lawfully and canonically
a pseudo-synod, as being contrary to all truth and piety, arm
audaciously and temerariously against the divinely handed down
ecclesiastical legislation, yea, even impiously baring yelped
at and scoffed at the holy and venerable images, and having ordered
these to be taken away out of the holy churches of God; over which
assembly presided Theodosius with time pseudonym of Ephesius,
Sisinnius of Perga, with the surname Pastillas, Basilius of Pisidia,
called "tricaccabus;" with whom the wretched Constantine,
the then Patriarch, was led (
These things thus I confess and to these I assent, and therefore
in simplicity of heart and in uprightness of mind, in the presence
of God, I have made the subjoined anathematisms.
Anathema to the calumniators of the Christians, that is to
the image breakers.
Anathema to those who apply the words of Holy Scripture which
were spoken against idols, to the venerable images.
Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable
Anathema to those who say that Christians have recourse to
the images as to gods.
Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.
Anathema to those who knowingly communicate with those who
revile and dishonour the venerable images.
Anathema to those who say that another than Christ our Lord
hath delivered us from idols.
Anathema to those who spurn the teachings of the holy Fathers
and the tradition of the Catholic Church, taking as a pretext
and making their own the arguments of Arius, Nestorius, Eutyches,
and Dioscorus, that unless we were evidently taught by the Old
and New Testaments, we should not follow the teachings of the
holy Fathers and of the holy Ecumenical Synods, and the tradition
of the Catholic Church.
Anathema to those who dare to say that the Catholic Church
hath at any time sanctioned idols.
Anathema to those who say that the making of images is a diabolical
invention and not a tradition of our holy Fathers.
This is my confession [of faith] and to these propositions
I give my assent. And I pronounce this with my whole heart, and
soul, and mind.
And if at any time by the fraud of the devil (which may God
forbid!) I voluntarily or involuntarily shall be opposed to what
I have now professed, may I be anathema from the Father, the Son
and the Holy Ghost, and from the Catholic Church and every hierarchical
order a stranger.
I will keep myself from every acceptance of a bribe and from
filthy lucre in accordance with the divine canons of the holy
Apostles and of the approved Fathers.
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: This whole sacred
gathering yields glory and thanks to God for this confession of
yours, which you have made to the Catholic Church.
The Holy Synod said: Glory to God which maketh one that which
[Theodore, bishop of Myra, then read the same confession,
and was received. The next bishop who asked to be received read
as follows: (col. 60)]
Theodosius, the humble Christian, to the holy and Ecumenical
Synod: I confess and I agree to (
and I receive and I salute and I venerate in the first place the
spotless image of our Lord Jesus Christ, our true God, and the
holy image of her who bore him without seed, the holy Mother of
God, and her help and protection and intercessions each day and
night as a sinner to my aid I call for, since she has confidence
with Christ our God, as he was born of her. Likewise also I receive
and venerate the images of the holy and most laudable Apostles,
prophets, and martyrs and the fathers and cultivators of the desert.
Not indeed as gods (God forbid!) do I ask all these with my whole
heart to pray for me to God, that he may grant me through their
intercessions to find mercy at his hands at the day of judgment,
for in this I am but showing forth more clearly the affection
and love of my soul which I have borne them from the first. Likewise
also I venerate and honour and salute the reliques of the Saints
as of those who fought for Christ and who have received grace
from him for the healing of diseases and the curing of sicknesses
and the casting out of devils, as the Christian Church has received
from the holy Apostles and Fathers even down to us to-day.
Moreover, I am well pleased that there should be images in
the churches of the faithful, especially the image of our Lord
Jesus Christ and of the holy Mother of God, of every kind of material,
both gold and silver and of every colour, so that his incarnation
may be set forth to all men. Likewise there may be painted the
lives of the Saints and Prophets and Martyrs, so that their struggles
and agonies may be set forth in brief, for the stirring up and
teaching of the people, especially of the unlearned.
For if the people go forth with lights and incense to meet
the "laurata" and images of the Emperors when they are
sent to cities or rural districts, they honour surely not the
tablet covered over with wax, but the Emperor himself. How much
more is it necessary that in the churches of Christ our God, the
image of God our Saviour and of his spotless Mother and of all
the holy and blessed fathers and ascetics should be painted? Even
as also St. Basil says: "Writers and painters set forth the
great deeds of war; the one by word, the other by their pencils;
and each stirs many to, courage." And again the same author
"How much pains have you ever taken that you might find
one of the Saints who was willing to be your importunate intercessor
to the Lord?" (1) And Chrysostom says, "The charity
of the Saints is not diminished by their death, nor does it come
to an end with their exit from life, but after their death they
are still more powerful than when they were alive," and many
other things without measure. Therefore I ask you, O ye Saints!
I call out to you. I have sinned against heaven and in your sight.
Receive me as God received the luxurious man, and the harlot,
and the thief. Seek me out, as Christ sought out the sheep that
was lost, which he carried on his shoulders; so that there may
be joy in the presence of God and of his angels over my salvation
and repentance, through your intervention, O all-holy lords! Let
them who do not venerate the holy and venerable images be anathema!
Anathema to those who blaspheme against the honourable and venerable
images! To those who dare to attack and blaspheme the venerable
images and call them idols, anathema! To the calumniators of Christianity,
that is to say the Iconoclasts, anathema! To those who do not
diligently teach all the Christ-loving people to venerate and
salute the venerable and sacred and honourable images of all the
Saints who pleased God in their several generations, anathema
! To those who have a doubtful mind and do not confess with their
whole hearts that they venerate the sacred images, anathema!
Sabbas, the most reverend hegumenus of the monastery of the
Studium, said: According to the Apostolic precepts and the Ecumenical
Synods he is worthy to be received back.
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: Those who formerly
were the calumniators of orthodoxy, now are become the advocates
of the truth.
[Near the end of this session, (col. 77)]
John, the most reverend bishop and legate of the Eastern high
priests said: This heresy is the worst of all heresies. Woe to
the iconoclasts! It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the
) of our Saviour.
EXTRACTS FROM THE ACTS.
[The Papal Letters were presented by the Legates. First was
read that to Constantine and Irene, but not in its entirety, if
we may trust Anastasius the Librarian, who gives what he says
is the original latin text. Here follows a translation of this
and of the Greek, also a translation of the Latin passage altogether
omitted, (as we are told) with the consent of the Roman Legates.]
PART OF POPE HADRIAN'S LETTER.
[As written by the Pope.]
(Migne, Pat. Lat., Tom. XCVI., col. 1217.)
If you persevere in that orthodox Faith in which you have
begun, and the sacred and venerable images be by your means erected
again in those parts, as by the lord, the Emperor Constantine
of pious memory, and the blessed Helen, who promulgated the orthodox
Faith, and exalted the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church
your spiritual mother, and with the other orthodox Emperors venerated
it as the head of all Churches, so will your Clemency, that is
protected of God, receive the name of another Constantine, and
another Helen, through whom at the beginning the holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church derived strength, and like whom your own
fame is spread abroad by triumphs, so as to be brilliant and deeply
fixed in the whole world. But the more, if following the traditions
of the orthodox Faith, you embrace the judgment of the Church
of blessed Peter, chief of the Apostles, and, as of old your predecessors
the holy Emperors acted, so you, too, venerating it with honour,
love with all your heart his Vicar, and if your sacred majesty
follow by preference their orthodox Faith, according to our holy
Roman Church. May the chief of the Apostles himself, to whom
the power was given by our Lord God to bind and remit sins in
heaven and earth, be often your protector, and trample all barbarous
nations under your feet, and everywhere make you conquerors.
For let sacred authority lay open the marks of his dignity, and
how great veneration ought to be shewn to his, the highest See,
by all the faithful in the world. For the Lord set him who bears
[As read in Greek to the Council.]
(Migne, Pat. Lat., Tom. XCVI., col. 1218.)
If the ancient orthodoxy be perfected and restored by your
means in those regions, and the venerable icons be placed in their
original state, you will be partakers with the Lord Constantine,
Emperor of old, now in the Divine keeping, and the Empress Helena,
who made conspicuous and confirmed the orthodox Faith, and exalted
still more your holy mother, the Catholic and Roman and spiritual
Church, and with the orthodox Emperors who ruled after them, and
so your most pious and heaven-protected name likewise will be
set forth as that of another Constantine and another Helena, being
renowned and praised through the whole world, by whom the
holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is restored. And especially
if you follow the tradition of the orthodox Faith of the Church
of the holy Peter and Paul, the chief Apostles, and embrace
their Vicar, as the Emperors who reigned before you of old both
honoured their Vicar, and loved him with all their heart: and
if your sacred majesty honour the most holy Roman Church of the
chief Apostles, to whom was given power by God the Word himself
to loose and to bind sins in heaven and earth. For they will extend
their shield over your power, and all barbarous nations shall
be put under your feet: and wherever you go they will make you
conquerors. For the holy and chief Apostles themselves, who set
up the Catholic and orthodox Faith, have laid it down as a written
law that all who after them are to be successors of their seats,
should hold their Faith and remain in it to the end.
of the kingdom of heaven as chief over all, and by Him is he honoured
with this privilege, by which the keys of the kingdom of heaven
are entrusted to him. He, therefore, that was preferred with so
exalted an honour was thought worthy to confess that Faith on
which the Church of Christ is rounded. A blessed reward followed
that blessed confession, by the preaching of which the holy universal
Church was illumined, and from it the other Churches of God have
derived the proofs of Faith. For the blessed Peter himself, the
chief of the Apostles, who first sat in the Apostolic See, left
the chiefship of his Apostolate, and pastoral care, to his successors,
who are to sit in his most holy seat for ever. And that power
of authority, which he received from the Lord God our Saviour,
he too bestowed and delivered by divine command to the Pontiffs,
his successors, etc.
[The part which was never read to the Council at all.]
(Found in L. and C., Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 117.)
We greatly wondered that in your imperial commands, directed
for the Patriarch of the royal city, Tarasius, we find him there
called Universal: but we know not whether this was written through
ignorance or schism, or the heresy of the wicked. But henceforth
we advise your most merciful and imperial majesty, that he be
by no means called Universal in your writings, because it appears
to be contrary to the institutions of the holy Canons and the
decrees of the traditions of the holy Fathers. For he never could
have ranked second, save for the authority of our holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church, as is plain to all.(1) Because if he be
named Universal, above the holy Roman Church which has a prior
rank, which is the head of all the Churches of God, it is certain
that he shews himself as a rebel against the holy Councils, and
a heretic. For, if he is Universal, he is recognized to have the
Primacy even over the (Church of our See, which appears ridiculous
to all faithful Christians: because in the whole world the chief
rank and power was given to the blessed Apostle Peter by the Redeemer
of the world himself; and through the same Apostle, whose place
we unworthily hold, the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church
holds the first rank, and the authority of power, now and for
ever, so that if any one, which we believe not, has called him,
or assents to his being called Universal, let him know that he
is estranged from the orthodox Faith, and a rebel against our
holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
[After the reading was ended (col. 120)]
Tarasius the most holy patriarch said: Did you yourselves
receive these letters from the most holy Pope, and did you carry
them to our pious Emperor?
Peter and Peter the most beloved-of-God presbyters who held
the place of Hadrian, the most holy pope of Rome, said: We ourselves
received such letters from our apostolic father and delivered
them to the pious lords.
John, the most magnificent Logothete, said: That this is the
case is also known to the Sicilians, the beloved of God Theodore,
the bishop of Catanea, and the most revered deacon Epiphanius
who is with him,
who holds the place of the archbishop of Sardinia. For both of
these at the bidding of our pious Emperors, went to Rome with
the most reverend apocrisarius of our most holy patriarch.
Theodore the God-beloved bishop of Catanea, standing in the
midst, said: The pious emperor, by his honourable jussio, bid
send Leo, the most god-beloved presbyter (who together with myself
is a slave of your holiness), with the precious letter of his
most sacred majesty; and he who reveres our [sic in Greek, "your,"
in Latin] holiness, being the governor (
of my province of Sicily, sent me to Rome with the pious jussio
of our orthodox Emperors.(1)
And when we were gone, we announced file orthodox faith of
the pious emperors.
And when the most blessed Pope heard it, he said: Since this
has come to pass in the days of their reign, God has magnified
their pious rule above all former reigns. And this suggestion
) which has been read he sent
to our most pious kings together with a letter to your holiness
and with his vicars who are here present and presiding.
Cosmas, the deacon, notary, and chamberlain (Cubuclesius)
said: And another letter was sent by the most holy Pope of Old
Rome to Tarasius, our most holy and oecumenical Patriarch. Let
it be disposed of as your holy assembly shall direct.
The Holy Synod said, Let it be read.
[Then was read Hadrian's letter to Tarasius of Constantinople,
which ends by saying that. "our dearly-loved proto-presbyter
of the Holy Church of Rome, and Peter, a monk, a presbyter, and
an abbot, who have been sent by us to the most tranquil and pious
emperors, we beg you will deem them worthy of all kindness and
humane amenity for the sake of St. Peter, coropheus of the Apostles,
and for our sakes, so that for this we may be able to offer you
our sincere thanks."(2) The letter being ended (col. 128),]
Peter and Peter, the most reverend presbyters and representatives
of the most holy Pope of Old Rome said: Let the most holy Tarasius,
Patriarch of the royal city, say whether he agrees (
with the letters of the most holy Pope of Old Rome or not.
Tarasius the most holy patriarch said: The divine Apostle
Paul, who was filled with the light of Christ, and who hath begotten
us through the gospel, in writing to the Romans, commending their
zeal for the true faith which they had in Christ our true God,
thus said: "Your faith is gone forth into all the world."
It is necessary to follow out this witness, and he that would
contradict it is without good sense. Wherefore Hadrian, the ruler
of Old Rome, since he was a sharer of these things, thus borne
witness to, wrote expressly and truly to our religious Emperors,
and to our humility, confirming admirably and beautifully the
ancient tradition of the Catholic Church. And we also ourselves,
having examined both in writing,(3) and by inquisition, and syllogistically
and by demonstration, and having been taught by the teachings
of the Fathers, so have confessed, so do confess, and so will
confess; and shall be fast, and shall remain, and shall stand
firm in the sense of the letters which have just been read, receiving
the imaged representations according to the ancient tradition
of our holy fathers; and these we venerate with firmly-attached(4)
affection, as made in the name of Christ our God, and of our Spotless
Lady the Holy Mother of God, and of the Holy Angels, and of all
the Saints, most clearly giving our adoration and faith to the
one only true God.
And the holy Synod said: The whole holy Synod thus teaches.
Peter and Peter, the God-loved presbyters and legates of the
Apostolic See, said: Let the holy Synod say whether it receives
the letters of the most holy Pope of Old Rome.
The holy Synod said: We follow, we receive, we admit them.
[The bishops then give one by one their votes all in the same
EXTRACTS FROM THE ACTS.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 188.)
CONSTANTINE, the most holy bishop of Constantia in Cyprus,
said: Since I, unworthy that I am, find that the letter which
has just been read, which was sent from the East to Tarasius the
most holy archbishop and ecumenical patriarch, is in no sense
changed from that confession of faith which he himself had before
made, to these I consent and become of one mind, receiving and
saluting with honour the holy and venerable images. But the worship
of adoration I reserve alone to the supersubstantial and life-giving
Trinity. And those who are not so minded, and do not so teach
I cast out of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and T smite
them with anathema, and I deliver them over to the lot of those
who deny the incarnation and the bodily economy of Christ our
(Hist. Councils, Vol. V., p. 366.)
By false translation and misunderstanding the Frankish bishops
subsequently at the Synod of Frankfort, A.D. 794, and also in
the Carolingian books (iii. 17), understood this to mean that
a demand had been made at Nicaea that the same devotion should
be offered to the images as to the Most Holy Trinity.
Under these circumstances it is clear that the Franks could
do nothing but reject the decrees. I have treated of this whole
EXTRACTS FROM THE ACTS.
[Among numerous passages of the Fathers one was read from
a sermon by St. Gregory Nyssen in which he describes a painting
representing the sacrifice of Isaac and tells how he could not
pass it "without tears."]
The most glorious princes said: See how our father grieved
at the depicted history, even so that he wept.
Basil, the most holy bishop of Ancyra, said: Many times the
father had read the story, but perchance he had not wept; but
when once he saw it painted, he wept.
John the most reverend monk and presbyter and representative
of the Eastern high priests, said: If to such a doctor the picture
was helpful and drew forth tears, how much more in the case of
the ignorant and simple will it bring compunction and benefit.
The holy Synod said: We have seen in several places the history
of Abraham painted as the father says.
Theodore the most holy bishop of Catanea, said: If the holy
Gregory, vigilant(1) in divine cogitation, was moved to tears
at the sight of the story of Abraham, how much more shall a painting
of the incarnation of our Lord Christ, who for us was made man,
move the beholders to their profit and to tears?
Tarasius the most holy Patriarch said: Shall we not weep when
we see an image of our crucified Lord?
The holy Synod said: We shall indeed--for in that shall be
found perfectly the, profundity of the abasement of the incarnate
God for our sakes.
[Post nonnulla a passage is read from St. Athanasius in which
he describes the miracles worked at Berytus, after which there
is found the following (col. 224),]
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch, said: But perhaps someone
will say, Why do not the images which we have work miracles? To
which we answer, that as the Apostle has said, signs are for those
who do not believe, not for believers. For they who approached
that image were unbelievers. Therefore God gave them a sign through
the image, to draw them to our Christian faith. But "an evil
and adulterous generation that seeketh after a sign and no sign
shall be given it."
[After a number of other quotations, was read the Canon of
the Council in Trullo as a canon of the Sixth Synod (col. 233).]
Tarasius, the most holy Patriarch said: There are certain
affected with the sickness of ignorance who are scandalized by
these canons [viz. of the Trullan Synod] and say, And do you really
think they were adopted at the Sixth Synod? Now let all such know
that the holy great Sixth Synod was assembled at Constantinople
concerning those who said that there was but one energy and will
in Christ. These anathematized the heretics, and having expounded
the orthodox faith, they went to their homes in the fourteenth
year of Constantine. But after four or five years the same(1)
fathers came together under Justinian, the son of Constantine,
and set forth the before-mentioned canons. And let no one doubt
concerning them. For they who subscribed under Constantine were
the same as they who under Justinian signed the present chart,
as can manifestly be established from the unchangeable similarity
of their own handwriting. For it was right that they who had appeared
at an ecumenical synod should also set forth ecclesiastical canons.
They said that we should be led as (by the hand) by the venerable
images to the recollection of the incarnation of Christ and of
his saving death, and if by them we are led to the realization
of the incarnation of Christ our God, what sort of an opinion
shall we have of them who break down the venerable images?
At the close of the Session, after a number of anathematisms
had been pronounced, the following was read, to which all the
bishops subscribed (col. 317).]
Fulfilling the divine precept of our God and Saviour Jesus
Christ, our holy Fathers did not hide the light of the divine
knowledge given by him to them under a bushel, but they set it
upon the candlestick of most useful teaching, so that it might
give light to all in the house--that is to say, to those who are
born in the Catholic Church; lest perchance anyone of those who
piously confess the Lord might strike his foot against the stone
of heretical evil doctrine. For they expelled every error of heretics
and they cut off the rotten member if it was incurably sick. And
with a fan they purged the floor. And the good wheat, that is
to say tire word which nourisheth and which maketh strong the
heart of man, they laid up in the granary of the Catholic Church;
but throwing outside the chaff of heretical evil opinion they
burned it with unquenchable fire. Therefore also this holy and
ecumenical Synod, met together for the second time in this illustrious
metropolis of Nice, by the will of God and at the bidding of our
pious and most faithful Emperors, Irene a new Helena, and a new
Constantine, her God-protected offspring, having considered by
their perusal the teachings of our approved and blessed Fathers,
hath glorified God himself, from whom there was given to them
wisdom for our instruction, and for the perfecting of the Catholic
and Apostolic Church: and against those who do not believe as
they did, but have attempted to overshadow the truth through their
novelty, they have chanted the words of the psalm:(2) "Oh
how much evil have thine enemies done
in thy sanctuary; and have glorified themselves, saying, There
is not a teacher any more, and they shall not know that we treated
with guile the word of truth." But we, in all things holding
the doctrines and precepts of the same our God-bearing Fathers,
make proclamation with one mouth and one heart, neither adding
anything, nor taking anything away from those things which have
been delivered to us by them. But in these things we are strengthened,
in these things we are confirmed. Thus we confess, thus we teach,
just as the holy and ecumenical six Synods have decreed and ratified.
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, maker of all things
visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only-begotten
Son and Word, through whom all things were made, and in the Holy
Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, consubstantial and coeternal
with the same Father and with his Son who hath had no beginning.
The unbuilt-up, indivisible, incomprehensible, and non-circumscribed
Trinity; he, wholly and alone, is to be worshipped and revered
with adoration; one Godhead, one Lordship, one dominion, one realm
and dynasty, which without division is apportioned to the Persons,
and is fitted to the essence severally. For we confess that one
of the same holy and consubstantial Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ
the true God, in these last days was incarnate and made man for
our salvation, and having saved our race through his saving incarnation,
and passion, and resurrection, and ascension into heaven; and
having delivered us from the error of idols; as also the prophet
says, Not an ambassador, not an angel, but the Lord himself hath
saved us. Him we also follow, and adopt his voice, and cry aloud;
No Synod, no power of kings, no God-hated agreement hath delivered
the Church from the error of the idols, as the Jewdaizing conciliabulum
hath madly dreamed, which raved against the venerable images;
but the Lord of glory himself, the incarnate God, hath saved us
and hath snatched us from idolatrous deceit. To him therefore
be glory, to him be thanks, to him be eucharists, to him be praise,
to him be magnificence. For his redemption and his salvation alone
can perfectly save, and not that of other men who come of the
earth. For he himself hath fulfilled for us, upon whom the ends
of the earth are come through the economy of his incarnation,
the words spoken beforehand by his prophets, for he dwelt among
us, and went in and out among us, and cast out the names of idols
from the earth, as it was written. But we salute the voices of
the Lord and of his Apostles through which we have been taught
to honour in the first place her who is properly and truly the
Mother of God and exalted above all the heavenly powers; also
the holy and angelic powers; and the blessed and altogether landed
Apostles, and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs
which fought for Christ, and the holy and God-bearing Doctors,
and all holy men; and to seek for their intercessions, as able
to render us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as
we keep his commandments, and strive to live virtuously. Moreover we salute the image of the honourable and life-giving Cross, and
the holy reliques of the Saints; and we receive the holy and venerable
images: and we salute them, and we embrace them, according to
the ancient traditions of the holy Catholic Church of God, that
is to say of our holy Fathers, who also received these things
and established them in all the most holy Churches of God, and
in every place of his dominion. These honourable and venerable
images, as has been said, we honour and salute and reverently
venerate: to wit, the image of the incarnation of our great God
and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that of our spotless Lady the all-holy
Mother of God, from whom he pleased to take flesh, and to save
and deliver us from all impious idolatry; also the images of the
holy and incorporeal Angels, who as men appeared to the just.
Likewise also the figures and effigies of the divine and all-landed
Apostles, also of the God-speaking Prophets, and of the struggling
Martyrs and of holy men. So that through their representations
we may be able to be led back in memory and recollection to the
prototype, and have a share in the holiness of some one of them.
Thus we have learned to think of these things, and we have
been strengthened by our holy Fathers, and we have been strengthened
by their divinely handed down teaching. And thanks be to God for
his ineffable gift, that he hath not deserted us at the end nor
hath the rod of the ungodly come into the lot of the righteous,
lest the righteous put their hands, that is to say
their actual deeds,(1) unto wickedness. But he doeth well unto
those who are good and true of heart, as the psalmist David melodiously
has sung; with whom also we stag the rest of the psalm: As for
such as turn back unto their own wickedness, the Lord shah lead
them forth with the evil doers; and peace shall be upon the lsrael
[The subscriptions follow immediately and close the acts of
this session (col. 321-346).]
EXTRACTS FROM THE ACTS.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 389.)
LEO the most renowned secretary said: The holy and blessed
Synod know how at the last session we examined divers sayings
of the God-forsaken heretics, who had brought charges against
the holy and spotless Church of the Christians for the setting
up of the holy images. But to-day we have in our hands the written
blasphemy of those calumniators of the Christians, that is to
say, the absurd, and easily answered, and self-convicting definition
) of the pseudosyllogus, in all
respects agreeing with the impious opinion of the God-hated heretics.
But not only have we this, but also the artful and most drastic
refutation thereof, which the Holy Spirit had supervised. For
it was right that this definition should be made a triumph by
wise contradictions, and should be torn to pieces with strong
refutations. This also we submit so as to know your pleasure with
regard to it.
The holy Synod said: Let it be read.
John, the deacon and chancellor [of the most holy great Church
of Constantinople, in Lat. only] read.
[John, the deacon, then read the orthodox refutation, and
Gregory, the bishop of Neocoesarea, the Definition of the Mock
the one reading the heretical statement and the other the orthodox answer.]
EPITOME OF THE DEFINITION OF THE ICONOCLASTIC CONCILIABULUM, HELD IN CONSTANTINOPLE, A.D. 754.(1)
THE DEFINITION OF THE HOLY, GREAT, AND ECUMENICAL SEVENTH SYNOD.
The holy and Ecumenical synod, which by the grace of God and
most pious command of the God-beloved and orthodox Emperors, Constantine
and Leo,(2) now assembled in the imperial residence city, in the
temple of the holy and inviolate Mother of God and Virgin Mary,
surnamed in Blachernae, have decreed as follows.
Satan misguided men, so that they worshipped the creature
instead of the Creator. The Mosaic law and the prophets cooperated
to undo this ruin; but in order to save mankind thoroughly, God
sent his own Son, who turned us away from error and the worshipping
of idols, and taught us the worshipping of God in spirit and in
truth. As messengers of his saving doctrine, he left us his Apostles
and disciples, and these adorned the Church, his Bride, with his
glorious doctrines. This ornament of the Church the holy Fathers
and the six Ecumenical Councils have preserved inviolate. But
the before-mentioned demi-urgos of wickedness could not endure
the sight of this adornment, and gradually brought back idolatry
under the appearance of Christianity. As then Christ armed his
Apostles against the ancient idolatry with the power of the Holy
Spirit, and sent them out into all the world, so has he awakened
against the new idolatry his servants our faithful Emperors, and
endowed them with the same wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Impelled
by the Holy Spirit they could no longer be witnesses of the Church
being laid waste by the deception of demons, and summoned the
sanctified assembly of the God-beloved bishops, that they might
institute at a synod a scriptural examination into the deceitful
colouring of the pictures (
which draws down the spirit of man from the lofty adoration (
of God to the low and material adoration (
of the creature, and that they, under divine guidance, might express
their view on the subject.
Our holy synod therefore assembled, and we, its 338 members,
follow the older synodal decrees, and accept and proclaim joyfully
the dogmas handed down, principally those of the six holy Ecumenical
Synods. In the first place the holy and ecumenical great synod
assembled at Nice, etc.
After we had carefully examined their decrees under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit, we found that the unlawful art of painting
living creatures blasphemed the fundamental doctrine of our salvation--namely,
the Incarnation of Christ, and contradicted the six holy synods.
These condemned Nestorius because he divided the one Son and Word
of God into two sons, and on the other side, Arius, Dioscorus,
Eutyches, and Severus, because they maintained a mingling of the
two natures of the one Christ.
Wherefore we thought it right, to shew forth with all accuracy,
in our present definition the error of such as make and venerate
these, for it is the unanimous doctrine of all the holy Fathers
and of the six Ecumenical Synods, that no one may imagine any
kind of separation or mingling in opposition to the unsearchable,
unspeakable, and incomprehensible union of the two natures in
the one hypostasis or person. What avails, then, the folly of
the painter, who from sinful love of gain depicts that which should
not be depicted--that is, with his polluted hands he tries to
fashion that which should only be believed in the heart and confessed
with the mouth? He makes an image and calls it Christ. The name
Christ signifies God and man. Consequently it is an image of God
and man, and consequently he has in his foolish mind, in his representation
of the created flesh, depicted the Godhead which cannot be represented,
and thus mingled what should not be mingled. Thus he is guilty
of a double blasphemy--the one in making an image of the Godhead,
and the other by mingling the Godhead and manhood. Those fall
into the same blasphemy who venerate
the image, and the same woe rests upon both, because they err
with Arius, Dioscorus, and Eutyches, and with the heresy of the
Acephali. When, however, they are blamed for undertaking to depict
the divine nature of Christ, which should not be depicted, they
take refuge in the excuse: We represent only the flesh of Christ
which we have seen and handled. But that is a Nestorian error.
For it should be considered that that flesh was also the flesh
of God the Word, without any separation, perfectly assumed by
the divine nature and made wholly divine. How could it now be
separated and represented apart? So is it wish the human soul
of Christ which mediates between the Godhead of the Son and the
dulness of the flesh. As the human flesh is at the same time flesh
of God the Word, so is the human soul also soul of God the Word,
and both at the same time, the soul being deified as well as the
body, and the Godhead remained undivided even in the separation
of the soul from the body in his voluntary passion. For where
the soul of Christ is, there is also his Godhead; and where the
body of Christ is, there too is his Godhead. If then in his passion
the divinity remained inseparable from these, how do the fools
venture to separate the flesh from the Godhead, and represent
it by itself as the image of a mere man? They fall into the abyss
of impiety, since they separate the flesh from the Godhead, ascribe
to it a subsistence of its own, a personality of its own, which
they depict, and thus introduce a fourth person into the Trinity.
Moreover, they represent as not being made divine, that which
has been made divine by being assumed by the Godhead. Whoever,
then, makes an image of Christ, either depicts the Godhead which
cannot be depicted, and mingles it with the manhood (like the
Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made
divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians.
The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however,
is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form,
this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation.
Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the
human form, so that idolatry might not arise. And as the body
of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of
Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit;
it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest
who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies
The evil custom of assigning names to the images does not
come down from Christ and the Apostles and the holy Fathers; nor
have these left behind then, any prayer by which an image should
be hallowed or made anything else than ordinary matter.
If, however, some say, we might be right in regard to the
images of Christ, on account of the mysterious union of the two
natures, but it is not right for us to forbid also the images
of the altogether spotless and ever-glorious Mother of God, of
the prophets, apostles, and martyrs, who were mere men and did
not consist of two natures; we may reply, first of all: If those
fall away, there is no longer need of these. But we will also
consider what may be said against these in particular. Christianity
has rejected the whole of heathenism, and so not merely heathen
sacrifices, but also the heathen worship of images. The Saints
live on eternally with God, although they have died. If anyone
thinks to call them back again to life by a dead art, discovered
by the heathen, he makes himself guilty of blasphemy. Who dares
attempt with heathenish art to paint the Mother of God, who is
exalted above all heavens and the Saints? It is not permitted
to Christians, who have the hope of the resurrection, to imitate
the customs of demon-worshippers, and to insult the Saints, who
shine in so great glory, by common dead matter.
Moreover, we can prove our view by Holy ScriptUre and the
Fathers. In the former it is said: "God is a Spirit: and
they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth;"
and: "Thou shall not make thee any graven image, or any likeness
of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth
beneath;" on which account God spoke to the Israelites on
the Mount, from the midst of the fire, but showed them no image.
Further: "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God
into an image made like to corruptible man,... and served the
creature more than the Creator." [Several other passages,
even less to the point, are cited.](1)
The same is taught also by the holy Fathers. [The Synod appeals
to a spurious passage from Epiphanius and to one inserted into
the writings of Theodotus of Ancyra, a friend of St. Cyril's;
to utterances--in no way striking--of Gregory of Nazianzum, of
SS. Chrysostom, Basil, Athanasius of Amphilochius and of Eusebius
Pamphili, from his Letter to the Empress Constantia, who had asked
him for a picture of Christ.](1)
Supported by the Holy Scriptures and the Fathers, we declare
unanimously, in the name of the Holy Trinity, that there shall
be rejected and removed and cursed one of the Christian Church
every likeness which is made out of any material and colour whatever
by the evil art of painters.
Whoever in future dares to make such a thing, or to venerate
it, or set it up in a church, or in a private house, or possesses
it in secret, shall, if bishop, presbyter, or deacon, be deposed;
if monk or layman, be anathematised, and become liable to be tried
by the secular laws as an adversary of God and an enemy of the
doctrines handed down by the Fathers. At the same time we ordain
that no incumbent of a church shall venture, under pretext of
destroying the error in regard to images, to lay his hands on
the holy vessels in order to have them altered, because they are
adorned with figures. The same is provided in regard to the vestments
of churches, cloths, and all that is dedicated to divine service.
If, however, the incumbent of a church wishes to have such church
vessels and vestments altered, he must do this only with the assent
of the holy Ecumenical patriarch and at the bidding of our pious
Emperors. So also no prince or secular official shall rob the
churches, as some have done in former times, under the pretext
of destroying images. All this we ordain, believing that we speak
as doth the Apostle, for we also believe that we have the spirit
of Christ; and as our predecessors who believed the same thing
spake what they had synodically defined, so we believe and therefore
do we speak, and set forth a definition of what has seemed good
to us following and in accordance with the definitions of our
(1) If anyone shall not confess, according to the tradition
of the Apostles and Fathers, in the Father, the Son and the Holy
Ghost one godhead, nature and substance, will and operation, virtue
and dominion, kingdom and power in three subsistences, that is
in their most glorious Persons, let him be anathema.
(2) If anyone does not confess that one of the Trinity was
made flesh, let him be anathema.
(3) If anyone does not confess that the holy Virgin is truly
the Mother of God, etc.
(4) If anyone does not confess one Christ both God and man,
(5) If anyone does not confess that the flesh of the Lord
is life-giving because it is the flesh of the Word of God, etc.
(6) If anyone does not confess two natures in Christ, etc.
(7) If anyone does not confess that Christ is seated with
God the Father in body and soul, and so will come to judge, and
that he will remain God forever without any grossness, etc.
(8) If anyone ventures to represent the divine image (
of the Word after
the Incarnation with material colours, let him be anathema!
(9) If anyone ventures to represent in human figures, by means
of material colours, by reason of the incarnation, the substance
or person (ousia or hypostasis) of the Word, which cannot be depicted,
and does not rather confess that even after the Incarnation he
[i.e., the Word] cannot be depicted, let him be anathema!
(10) If anyone ventures to represent the hypostatic union
of the two natures in a picture, and calls it Christ, and fires
falsely represents a union of the two natures, etc.!
(11) If anyone separates the flesh united with the person
of the Word from it, and endeavours to represent it separately
in a picture, etc.!
(12) If anyone separates the one Christ into two persons,
and endeavours to represent Him who was born of the Virgin separately,
and thus accepts only a relative (
union of the natures, etc.
(13) If anyone represents in a picture the flesh deified by
its union with the Word, and thus separates it from the Godhead,
(14) If anyone endeavours to represent by material colours,
God the Word as a mere man, who, although bearing the form
of God, yet has assumed the form of a servant in his own person,
and thus endeavours to separate him from his inseparable Godhead,
so that he thereby introduces a quaternity into the Holy Trinity,
(15) If anyone shall not confess the holy ever-virgin Mary,
truly and properly the Mother of God, to be higher than every
creature whether visible or invisible, and does not with sincere
faith seek her intercessions as of one having confidence in her
access to our God, since she bare him, etc.
(16) If anyone shall endeavour to represent the forms of the
Saints in lifeless pictures with material colours which are of
no value (for this notion is vain and introduced by the devil),
and does not rather represent their virtues as living images in
(17) If anyone denies the profit of the invocation of Saints,
(18) If anyone denies the resurrection of the dead, and the
judgment, and the condign retribution to everyone, endless torment
and endless bliss, etc.
(19) If anyone does not accept this our Holy and Ecumenical
Seventh Synod, let him be anathema from the Father and the
Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the seven holy Ecumenical Synods!
[Then follows the prohibition of the making or teaching any
other faith, and the penalties for disobedience. After this follow
The divine Kings Constantine and Leo said: Let the holy and
ecumenical synod say, if with the consent of all the most holy
bishops the definition just read has been set forth.
The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of
the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed.
This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors!
They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors!
God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed
the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished
all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of
Constantinople], George and Mansur [
John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and
worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the
falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur,
who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of
Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety,
the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has
deposed these three!(1)
EXCURSUS ON THE CONCILIABULUM STYLING ITSELF THE SEVENTH ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, BUT COMMONLY CALLED THE MOCK SYNOD OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
The reader will find all the information he desires with regard
to the great iconoclastic controversy in the ordinary church-histories,
and the theological side of the matter in the writings of St.
John Damascene. It seems, however, that in order to render the
meaning of the action of the last of the Ecumenical Councils clear
it is necessary to provide an account of the synod which was held
to condemn what it so shortly afterward expressly approved. I
quote from Hefele in loco, and would only further draw the reader's
attention to the fact that the main thing objected to was not
(as is commonly supposed) the outward veneration of the sacred
icons, but the making and setting up of them, as architectural
ornaments; and that it was not only representations of the persons
of the Most Holy Trinity, and of the Divine Son in his incarnate
form that were denounced, but even pictures of the Blessed Virgin
and of the other saints; all this is evident to anyone reading
the foregoing abstract of the decree.
(Hefele, History of the Councils, Vol. V., p. 308 et seqq.)
The Emperor, after the death of the Patriarch Anastasius (A.D.
753), summoned the bishops of his Empire to a great synod in the
palace Hieria, which lay opposite to Constantinople on the Asiatic
side of the Bosphorus, between Chrysopolis and Chalcedon, a little
to the north of the latter. The vacancy of the patriarchate, facilitated
his plans, since the hope of succeeding to this see kept down,
in the most ambitious and aspiring of the bishops, any possible
thought of opposition. The number of those present amounted to
338 bishops, and the place of president was occupied by Archbishop
Theodosius of Ephesus, already known to us as son of a former
Emperor--Apsimar, from the beginning an assistant in the iconoclastic
movement. Nicephorus names him alone as president of the synod;
Theophanes, on the contrary, mentions Bishop Pastillas of Perga
as second president, and adds, "The Patriarchates of Rome,
Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem were not represented [the last
three were then in the hands of the Saracens], the transactions
began on February 10th, and lasted until August 8th (in Hieria);
on the latter date, however, the synod assembled in St. Mary's
Church in Blachernae, the northern suburb of Constantinople, and
the Emperor now solemnly nominated Bishop Constantine of Sylaeum,
a monk, as patriarch of Constantinople. On August 27th, the heretical
decree [of the Synod] was published."
We see from this that the last sessions of this Conciliabulum
were held no longer in Hieria, but in the Blachernae of Constantinople.
We have no complete Acts of this assembly, but its very verbose
(decree), together with a short
introduction, is preserved among the acts of the Seventh Ecumenical
This decree was by no means suffered to remain inoperative.
(W. M. Sinclair. Smith and Wace, Dictionary of Chr. Biog.,
sub voce Constantinus VI.)
The Emperor singled out the more noted monks, and required
them to comply with the decrees of the synod. In A.D. 766 he exacted
an oath against images from all the inhabitants of the empire.
The monks refused with violent obstinacy, and Copronymus appears
to have amused himself by treating them with ruthless harshness.
The Emperor, indeed, seems to have contemplated the extirpation
of monachism. John the Damascene he persuaded his bishops to excommunicate.
Monks were forced to appear in the hippodrome at Constantinople
hand in hand with harlots, while the populace spat at them. The
new patriarch Constantinus, presented by the emperor to the council
the last day of its session, was forced to foreswear images, to
attend banquets, to eat and drink freely against his monastic
vows, to wear garlands, to witness the coarse spectacles and hear
the coarse language which entertained the Emperor. Monasteries
were destroyed, made into barracks, or secularized. Lachanodraco,
governor of the Thracian Theme, seems to have exceeded Copronymus
in his ribaldry and injustice. He collected a number of monks
into a plain, clothed them with white, presented them with wives,
and forced them to choose between marriage and loss of eyesight.
He sold the property of the monasteries, and sent the price to
the Emperor.Copronymus publicly thanked him, and commended his
example to other governors.
(Harnack. History of Dogma, Vol. V., p. 325 [Eng. Tr.].)
The clergy obeyed when the decrees were published; but resistance
was offered in the ranks of the monks. Many took to flight, some
became martyrs. The imperial police stormed the churches, and
destroyed those images and pictures that had not been secured.
The iconoclastic zeal by no means sprang from enthusiasm for divine
service in spirit and in truth. The Emperor now also directly
attacked the monks; he meant to extirpate the hated order, and
to overthrow the throne of Peter. We see how the idea of an absolute
military state rose powerfully in Constantinople; how it strove
to establish itself by brute force. The Emperor, according to
trustworthy evidence, made the inhabitants of the city swear
that they would henceforth worship no image, and give up all intercourse
with monks. Cloisters were turned into arsenals and barracks,
relics were hurled into the sea, and the monks, as far as possible,
secularized. And the politically far-seeing Emperor, at the same
time entered into correspondence with France (Synod of Gentilly,
A.D. 767), and sought to win Pepin. History seemed to have suffered
a violent rupture, a new era was dawning which should supersede
the history of the Church.
But the Church was too powerful, and the Emperor was not even
master of Oriental Christendom, but only of part of it. The orthodox
Patriarchs of the East (under the rule of Islam) declared against
the iconoclastic movement, and a Church without monks or pictures,
in schism with the other orthodox Churches, was a nonentity. A
spiritual reformer was wanting. Thus the great reaction set in
after the death of the Emperor (A.D. 775), the ablest ruler Constantinople
had seen for a long time. This is not the place to describe how
it was inaugurated and cautiously carried out by the skilful policy
of the Empress Irene; cautiously, for a generation had already
grown up that was accustomed to the cultus without images. An
important part was played by the miracles performed by the re-emerging
relics and pictures. But the lower classes had always been really
favourable to them; only the army and the not inconsiderable number
of bishops who were of the school of Constantine had to be carefully
handled. Tarasius, the new Patriarch of Constantinople and a supporter
of images, succeeded, after overcoming much difficulty, and especially
distrust in Rome and the East, after also removing the excited
army, in bringing together a General Council of about 350 bishops
at Nicaea, A.D. 787, which reversed the decrees of A.D. 754. The
proceedings of the seven sittings are of great value, because
very important patristic passages have been preserved in them
which otherwise would have perished; for at this synod also the
discussions turned chiefly on the Fathers. The decision (
restored orthodoxy and finally settled it.
I cannot do better than to cite in conclusion the words of
the profoundly learned Archbishop of Dublin, himself a quasi-Iconoclast.
(Trench. Lect. Medieval Ch. Hist., p. 93.)
It is only fair to state that the most zealous favourers and
promoters of this ill-directed homage always disclaimed with indignation
the charge of offering to the images any reverence which did not
differ in kind, and not merely in degree, from the worship which
they offered to Almighty God, designating it as they did by altogether
a different name. We shall very probably feel that in these distinctions
which they drew between the one and the other, between the "honour"
which they gave to these icons and the "worship" which
they withheld from these and gave only to God, there lay no slightest
justification of that in which they allowed themselves; but these
distinctions acquit them of idolatry, and it is the merest justice
to remember this.
(Trench. Ut supra, p. 99.)
I can close this Lecture with no better or wiser words than
those with which Dean Milman reads to us the lesson of this mournful
story: "There was this irremediable weakness in the cause
of iconoclasm; it was a mere negative doctrine, a proscription
of those sentiments which had full possession of the popular mind,
without any strong countervailing excitement. The senses were
robbed of their habitual and cherished objects of devotion, but
there was no awakening of an inner life of intense and passionate
piety. The cold, naked walls from whence the Scriptural histories
had been effaced, the despoiled shrines, the mutilated images,
could not compel the mind to a more pure and immaterial conception
of God and the Saviour. Hatred of images, in the process of the
strife, might become, as it did, a fanaticism, it could never
become a religion. Iconoclasm might proscribe idolatry; but it
had no power of kindling a purer faith."
THE DECREE OF THE HOLY, GREAT, ECUMENICAL SYNOD, THE
SECOND OF NICE.
(Found in Labbe and Cossart, Concilia. Tom. VII., col. 552.)
The holy, great, and Ecumenical Synod which by the grace of
God and the will of the pious and Christ-loving Emperors, Constantine
and Irene, his mother, was gathered together for the second time
at Nice, the illustrious metropolis of Bithynia, in the holy church
of God which is named Sophia, having followed the tradition of
the Catholic Church, hath defined as follows:
Christ our Lord, who hath bestowed upon us the light of the
knowledge of himself, and hath redeemed us from the darkness of
idolatrous madness, having espoused to himself the Holy Catholic
Church without spot or defect, promised that he would so preserve
her: and gave his word to this effect to his holy disciples when
he said: "Lo ! I am with you always, even unto the end of
the world," which promise he made, not only to them, but
to us also who should believe in his name through their word.
But some, not considering of this gift, and having become fickle
through the temptation of the wily enemy, have fallen from the
right faith; for, withdrawing from the traditions of the Catholic
Church, they have erred from the truth and as the proverb saith:
"The husbandmen have gone astray in their own husbandry and
have gathered in their hands nothingness," because certain
priests, priests in name only, not in fact, had dared to speak
against the God-approved ornament of the sacred monuments, of
whom God cries aloud through the prophet, "Many pastors have
corrupted my vineyard, they have polluted my portion."
And, forsooth, following profane men, led astray by their
carnal sense, they have calumniated the Church of Christ our God,
which he hath espoused to himself, and have failed to distinguish
between holy and profane, styling the images of our Lord and
of his Saints by the same name as the statues of diabolical idols.
Seeing which things, our Lord God (not willing to behold his
people corrupted by such manner of plague) hath of his good pleasure
called us together, the chief of his priests, from every quarter,
moved with a divine zeal and brought hither by the will of our
princes, Constantine and Irene, to the end that the traditions
of the Catholic Church may receive stability by our common decree.
Therefore, with all diligence, making a thorough examination and
analysis, and following the trend of the truth, we diminish nought,
we add nought, but we preserve unchanged all things which pertain
to the Catholic Church, and following the Six Ecumenical Synods,
especially that which met in this illustrious metropolis of Nice,
as also that which was afterwards gathered together in the God-protected
We believe ...life of the world to come. Amen.
We detest and anathematize Arius and all the sharers of his
absurd opinion; also Macedonius and those who following him are
well styled "Foes of the Spirit" (Pneumatomachi). We
confess that our Lady, St. Mary, is properly and truly the Mother
of God, because she was the Mother after the flesh of One Person
of the Holy Trinity, to wit, Christ our God, as the Council of
Ephesus has already defined when it cast out of the Church the
impious Nestorius with his colleagues, because he taught that
there were two Persons [in Christ]. With the Fathers of this synod
we confess that he who was incarnate of the immaculate Mother
of God and Ever-Virgin Mary has two natures, recognizing him as
perfect God and perfect man, as also the Council of Chalcedon
hath promulgated, expelling from the divine Atrium [
as blasphemers, Eutyches and Dioscorus; and placing in the same
category Severus, Peter and a number of others, blaspheming in
divers fashions. Moreover, with these we anathematize the fables
of Origen, Evagrius, and
Didymus, in accordance with the decision of the Fifth Council
held at Constantinople. We affirm that in Christ there be two
wills and two operations according to the reality of each nature,
as also the Sixth Synod, held at Constantinople, taught, casting
out Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrhus, Macarius, and those who
agree with them, and all those who are unwilling to be reverent.
To make our confession short, we keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical
traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally,
one of which is the making of pictorial representations, agreeable
to the history of the preaching of the Gospel, a tradition useful
in many respects, but especially in this, that so the incarnation
of the Word of God is shown forth as real and not merely phantastic,
for these have mutual indications and without doubt have also
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely
inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the
Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells
her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the
figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable
and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit
materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and
on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and
in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure
of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady,
the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and
of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are
seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men
lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing
after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable
not indeed that true worship of faith (
which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to
the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book
of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights
may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honour
which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents,
and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented.
For thus the teaching of our holy Fathers, that is the tradition
of the Catholic Church, which from one end of the earth to the
other hath received the Gospel, is strengthened. Thus we follow
Paul, who spake in Christ, and the whole divine Apostolic company
and the holy Fathers, holding fast the traditions which we have
received. So we sing prophetically the triumphal hymns of the
Church, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; Shout, O daughter
of Jerusalem. Rejoice and be glad with all thy heart. The Lord
hath taken away from thee the oppression of thy adversaries; thou
art redeemed from the hand of thine enemies. The Lord is a King
in the midst of thee; thou shalt not see evil any more, and peace
be unto thee forever."
Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or
as wicked heretics to spurn the traditions of the Church and to
invent some novelty, or else to reject some of those things which
the Church hath received (e.g., the Book of the Gospels, or the
image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy reliques
of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive
of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to
common uses the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries,
if they be Bishops or Clerics, we command that they be deposed;
if religious or laics, that they be cut off from communion.
[After all had signed, the acclamations began (col. 576).]
The holy Synod cried out: So we all believe, we all are so
minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith
of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the
faith which hath made firm the whole world. Believing in one God,
to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images !
Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not
thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we
follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We
keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything
to or take anything away from the Catholic
Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers
of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under
anathema those who do not do this. Anathema to them who presume
to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture
about. idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and
venerable images. Anathema to those who call the sacred images
idols. Anathema to those who say that Christians resort to the
sacred images as to gods. Anathema to those who say that any other
delivered us from idols except Christ our God. Anathema to those
who dare to say that at any time the Catholic Church received
Many years to the Emperors, etc., etc.
EXCURSUS ON THE PRESENT TEACHING OF THE LATIN AND GREEK CHURCHES ON THE SUBJECT.
To set forth the present teaching of the Latin Church upon
the subject of images and the cultus which is due them, I cite
the decree of the Council of Trent and a passage from the Catechism
set forth by the authority of the same synod.
(Conc. Trid., Sess. xxv. December 3d and 4th, 1563. [Buckley's
The holy synod enjoins on all bishops, and others sustaining
the office and charge of teaching that, according to the usage
of the Catholic and Apostolic Church received from the primitive
times of the Christian religion, and according to the consent
of the holy Fathers, and to the decrees of sacred councils, they
especially instruct the faithful diligently touching the intercession
and invocation of saints; the honour paid to relics; and the lawful
use of images--teaching them, that the saints, who reign together
with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it
is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to resort to
their prayers, aid and help, for obtaining benefits from God,
through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our Redeemer
and Saviour; but that they think impiously, who deny that the
saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked;
or who assert either that they do not pray for men; or, that the
invocation of them to pray for each of us, even in particular,
is idolatry; or, that it is repugnant to the word of God, and
is opposed to the honour of the one mediator between God and men,
Christ Jesus, or, that it is foolish to supplicate, orally or
inwardly, those who reign in heaven. Also, that the holy bodies
of holy martyrs and of others now living with Christ, which were
the living members of Christ, and the temples of the Holy Ghost,
and which are by him to be raised unto eternal life, and to be
glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, through which
[bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men; so that they
who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics
of saints; or, that these, and other sacred monuments, are uselessly
honoured by the faithful; and that the places dedicated to the
memories of the Saints are vainly visited for the purpose of obtaining
their aid; are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already
long since condemned, and doth now also condemn them.
Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother
of God and of the other Saints, are to be bad and retained particularly
in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be awarded
them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them,
on account of which they are to be worshipped; or that anything
is to be asked of them; or that confidence is to be reposed in
images, as was of old done by Gentiles, who placed their hope
in idols; but because the honour which is shown unto them is referred
to the prototypes which they represent; in such wise that by the
images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and
prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and venerate the
Saints, whose similitude they bear. And this, by the decrees of
councils, and especially of the second synod of Nicaea, has been
ordained against the opponents of images.
And the bishops shall carefully teach this; that, by means
of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, depicted
by paintings or other representations, the people are instructed,
and strengthened in remembering, and continually reflecting on
the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from
all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished
of the benefits and gifts which have been bestowed upon them by
Christ, but also because the miracles of God through the means
of the Saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the
eyes of the faithful; that so, for those things they may give
God thanks; may order their own life and manners in imitation
of the Saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to
cultivate piety. But if any one shall teach or think contrary
to these decrees, let him be anathema. And if any abuses have
crept in amongst these holy and salutary observances, the holy
synod earnestly desires that they be utterly abolished; in such
wise that no images conducive to false doctrine, and furnishing
occasion of dangerous error to the uneducated, be set up. And
if at times, when it shall be expedient for the unlearned people,
it happen that the histories and narratives of Holy Scripture
are pourtrayed and represented; the people shall be taught, that
not thereby is the Divinity represented, as though it could be
perceived by the eyes of the body, or be depictured by colours
or figures. Moreover, in the invocation of saints, the veneration
of relics, and the sacred use of images, every superstition shall
be removed, all filthy lucre be abolished, finally, all lasciviousness
be avoided; in such wise that figures shall not be painted or
adorned with a wantonness of beauty: nor shall men also pervert
the celebration of the saints, and the visitation of relics, into
revellings and drunkenness; as if festivals are celebrated to
the honest of the saints by luxury and wantonness. Finally, let
so great care and diligence be used by bishops touching these
matters, as that there appear nothing disorderly, or unbecomingly
or confusedly arranged, nothing profane, nothing indecorous; since
holiness becometh the house of God.
And that these things may be the more faithfully observed,
the holy synod ordains, that it be lawful for no one to place,
or cause to be placed, any unusual image in any place, or church,
howsoever exempted, except it shall have been approved of by the
bishop: also, that no new miracles are to be admitted, or new
relics received, unless the said bishop has taken cognizance and
approved thereof; who, as soon as he has obtained some certain
information in regard of these matters shall, after having taken
advice with theologians, and other pious men, act therein as he
shall judge to be agreeable to truth and piety. But if any doubtful,
or difficult abuse is to be extirpated, or, in fine, if any more
serious question shall arise touching these matters, the bishop,
before he decides the controversy, shall await the sentence of
the metropolitan and of the bishops of the same province, in a
provincial council; yet so, that nothing new, or that has not
previously been usual in the Church, shall be decreed, without
the most holy Roman Pontiff having been first consulted.
(Catechism of the Council of Trent. Pt. IV., Chap. VI. [Buckley's
God and the Saints addressed differently.
From God and from the Saints we implore assistance not after
the same manner: for we implore God to grant us the blessing which
we want, or to deliver us from evils; but the Saints, because
favourites with God, we solicit to undertake our advocacy with
God, to obtain
of him for us those things of which we stand in need. Hence we
employ two different forms of prayer: for to God, we properly
say, gave mercy on us, hear us; to the saints, Pray for us.
In what Manner we may beseech the Saints to have mercy on us.
We may, however, also ask the saints themselves to have mercy
on us, for they are most merciful; but we do so on a different
principle, for we may beseech them that, touched with the misery
of our condition, they would interpose, in our behalf, their favour
and intercession with God. In the performance of this duty, it
is most strictly incumbent on all, to beware lest they transfer
to any creature the right which belongs exclusively to the Deity;
and when we repeat before the image of any Saint the Lord's Prayer,
our idea must then be to beg of the Saint to pray with us, and
ask for us those favour that are contained in the form of the
Lord's Prayer, to become, in fine, our interpreter and intercessor
with God; for that this is an office which the saints discharge,
St. John the apostle has taught in the Revelation.
The doctrine of the Eastern Church may be seen from the following
from The Orthodox Confession of the faith of the Catholic and
Apostolic Church of the East.
(Confes. Orthodox. P. III. Q. LII. [apud Kimmel, Libri Symbolici
Rightly therefore do we honour the Saints of God, as it is
written (Ps. cxxxix. 17) "How dear are thy friends unto me,
O God." And divine assistance we ask for through them, just
as God ordered the friends of Job to go to his faithful servant,
and that he should offer sacrifice and pray for them that they
might obtain remission of sin through their patronage. And in
the second place this [First] commandment forbids men to adore
any creature with the veneration of adoration (
For we do not honour the Saints as though adoring them, but we
call upon them as our brothers, and as friends of God, and therefore
we seek the divine assistance through these, our brethren. For
they go between the Lord and us for our advantage. And this in
no respect is opposed to this commandment of the decalogue.
Wherefore just as the Israelites did not sin when they called
upon Moses to mediate between them and God, so neither do we sin,
when we call for the aid and intercession of the Saints.
(Ibid. Quaestio LIV.)
This [Second] Commandment is separate from the first. For
that treated of the Unity of the true God, forbidding and taking
away the multitude of gods. But the present treats of external
religious ceremonies. For besides the not honouring of false gods,
we ought to dedicate no carved likeness in their honour, nor to
venerate with adoration such things, nor to offer the sacrifices
of adoration to them. Therefore they sin against this commandment
who venerate idols as gods, and offer sacrifices to them, and
place their whole confidence and hope in them; as also the Psalmist
says (Ps. cxxxv. 15), "The images of the heathen are silver
and gold, etc." They also transgress this precept who are
given up to covetousness, etc.
(Ibid. Quaestio LV.)
There is a great distinction between idols and images (
For idols are the figments and inventions of men, as the Apostle
testifies when he says (1 Cor.
viii. 4), "We know that an idol is nothing in the world."
But an image is a representation of a true thing having a real
existence in the world. Thus, for example, the image of our Saviour
Jesus Christ and of the holy Virgin Mary, and of all the Saints.
Moreover, the Pagans venerated their idols as gods, and offered
to them sacrifices, esteeming the gold and silver to be God, as
But when we honour and venerate the images, we in no way venerate
the colours or the wood of which they are made; but we glorify
with the veneration of dulia (
those holy beings of which these are the images, making them by
this means present to our minds as if we could see them with our
eyes. For this reason we venerate the image of the crucifixion,
and place before our minds Christ hung upon the cross for our
salvation, and to such like we bow the head, and bend the knee
with thanksgiving. Likewise we venerate the image of the Virgin
Mary, we lift up our mind to her the most holy Mother of God,
bowing both head and knees before her; calling her blessed above
all men and women, with the Archangel Gabriel. The veneration,
moreover, of the holy images as received in the orthodox Church,
in no respect transgresses this commandment.
But this is not one and the same with that we offer to God;
nor do the orthodox give it to the art of the painting, but to
those very Saints whom the images represent. The Cherubim which
overshadowed the mercy-seat, representing the true Cherubim which
stand before God in heaven, the Israelites revered and honoured
without any violation of the commandment of God, and likewise
the children of Israel revered the tabernacle of witness with
a suitable honour (II. Sam. vi. 13), and yet in no respect sinned
nor set at naught this precept, but rather the more glorified
God. From these considerations it is evident that when we honour
the holy images, we do not transgress the commandment of the decalogue,
but we most especially praise God, who is "to be admired
in his Saints" (Ps. lxviii. 35). But this only we should
be careful of, that every image has a label, telling of what Saint
it is, that thus the intention of him who venerates it may be
the more easily fulfilled.
And for the greater establishment of the veneration of the
holy images, the Church of God at the Seventh Ecumenical Synod
anathematized all those who made war against the images, and set
forth the veneration of the august images, and established it
forever, as is evident from the ninth canon of that synod.
(Ibid. Quaestio LVI.)
Why was he praised in the Old Testament who broke down the
brazen serpent (II. Kgs. xviii. 4) which long before Moses had
set up on high? Answer: Because the Jews were beginning an apostasy
from the veneration of the true God, venerating that serpent as
the true God; and offering to it incense as the Scripture saith.
Therefore wishing to cut off this evil, lest it might spread further,
he broke up that serpent in order that the Israelites might have
no longer that incentive to idolatry. But before they honoured
the serpent with the veneration of adoration, no one was condemned
in that respect nor was the serpent broken.
But Christians in no respect honour images as gods, neither
in their veneration do they take anything from the true adoration
due to God. Nay, rather they are led by the hand, as it were,
by the image to God, while under their visible representations
they honour the Saints with the veneration of dulia (
as the friends of God; asking for their mediation (
to the Lord. And if perchance some have strayed, from their lack
of knowledge, in their veneration, it were better to teach such
an one, rather than that the veneration of the august images should
be banished from the Church.
THE CANONS OF THE HOLY AND ECUMENICAL SEVENTH COUNCIL .
That the sacred Canons are in all things to be observed.
THE pattern for those who have received the sacerdotal dignity
is found in the testimonies and instructions laid down in the
canonical constitutions, which we receiving with a glad mind,
sing unto the Lord God in the words of the God-inspired David,
saying: "I have had as great delight in the way of thy testimonies
as in all manner of riches." "Thou hast commanded righteousness
as thy testimonies for ever." "Grant me understanding
and I shall live." Now if the word of prophesy bids us keep
the testimonies of God forever and to live by them, it is evident
that they must abide unshaken and without change. Therefore Moses,
the prophet of God, speaketh after this manner: "To them
nothing is to be added, and from them nothing is to be taken away."
And the divine Apostle glorying in them cries out, "which
things the angels desire to look into," and, "if an
angel preach to you anything besides that which ye have received,
let him be anathema." Seeing these things are so, being thus
well-testified unto us, we rejoice over them as he that hath found
great spoil, and press to our bosom with gladness the divine canons,
holding fast all the precepts of the same, complete and without
change, whether they have been set forth by the holy trumpets
of the Spirit, the renowned Apostles, or by the Six Ecumenical
Councils, or by Councils locally assembled for promulgating the
decrees of the said Ecumenical Councils, or by our holy Fathers.
For all these, being illumined by the same Spirit, defined such
things as were expedient. Accordingly those whom they placed under
anathema, we likewise anathematize; those whom they deposed, we
also depose; those whom they excommunicated, we also excommunicate;
and those whom they delivered over to punishment, we subject to
the same penalty. And now "let your conversation be without
covetousness," crieth out Paul the divine Apostle, who was
caught up into the third heaven and heard unspeakable words.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON I.
We gladly embrace the Divine Canons, viz.: those of the Holy
Apostles, of the Six Ecumenical Synods, as also of the local synods
and of our Holy Fathers, as inspired by one and the same Holy
Spirit. Whom they anathematize we also anathematize; whom they
depose, we depose; whom they cut off, we cut off ; and whom they
subject to penalties, we also so subject.
HARNACK (Hist. of Dogma [Eng. Trans.], Vol. V., p. 327).
Just as at Trent, in addition to the restoration of mediaeval
doctrine, a series of reforming decrees was published, so this
Synod promulgated twenty-two canons which can be similarly described.
The attack on monachism and the constitution of the Church had
been of some use. They are the best canons drawn up by an Ecumenical
Synod. The bishops were enjoined to study, to live simply, and
be unselfish, and to attend to the cure of souls; the monks to
observe order, decorum, and also to be unselfish. With the State
and the Emperor no compromise was made; on the contrary, the demands
of Maximus Confessor and John of Damascus are heard, though in
muffled tones, from the
From the wording of this canon it is clearly seen that by
the Fathers of this Council the canons commonly called "Apostolical"
are attributed to the Apostles themselves as to their true authors,
conformably to the Trullan Synod and to the opinion then prevalent
among the Greeks.
For since the Fathers were well persuaded that the discipline
and doctrine contained in these canons could be received and confirmed,
they cared but little to enquire anxiously who were their true
authors, being content in this
question to follow and embrace the then commonly received opinion,
and to ascribe these canons to them, just as, the other day, the
Tridentine Synod (Sess. XXV., cap. j., De Reform) calls these,
without any explanation, the "Canons of the Apostles,"
because then as now they were commonly called by that name.
BEVERIDGE (Annotat., p. 166, at end of Vol.
Here are recognized and confirmed the canons set forth by
the Six Ecumenical Councils. And although all agree that the fifth
and sixth Synods adopted no canons, unless that those of the Council
in Trullo be attributed to them, yet when Tarasius the Patriarch
of Constantinople claimed Canon 82 of the Trullan Canons as having
been set forth by the sixth synod (as is evident from the annotations
on that canon), all the canons of Trullo seem to be confirmed
as having issued from the Sixth Synod. Or else, perchance, as
is supposed by Balsamon and Zonaras, as also by this present synod,
the Trullan was held to be Quinisext (
and the canons decreed by it to belong to both the fifth and the
sixth council. Otherwise I do not see what meaning these words
["of the Six Ecumenical Synods"] can have, for it will
be remembered that the reference is to the ecclesiastical canons
of the Six Ecumenical Synods, and not to their dogmatic decrees.
That he who is to be ordained a Bishop must be steadfastly
resolved to observe the canons, otherwise he shall not be ordained.
WHEN we recite the psalter, we promise God: "I will meditate
upon thy statutes, and will not forget thy words." It is
a salutary thing for all Christians to observe this, but it is
especially incumbent upon those who have received the sacerdotal
dignity. Therefore we decree, that every one who is raised to
the rank of the episcopate shall know the psalter by heart, so
that from it he may admonish and instruct all the clergy who are
subject to him. And diligent examination shall be made by the
metropolitan whether he be zealously inclined to read diligently,
and not merely now and then, the sacred canons, the holy Gospel,
and the book of the divine Apostle, and all other divine Scripture;
and whether he lives according to God's commandments, and also
teaches the same to his people. For the special treasure (
of our high priesthood is the oracles which have been divinely
delivered to us, that is the true science of the Divine Scriptures,
as says Dionysius the Great. And if his mind be not set, and even
glad, so to do and teach, let him not be ordained. For says God
by the prophet, "Thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also
reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me."
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON II.
Whoever is to be a bishop must know the Psalter by heart:
he must thoroughly understand what he reads, and not merely superficially,
but with diligent care, that is to say the Sacred Canons, the
Holy Gospel, the book of the Apostle, and the whole of the Divine
Scripture. And should he not have such knowledge, he is not to
Whoso is to be elevated to the grade of the episcopate should
know... the book of the Apostle Paul, and the whole divine scripture
and search out its meaning and understand the things that are
written. For the very foundation and essence of the high priesthood
is the true knowledge of holy Scripture, according to Dionysius
the Great. And if he has this knowledge let him be ordained, but
if not, not. For God hath said by the prophet: "Thou hast
put away from thee knowledge, therefore I have also put thee away
from me, that thou mayest not be my priest."
The persecution of the Iconoclasts had driven all the best
Christians into hiding, or into far distant exile; this had made
them rustic, and had taken from them their taste for study. The
council therefore is forced to be content with a knowledge of
only what is absolutely necessary, provided it was united with
a willingness to learn. The examination with which the ceremony
of the ordination of
bishops begins seems to be a remains of this discipline.
The Synod teaches in this canon that "all Christians"
will find it most profitable to meditate upon God's justifyings
and to keep his words in remembrance, and especially is this the
ease with bishops.
And it should be noted that formerly not only the clergy,
but also the lay people, learned the Psalms, that is the whole
Psalter, by heart, and made a most sweet sound by chanting them
while about their work.
But as time went on, little by little this pious custom of
reciting the Psalter and of imposing its recitation and a meditation
thereon at certain intervals, slipped away to the clergy only
and to monks and nuns, as to those specially consecrated to the
service of God and to meditation upon the divine words, as Lupus
points out. And from this discipline and practice the appointment
of the Ecclesiastical or Canonical Office had its rise, which
imposes the necessity of reciting the Psalms at certain intervals
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum, Pars I., Dist. xxxviij., C. vj., in Anastasius's translation.
That it does not pertain to princes to choose a Bishop.
LET every election of a bishop, presbyter, or deacon, made
by princes stand null, according to the canon which says: If any
bishop making use of the secular powers shall by their means obtain
jurisdiction over any church, he shall be deposed, and also excommunicated,
together with all who remain in communion with him. For he who
is raised to the episcopate must be chosen by bishops, as was
decreed by the holy fathers of Nice in the canon which says: It
is most fitting that a bishop be ordained by all the bishops in
the province; but if this is difficult to arrange, either on account
of urgent necessity, or because of the length of the journey,
three bishops at least having met together and given their votes,
those also who are absent having signified their assent by letters,
the ordination shall take place. The confirmation of what is thus
done, shall in each province be given by the metropolitan thereof.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON III.
Every election made by a secular magistrate is null.
This is a canon of a synod recognized by East and West as
ecumenical! The reader can hardly resist the reflection that in
this case there have been and are a great many intruding clergymen
in the world, whose appointment to their several offices is "null."
Van Espen, however, suggests an ingenious way out of the difficulty,
which is followed with great approval by Hefele.
Canon xxix. of those commonly called Apostolic, and canon
iv. of Nice are renewed in this canon.
From the words of this canon it is sufficiently clear that
in this canon the synod is treating of the choice and intrusion
of persons into ecclesiastical offices which the magistrates and
Princes had arrogated to themselves under the title of Domination
(Dominatio); and by no means of that choice or rather nomination
which Catholic princes and kings have everywhere and always used.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum, Pars I., Dist. xciii., C. vij.
That Bishops are to abstain from all receiving of gifts.
THE Church's herald, Paul the divine Apostle, laying down
a rule (
) not only for the presbyters
of Ephesus but for the whole company of the priesthood, speaks
thus explicitly, saying, "I have coveted no man's silver
or gold, or apparel. I have shewed
you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the
weak;" for he accounted it more blessed to give. Therefore
we being taught by him do decree, that under no circumstances,
shall a Bishop for the sake of filthy lucre invent feigned excuses
for sins, and exact gold or silver or other gifts from the bishops,
clergy, or monks who are subject to him. For says the Apostle,
"The unrighteous shall not possess the kingdom of God,"
and, "The children ought not to lay up for the parents, but
the parents for the children." If then any is found, who
for the sake of exacting gold or any other gift, or who from personal
feeling, has suspended from the ministry, or even excommunicated,
any of the clergy subject to his jurisdiction, or who has closed
any of the venerable temples, so that the service of God may not
be celebrated in it, pouring out his madness even upon things
insensible, and thus shewing himself to be without understanding,
he shall be subjected to the same punishment he devised for others,
and his trouble shall return on his own head, as a transgressor
of God's commandment and of the apostolic precepts. For Peter
the supreme head (
) of the Apostles commands,
"Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight
thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre
but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over the clergy (
[A. V. God's heritage] ); but being ensamples to the flock. And
when the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown
of glory that fadeth not away."
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON IV.
We decree that no bishop shall extort gold or silver, or anything
else from bishops, clerics, or monks subject to his jurisdiction.
And if anyone through the power of gold or of any other thing
or through his own whims, shall be found to have prevented any
one of the clergy who are subject to him, from the celebration
of the holy offices, or shall have shut up a venerable temple
so that the sacred worship of God could not be performed in it,
he shall be subject to the lex talionis. For Peter the Apostle
says: Feed the flock of God, not of necessity but willingly, and
according to God; not for filthy lucre's sake, but with a prompt
mind; not exercising lordship over the clergy, but being an example
to the flock.
Note the present canon, which punishes those bishops by the
lex talionis, who for filthy lucre's sake, or out of private affection,
separate any from themselves, or close temples. Wherefore he who
cuts off others thus, let him be cut off. But he who shuts off
a temple shall be punished even more than by cutting off. But
lest any one should say, by the argument a contrario, that a bishop
should not be punished who neither for the sake of filthy lucre
nor out of private spite, but lawfully cuts some off, or closes
temples, I answer that this argument only holds good of the cutting
off. For a bishop who for any reason, whether just or unjust,
shuts up a temple, should be punished, so it seems to me, as I
have said above.
It would seem that at that time among the Greeks the use of
local interdict (interdicti localis) was not known. But very many
theologians wish to find a vestige of this interdict in the IVth
century, in St. Basil's epistle cclxx. (otherwise ccxliv.), where
the holy doctor teaches that the person who carries off by force
a virgin, and those who are cognizant of this wickedness ought
to be smitten with excommunication, and that the village or its
inhabitants, to which the ravisher shall escape and where he shall
be kept in safety, shall be shut out from the prayers.
This canon, or rather the first part of it, is found in the
Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's Decretum, Pars II., Causa XVI.,
Q. I., Canon lxiv.; all the latter part is represented by the
words "et infra."
That they who cast contumely upon clerics because they have
been ordained in the church without bringing a gift with them,
are to be published with a fine.
IT is a sin unto death when men incorrigibly continue in their
sin, but they sin more deeply, who proudly lifting themselves
up oppose piety and sincerity, accounting mammon of more worth
than obedience to God, and caring nothing for his canonical precepts.
The Lord God is not found among such, unless, perchance, having
been humbled by their own fall, they return to a sober mind. It
behoves them the rather to turn to God with a contrite heart and
to pray for forgiveness and pardon of so grave a sin, and no longer
to boast in an unholy gift. For the Lord is nigh unto them that
are of a contrite heart. With regard, therefore, to those who
pride themselves that because of their benefactions of gold they
were ordained in the Church, and resting confidently in this evil
custom (so alien from God and inconsistent with the whole priesthood),
with a proud look and open mouth vilify with abusive words those
who on account of the strictness of their life were chosen by
the Holy Ghost and have been ordained without any gift of money,
we decree in the first place that they take the lowest place in
their order; but if they do not amend let them be subjected to
a fine. But if it appear that any one has done this [i.e., given
money], at any time as a price for ordination, let him be dealt
with according to the Apostolic Canon which says: "If a bishop
has obtained possession of his dignity by means of money (the
same rule applies also to a presbyter or deacon) let him be deposed
and also the one who ordained him, and let him also be altogether
cut off from communion, even as Simon Magus was by me Peter."
To the same effect is the second canon of our holy fathers of
Chalcedon, which says: If any bishop gives ordination in return
for money, and puts up for sale that which cannot be sold, and
ordains for money a bishop or chorepiscopus, or presbyter, or
deacon, or any other of those who are reckoned among the clergy;
or who for money shall appoint anyone to the office of oeconomus,
advocate, or paramonarius; or, in a word, who hath done anything
else contrary to the canon, for the sake of filthy lucre--he who
hath undertaken to do anything of this sort, having been convicted,
shall be in danger of losing his degree. And he who has been ordained
shall derive no advantage from the ordination or promotion thus
negotiated; but let him remain a stranger to the dignity and responsibility
which he attained by means of money. And if any one shall appear
to have acted as a go-between in so shameful and godless a traffic,
lie also, if he be a cleric, shall be removed from his degree;
if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON V.
It seems that such as glory in the fact that they owe their
position to their liberality in gold to the Church, and who contemn
those who were chosen because of their virtue and were appointed
without any largess, should receive the lowest place in their
order. And should they continue in their ways, let them be punished.
But those who made such gifts so as to get ordinations, let such
be cast forth from communion, as Simon Magus was by Peter.
Zonaras and Balsamon in earlier times, and later Christian
Lupus and Van Espen, remarked that the second part of this canon
treats of simony, but not the first. This has in view rather those
who, on account of their large expenditure on churches and the
poor, have been raised, without simony, to the clerical estate
as a reward and recognition of their beneficence; and being proud
of this, now depreciate other clergymen who were unable or unwilling
to make such foundations and the like.
Concerning the homing of a local Synod at the time appointed.
SINCE there is a canon which says, twice a year in each province,
the canonical enquiries shall be made in the gatherings of the
bishops; but because of the inconveniences which those who thus
came together had to undergo in travelling, the holy fathers of
the Sixth Council decreed that once each year, without regard
to place or excuse which might be urged, a council should be held
and the things which are amiss corrected. This canon we now renew.
And if any prince be found hindering this being carried out, let
him be excommunicated. But if any of the metropolitans shall take
care that this be done, he being free from constraint or fear
or other reasonable excuse, let him be subjected to the canonical
penalties. While the council is engaged in considering the canons
or matters which have regard to the Gospel, it behoves the assembled
Bishops, with all attention and grave thought to guard the divine
and life-giving commandments of God, for in keeping of them there
is great reward; because our lamp is the commandment, and our
light is the law, and trial and discipline are the way of life,
and the commandment of the Lord shining afar giveth light to the
eyes. It is not permitted to a metropolitan to demand any of those
things which the bishops bring with them, whether it be a horse
or any other gift.If he be convicted of doing anything of this
sort, he shall restore fourfold.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON VI.
Whenever it is not possible for a synod to meet according
to the decree formulated long ago, twice in each year, at least
let it be held once, as seemed good to the Sixth Synod. Should
any magistrate forbid such meeting, let him be cast out: and a
bishop who shall take no pains to assemble it, shall be subject
to punishment. And when the synod is held, should it appear that
the Metropolitan has taken anything away from any bishop, let
him restore four-fold.
Anastasius remarks on this, that this ordinance (whether the
whole canon or only its last passage must remain undecided) was
not accepted by the Latins. That this canon did not forbid the
so-called Synodicum, which the metropolitans had lawfully to receive
from the bishops, and the bishops from the priests, is remarked
by Van Espen, 1. c. p. 464.
Compare with this (as Balsamon advises) the eighth canon of
the Council in Trullo.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum, Pars I., Dist. XVIII., C. vij.
That to churches consecrated without any deposit of the reliques
of the Saints, the defect should be made good.
PAUL the divine Apostle says: "The sins of some are open
beforehand, and some they follow after." These are their
primary sins, and other sins follow these. Accordingly upon the
heels of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians, there
followed close other ungodliness. For as they took out of the
churches the presence of the venerable images, so likewise they
cast aside other customs which we must now revive and maintain
in accordance with the written and unwritten law. We decree therefore
that relics shall be placed with the accustomed service in as
many of the sacred temples as have been consecrated without the
relics of the Martyrs. And if any bishop from this time forward
is found consecrating a temple without holy relics, he shall be
deposed, as a transgressor of the ecclesiastical traditions.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON VII.
Let reliques of the Holy Martyrs be placed in such churches
as have been consecrated without them, and this with the accustomed
prayers. But whoever shall consecrate a church without these shall
be deposed as a transgressor of the traditions of the Church.
But someone may be surprised that oratories to-day are consecrated
without any deposition of reliques. And they may ask why the Divine
Liturgy is not celebrated in them by bishops and not by priests
only. The answer is that the superaltars (
which are made by the bishops when a church is consecrated, suffice
oratories in lieu of consecration or enthronement when they are
sent to them, on the occasion of their dedication or opening.
They are called
they are in place of, and are antitypes of those many like tables
which furnish thoroughly the holy Lord's table.
On the rite of consecrating churches with reliques see Cardinal
Bona. (De Rebus Lit., Lib. I., cap. xix.)
The Antimensia are consecrated at the same time as the church;
a full account of the ceremony is found in the Euchologion (Goar's
ed., p. 648). A piece of cloth is placed on the altar and blessed,
and then subsequently, as need requires, pieces are cut off from
it and sent to the various oratories, etc. The main outline of
the ceremony of consecration is as follows.
J. M. NEALE. (Int. Hist. East. Ch. p. 187. )
Relics being pounded up with fragrant gum, oil is poured over
them by the bishop, and, distilling out to the corporals, is supposed
to convey to them the mysterious virtues of the relics themselves.
The holy Eucharist must then be celebrated on them for seven days,
after which they are sent forth as they are wanted.
That Hebrews ought not to be received unless they have been
converted in sincerity of heart.
SINCE certain, erring in the superstitions of the Hebrews,
have thought to mock at Christ our God, and feigning to be converted
to the religion of Christ do deny him, and in private and secretly
keep the Sabbath and observe other Jewish customs, we decree that
such persons be not received to communion, nor to prayers, nor
into the Church; but let them be openly Hebrews according to their
religion, and let them not bring their children to baptism, nor
purchase or possess a slave. But if any of them, out of a sincere
heart and in faith, is converted and makes profession with his
whole heart, setting at naught their customs and observances,
and so that others may be convinced and converted, such an one
is to be received and baptized, and his children likewise; and
let them be taught to take care to hold aloof from the ordinances
of the Hebrews. But if they will not do this, let them in no wise
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON VIII.
Hebrews must not be received unless they are manifestly converted
with sincerity of heart.
The Greek commentators Balsamon and Zonaras understood the
words "nor to baptize their children" to mean, "these
seeming Christians may not 'baptize their own children,'' because
they only seem to be Christians. But parents were never allowed
to baptize their own children, and the true sense of the words
in question comes out clearly from the second half of the canon.
That none of the books containing the heresy of the traducers
of the Christians are to be hid.
ALL the childish devices and mad ravings which have been falsely
written against the venerable images, must be delivered up to
the Episcopium of Constantinople, that they may be locked away
with other heretical books. And if anyone is found hiding such
books, if he be a bishop or presbyter or deacon, let him be deposed;
but if he be a monk or layman, let him be anathema.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON IX.
If any one is found to have concealed a book written against
the venerable images, if he is on the clergy list let him be deposed;
if a layman or monk let him be cut off.
What here is styled Episcopium was the palace of the Patriarch.
In this palace were the archives, and this was called the "Cartophylacium,"
in which the charts and episcopal
laws were laid up. To this there was a prefect, the grand Chartophylax,
one of the principal officials and of most exalted dignity of
the Church of Constantinople, whose office Codinus explains as
follows: "The Ghartophylax has in his keeping all the charts
which pertain to ecclesiastical law (that is to say the letters
in which privileges and other rights of the Church are contained)
and is the judge of all ecclesiastical causes, and presides over
marriage controversies which are taken cognizance of, and proceedings
for dissolution of the marriage bond; moreover, he is judge in
other clerical strifes, as the right hand of the Patriarch."
In this Cartophylaceum or Archives, therefore, under the faithful
guardianship of the Chartophylax, the fathers willed that the
writings of the Iconoclasts should be laid up, lest in their perusal
simple Catholics might be led astray.
That no cleric ought to leave his diocese and go into another
without the knowledge of the Bishop.
SINCE certain of the clergy, misinterpreting the canonical
constitutions, leave their own diocese and run into other dioceses,
especially into this God-protected royal city, and take up their
abode with princes, celebrating liturgies in their oratories,
it is not permitted to receive such persons into any house or
church without the license of their own Bishop and also that of
the Bishop of Constantinople. And if any clerk shall do this without
such license, and shah so continue, let him be deposed. With regard
to those who have done this with the knowledge of the aforesaid
Bishops, it is not lawful for them to undertake mundane and secular
responsibilities, since this is forbidden by the sacred canons.
And if anyone is discovered holding the office of those who are
called Meizoteroi; let him either lay it down, or be deposed from
the priesthood. Let him rather be the instructor of the children
and others of the household, reading to them the Divine Scriptures,
for to this end he received the priesthood.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON X.
A clergyman who after leaving his own parish has settled in
another far off from his own bishop and from the bishop of Constantinople,
shall be received neither into house nor church. And if he shall
persevere in his course, he shall be deposed. But if they shall
do this with a knowledge of what we have said, they shall not
receive a secular position; or should they have received them,
they shall cease from them. And if they refuse they shall be deposed.
On the office of the
the Greek commentators Zonaras and Balsamon give us more exact
information. We give the substance of it, viz.: they were majores
domus stewards of the estates of high personages.
On account of this canon it seems to me that the most holy
Patriarch at the time and his Chartophylax allow alien clergymen
to celebrate the liturgy. in this royal city, even without letters
dimissory of the local bishop of each one.
That OEconomi ought to be in the Episcopal palaces and in the
SINCE we are under obligation to guard all the divine canons,
we ought by all means to maintain in its integrity that one which
says oeconomi are to be in each church. If the metropolitan appoints
in his Church an oeconomus, he does well; but if he does not,
it is permitted to the Bishop of Constantinople by his own (
authority to choose an oeconomus for the Church of the Metropolitan.
A like authority belongs to the
metropolitans, if the Bishops who are subject to them do not wish
to appoint oeconomi in their churches. The same rule is also to
be observed with respect to monasteries.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XI.
If the Metropolitan does not elect an oeconomus of the metropolis,
the patriarch shall do so. If the bishop shall not do so, the
Metropolitan shall; for so it seemed good to the fathers assembled
at Chalcedon.The same law shall hold in monasteries.
The Synod of Chalcedon required the appointment of special
oeonomi only for all bishops' churches; but our synod extended
this prescription also to monasteries.
Bishops at their ordination among other things promise that
they will observe the canons, and the bishops of the Synod say
that among these canons they are bound to keep the one that orders
them to appoint an OEconomus.
Among the officials of the Constantinopolitan Church, Codinus
names first The Grand (Economus, "who" (he says) "holds
in his oxen power all the faculties of the Church, and all their
returns; and is the dispenser in this matter as well to the Patriarch
as to the Church."
Balsamon and Aristenus refer to Canon xxvj. of Chalcedon;
and point out how here the power of Constantinople was added to.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum, Pars. II., Causa IX., Quaest. III., Canon iij.
That a Bishop or Hegumenos ought not to alienate any part
of the suburban estate of the church.
IF bishop or hegumenos is found alienating any part of the
farm lands of the bishoprick or monastery into the hands of secular
princes, or surrendering them to any other person, such act is
null according to the canon of the holy Apostles, which says:
"Let the bishop take care of all the Church's goods, and
let him administer the same according as in the sight of God."
It is not lawful for him to appropriate any part himself, or to
confer upon his relations the things which belong to God. If they
are poor let them be helped among the poor; but let them not be
used as a pretext for smuggling away the Church's property. And
if it be urged that the land is only a loss and yields no profit,
the place is not on that account to be given to the secular rulers,
who are in the neighbourhood; but let it be given to clergymen
or husbandmen. And if they have resorted to dishonest craft, so
that the ruler has bought the land from the husbandman or cleric,
such transaction shall likewise be null, and the land shall be
restored to the bishoprick or monastery. And the bishop or hegumenos
doing this shall be turned out, the bishop from his bishoprick
and the hegumenos from his monastery, as those who wasted what
they did not gather.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XII.
According to what seemed good to the Holy Apostles, any act
of alienation of the goods of a diocese or of a monastery made
by the bishop, or by the superior of the monastery, shall be null.
And the Bishop or Superior who shall have done this shall be expelled.
As at the time of this Synod by the favour of kings and princes
the way was frequently open to ecclesiastical dignities, clergymen
might easily be induced through ambition to make over to princes
some part of the Church's possessions, if only by so doing they
might arrive at the coveted preferment through their patronage,
and then desiring to make good this simoniacal promise, they studied
to transfer the church's goods to their patrons; with regard to
these the present decree of the synod was made.
But because human ambition is cunning,
and solicitously seeks a way of attaining its ends, ambitious
clerics tried by various colouring to give a tone to and to palliate
these translations of church-goods to princes and magistrates,
so that they might attain to that they aimed at by the favour
of said princes and magistrates.
Two such pretexts the synod exposes and rejects in the present
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Pars II.,
Causa XII., Quaest. II., canon xix.
That they are worthy of special condemnation who turn the
monasteries into public houses.
DURING the calamity which was brought to pass in the Churches,
because of our sins, some of the sacred houses, for example, bishops'
palaces and monasteries, were seized by certain men and became
public inns. If those who now hold them choose to give them back,
so that they may be restored to their original use, well and good;
but if not, and these persons are on the sacerdotal list, we command
that they be deposed; if they be monks or laymen, that they be
excommunicated, as those who have been condemned from the Father,
and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and assigned their place where
the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched, because they
set themselves against the voice of the Lord, which says:"Make
not my Father's house an house of merchandise."
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XIII.
Those who make common diocesan or monastic goods, unless they
restore to the bishop or superior the things belonging to the
diocese or monastery, the whole proceeding shall be null. If they
are persons in Holy Orders they shall be deposed, but if laymen
or monks they shall be cast out.
No doubt by "the calamity" here is intended a reference
to the troubles occasioned by the Iconoclasts, during whose time
of domination many nefarious things were perpetrated against the
orthodox, and most bitter of all was the persecution of the monks
and priests by Leo the Isaurian and by his son Constantine Copronymus,
both of them supporters of the Iconoclasts.
And so it came to pass that by this persecution and through
the nefarious vexations of the Iconoclasts, many monks and clerics
fled from their monasteries and left vacant the Episcopia or holy
houses, and so it became easy for people to come in and occupy
the empty monasteries and religious houses, and to turn them to
common and profane uses, especially when the anger of the Emperors
and of the Iconoclasts was known to be fierce against the monks,
and such bishops and priests as were worshippers of images.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Pars. II.,
Causa xix., Quasar. III., canon v., in Anastasius's version but
lacking the opening words which are supplied by the Roman Correctors.
That no one without ordination ought to read in the ambo during
THAT there is a certain order established in the priesthood
is very evident to all, and to guard diligently the promotions
of the priesthood is well pleasing to God. Since therefore we
see certain youths who have received the clerical tonsure, but
who have not yet received ordination from the bishop, reading
in the ambo during the Synaxis, and in doing this violating the
canons, we forbid this to be done (from henceforth,) and let this
prohibition be observed also amongst the monks. It is permitted
to each hegumenos in his own monastery to ordain a reader, if
he himself had received the laying on of hands by a bishop to
the dignity of hegumenos, and is known to be a presbyter. Chorepiscopi
may likewise, according to ancient custom and with the bishop's
authorization, appoint readers.
ANCIENT EPITOME Or CANON XIV.
No one shall read from the ambon unless he has been ordained
by the bishop. And this shall be in force also among monks. The
superior of a monastery, if he has been ordained by the bishop,
may ordain a lector but only in his own monastery. A chorepiscopus
also can make a lector.
I say therefore from this present canon and from canon xix.
that they may properly be made superiors, who have never received
holy orders; since women may be placed in such positions in our
monasteries. And as these women do not hear confessions, nor make
readers, so neither do superiors do this who are neither monks
nor priests, nor could they do this even with the license of the
Van Espen (1. c. p. 469 sqq., and Jus Canon., t.i. pt. xxxi.
tit. 31, c. 6), professes to show (a) that at that time there
was no special benediction of abbots (different from their ordination
as priests), and that therefore the words, "if he (the superior
of the monastery) himself is consecrated by the bishop to the
office of hegumenus," and "evidently is a priest,"
mean the same; (b) that at the time of our Synod every superior
of a monastery, a prior as well as an abbot, had the power of
conferring upon the monks of his monastery the order of lector;
but (c) that the way in which Anastasius translated the canon
(si dumtaxat Abbati manus impositio facta noscatur ab episcopo
secundum morem prceficiendorum abbatum), and the reception of
this translation into the Corpus juris canonici, c.l., Dist. lxix.,
gave occasion to concede the right in question, of ordaining lectors,
only to the solemnly consecrated (and insulated) abbots.
This canon is found (as just noted) in the Corpus Juris Canonici,
Pars I., Dist. LXIX, c.j.
That a clerk ought not to be set over two churches.
FROM henceforth no clergyman shall be appointed over two churches,
for this savours of merchandise and filthy lucre, and is altogether
alien from ecclesiastical custom. We have heard by the very voice
of the Lord that, "No man can serve two masters, for either
he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold
to the one and despise the other." Each one, therefore, as
says the Apostle, in the calling wherein he was called, in the
same he ought to abide, and in one only church to give attendance.
For in the affairs of the Church, what is gained through filthy
lucre is altogether separate from God. To meet the necessities
of this life, there are various occupations, by means of which,
if one so desire, let him procure the things needful for the body.
For says the Apostle, "These hands have ministered unto my
necessities, and to them that were with me." Occupations
of this sort may be obtained in the God-protected city. But in
the country places outside, because of the small number of people,
let a dispensation be granted.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XV.
Hereafter at Constantinople a cleric may not serve two churches.
But in the outskirts this may be permitted on account of the scarcity
This means that in the country or where men are so scarce
that each parish cannot have its own presbyter, one presbyter
should be allowed to serve two churches, not that so he may supply
his own need. (as to-day is allowed by the combination of benefices),
but that so the necessities of the parishioners may be provided
It should be noted that the synod deems it "filthy lucre"
and "separate from God" if ecclesiastical ministries
are performed "for the necessaries of life," and is
of opinion that the clergy should seek their support from some
honest employment or work by the example of Paul, rather than
to turn ecclesiastical ministrations to the attaining of temporal
things, and to use these as an art by which to gain bread.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonical Pars. II.,
Causa XXI., Quaest. L, canon j. where the gloss is "because
there the clergy are few."
That it does not become one in holy orders to be clad in costly
ALL buffoonery and decking of the body ill becomes the priestly
rank. Therefore those bishops and clerics who array themselves
in gay and showy clothing ought to correct themselves, and if
they do not amend they ought to be subjected to punishment. So
likewise they who anoint themselves with perfumes. When the root
of bitterness sprang up, there was poured into the Catholic Church
the pollution of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians.
And such as were defiled by it, not only detested the pictured
images, but also set at naught all decorum, being exceedingly
mad against those who lived gravely and religiously; so that in
them was fulfilled that which is written, "The service of
God is abominable to the sinner." If therefore, any are found
deriding those who are clad in poor and grave raiment, let them
be corrected by punishment. For from early times every man in
holy orders wore modest and grave clothing; and verily whatever
is worn, not so much because of necessity, as for the sake of
outward show, savours of dandyism, as says Basil the Great. Nor
did anyone array himself in raiment embroidered with silk, nor
put many coloured ornaments on the border of his garments; for
they had heard from the lips of God that "They that wear
soft clothing are in kings' houses."
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XVI.
Bishops and clergymen arraying themselves in splendid clothes
and anointed with perfumes must be corrected. Should they persist,
they must be punished.
Balsamon and Zonaras tell of the magnificence in dress assumed
by some of the superior clergy among the Iconoclasts, wearing
stuffs woven with threads of gold, and their loins girt with
golden girdles, and sentences embroidered in gold on the edge
of their raiment. It is curious to note how often heretics fall
into extremes. We have seen how Eustathius wore a conspicuous
garb and was not willing to appear in the ordinary dress of a
clergyman of his day. His was the one extreme of ultra clerical
or, I should say, ascetic clothing. These Iconoclasts went to
the other extreme and dressed themselves like men of the world,
giving themselves the dandy airs of the fops of the day, thus,
as always, making themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the wise,
and their office contemptible m the eyes of the common people.
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum,Pars. II., Causa XXI., Qusest. IV., canon j.
That he shall not be allowed to begin the building of an oratory,
who has not the means wherewith to finish it.
CERTAIN monks having left their monasteries because they desired
to rule, and, unwilling to obey, are undertaking to build oratories,
but have not the means to finish them. Now whoever shall undertake
to do anything of this sort, let him be forbidden by the bishop
of the place. But if he have the means wherewith to finish, let
what he has designed be carried on to completion. The same rule
is to be observed with regard to laymen and clerics.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XVII.
Whoever wishes to build a monastery, if he has the wherewithal
to finish it, let him begin the work, and let him bring it to
a conclusion. But if not, let him be prohibited by the bishop
of the place. The same law shall apply to laymen and monks.
Van Espen refers to Gratian's Decretum, Pars. III., De Consecrat.,
Dist. I., canon ix., et seqq.
Balsamon also refers his readers to the Fourth Book of the
Basilica, title I., chapter I, which is part of Justinian's cxxiij.
Novel, also to the first canon of the so-called First-and-Second
Council held at Constantinople in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
That women ought not to live in bishops' houses, nor in monasteries
"BE ye without offence to those who are without,"
says the divine Apostle. Now for women to live in Bishops' houses
or in monasteries is ground for grave offence. Whoever therefore
is known to have a female slave or freewoman in the episcopal
palace or in a monastery for the discharge of some service, let
him be rebuked. And if he still continue to retain her, let him
be deposed. If it happens that women are on the suburban estates,
and the bishop or hegumenos desires to go thither, so long as
the bishop or hegumenos is present, let no woman at that time
continue her work, but let her betake herself to some other place
until the bishop lot hegumenos] has departed, so that there
be no occasion of complaint.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XVIII.
It is not fitting that women should be kept in episcopal
houses or in monasteries. If anyone shall dare to do so, he shall
be reproved ; but if he persists, he shall be deposed. No woman
is allowed to serve or even to appear where a bishop or a superior
of a monastery is present, but let her keep herself apart until
he be gone.
Every woman the present canon expels from the Episcopium or
bishop's house, agreeably to Novel CXXIII, chapter 29, of the
Emperor Justinian, which, (although the Nicene canon on the subject
makes a mother, sister, daughter and other persons free from all
suspicions, exceptions), admits no exceptions in the case of a
bishop, but says, "We allow no bishop to have any woman or
to live with one."
For as bishops are set in a higher grade above the rest. of
the clergy, and ought to be like lights set on a candlestick to
give light, rightly they are ordered more than others to take
care to avoid all appearance of evil, and to remove all from them
that might cause suspicion.
With regard to monks and their houses see Justinian's Novel
CXXXIII., Cap. IV.
That the vows of those in holy orders and of monks, and of
nuns are to be made without the exaction of gifts.
THE abomination of filthy lucre has made such inroads among
the rulers of the churches, that certain of those who call themselves
religious men and women, forgetting the commandments of the Lord
have been altogether led astray, and for the sake of money have
received those presenting themselves for the sacerdotal order
and the monastic life. And hence the first step of those so received
being unlawful, the whole proceeding is rendered null, as says
Basil the Great. For it is not possible that God should be served
by means of mammon. If therefore, anyone is found doing anything
of this kind, if he be a bishop or hegumenos, or one of the priesthood,
either let him cease to do so any longer or else let him be deposed,
according to the second canon of the Holy Council of Chalcedon.
If the offender be an abbess, let her be sent away from her monastery,
and placed in another in a subordinate position. In like manner
is a hegumenos to be dealt with, who has not the ordination of
a presbyter. With regard to what has been given by parents as
a dowry for their children, or which persons themselves have contributed
out of their own property, with the declaration that such gifts
were made to God, we have decreed, that whether the persons in
whose behalf the gifts were made, continue to live in the monastery
or not, the gifts are to remain with the monastery in accordance
with their first determination; unless indeed there be ground
for complaint against the superior.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XIX.
Whoever for money admits those coming to Holy Orders or to
the monastic life, if he be bishop, or superior of a monastery
or any other in sacred orders, shall either cease or be deposed.
And the Superior of a monastery of women shall be expelled [if
she have done sol and shall be given over to subjection. The same
shall be the ease with a superior of monks, if he be not a priest.
But the possessions brought by those who come in, let them remain,
whether the persons remain or not, provided the superior be not
But someone may ask how it is that canon V., orders that he
that performs an ordination for money is eo ipso to be deposed,
whereas this canon provides that he who receives a cleric or monk
on account of a pecuniary gift is to cease or else to be deposed.
The answer is, that whenever anyone performs an ordination for
money, according to canon V., he is to be deposed; but when it
was only a reception of a person which took place, whether into
the list of the clergy or into a monastery by reason of money,
who did this is only to be deposed, if after being denounced he
persists in this evil. The canons therefore are diverse in their
scope. The fifth treats of unlawful ordination, but this one of
That from henceforth, no double monastery shall be erected;
and concerning the double monasteries already in existence.
WE decree that from henceforth, no double monastery shall
be erected; because this has become an offence and cause of complaint
to many. In the case of those persons who with the members of
their family propose to leave the world and follow the monastic
life, let the men go into a monastery for men, and the women into
a monastery for women; for this is well-pleasing to God. The double
monasteries which are already in existence, shall observe the
rule of our holy Father Basil, and shall be ordered by his precepts,
monks and nuns shall not dwell together in the same monastery,
for in thus living together adultery finds its occasion. No monk
shall have access to a nunnery; nor shall a nun be permitted to
enter a monastery for the sake of conversing with anyone therein.
No monk shall sleep in a monastery for women, nor eat alone with
a nun. When food is brought by men to the canonesses, let the
abbess accompanied by some one of the aged nuns, receive it outside
the gates of the women's monastery. When a monk desires to see
one of his kinswomen, who may be in the nunnery, let him converse
with her in the presence of the abbess, and that in a very few
words, and then let him speedily take his departure.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XX.
Monasteries shall not be double, neither shall monks and nuns
live in the same building, nor shall they talk together apart.
Moreover if a man takes anything to a canoness, let him wait without
and hand it to her, and let him see his relative in the presence
of her superior.
It is evident, as Zonaras remarks, that the double monasteries
here referred to are not those in which men and women live together,
in one house, which in this canon is not tolerated at all, but
those which were situated so close together that it was evident
there could easily be an entrance from one to the other, these
are allowed under certain cautions by this canon.
But not only the Greeks but the Latins also often disapproved
of such monasteries. See decree in Gratian, Pars. II., Causa XVIII.,
Q. II., canon xxviij., and Pope Paschal's letter (Epis. X) to
Didacus, Abp. of Compostella.
Despite all this St. Bridget of Sweden again instituted double
monasteries in the XVth century, concerning which Thomas Walsingham,
a monk of St. Alban's Abbey, in England, writes that in 1414,
King Henry founded three monasteries, of which the third
was a Brigittine, professing the rule of St. Augustine, with the
additions called by them the Rule of the Saviour. "These
two convents had one church in common, the nuns lived in the upper
part under the roof, the brothers on the ground-floor, and each
convent had a separate inclosure; and after profession no one
went forth, except by special licence of the Lord Pope."
With regard to the chaplains of nuns, provision is found in
Justinian's Code. (Lib. xliv., De Epis. et clericis. )
This canon is found in the Corpus Juris Canonici, Gratian's
Decretum, Pars. II., Causa XVIII., Q. II., canon xxj.
That monks are not to leave their monasteries and go into others.
A MONK or nun ought not to leave the monastery to which he
or she is attached, and betake themselves to others. But if one
do this, he ought to be received as a guest. It is not however
proper that he be made a member of the monastery, without the
consent of his hegumenos.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XXI.
It is not allowed to a monk or a nun to leave her own house
and enter another ; but if he (or she) enters let (him or her)
be received as a guest; but let him (or her) not be admitted at
all nor given hospitality contrary to the will of the superior.
The present canon does not allow a monk or a nun who goes
to another house to be received into, nor even to be admitted
as a guest, lest by force of necessity he be led astray to worldly
things and so remain. Moreover it does not permit a woman to be
admitted and received and reckoned in the number of the sisters
without the consent of the superior.
It seems to me that in Aristenus an
must have crept into the text and that the first sentence should
read as now but omitting the "not." This makes him agree
with Zonaras who says "the man must be received as a guest
lest he go to a profane tavern and be forced to associate with
those who have never learned how to live decently." It is
clear that the "superior" referred to is that of the
house whence the monk or nun went forth.
That when it happens that monies have to eat with women they
ought to observe giving of thanks, and abstemiousness, and discretion.
To surrender all things to God, and not to serve our own wills,
is great gain. For says the divine Apostle, "whether ye eat
or drink, do all to the glory of God." And Christ our God
has bidden us in his Gospels, to cut off the beginning of sins;
for not only is adultery rebuked by him, but even the movement
of the mind towards the act of adultery when he says, "Whosoever
looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery
with her already in his heart." We who have been thus taught
ought therefore to purify our minds. Now although all things are
lawful, all things are not expedient, as we have been taught by
the mouth of the Apostle. It is needful that all men should eat
in order that they may live. And for those to whom life consists
of marrying, and bringing forth children, and of the condition
of the lay state, there is nothing unbecoming in men and women
eating together, only let them give thanks to the giver of the
food; but if there be the entertainments of the theatre, that
is, Satanic songs accompanied with the meretricious inflections
of harps, there come upon them, through these things, the curse
of the prophet, who thus speaks: "Woe to them who drink wine
with harp and psaltery, but they regard not the works of the Lord,
and consider not the works of his hands." Whenever persons
of this sort are found among
Christians, let them amend their ways; but if they will not do
so, let there overtake them the penalties which have been enacted
in the canons by our predecessors. With regard to those whose
life is free from care and apart from men, that is, those who
have resolved before the Lord God to carry the solitary yoke,
they should sit down alone and in silence. Moreover it is also
altogether unlawful for those who have chosen the priestly life
to eat in private with women, unless it be with God-fearing and
discreet men and women, so that even their feast may be turned
to spiritual edification. The same rule is to be observed with
relatives. Again, if it happen that a monk or priest while on
a journey does not have with him what is absolutely necessary
for him, and, because of his pressing needs, thinks well to turn
aside into an inn or into someone's house, this he is permitted
to do, seeing that need compels.
ANCIENT EPITOME OF CANON XXII.
There is no objection to laywomen eating with men: it is not
right however for men who have chosen the lonely life, to eat
privately with women; unless perchance together with them that
fear God and with religious men and women. But when travelling,
a monk or anyone in sacred orders, not carrying necessary provisions
with him, may enter a public house.
Balsamon refers in connexion with this canon to Apostolic
Canons xlij. and xliij.; lx. of the Synod of Carthage, and lxij.
of the Synod in Trullo.
THE LETTER OF THE SYNOD TO THE EMPEROR AND EMPRESS.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col. 577.)
To our most religious and most serene princes, Constantine
and Irene his mother. Tarasius, the unworthy bishop of your God-protected
royal city, new Rome, and all the holy Council which met at the
good pleasure of God and upon the command of your Christ-loving
majesty in the renowned metropolis of Nice, the second council
to assemble in this city.
Christ our God (who is the head of the Church) was glorified,
most noble princes, when your heart, which he holds in his hands,
gave forth that good word bidding us to assemble in his name,
in order that we might strengthen our hold on the sure, immovable,
and God-given truth contained in the Church's dogmas. As your
heads were crowned with gold and most brilliant stones, so likewise
were your minds adorned with the precepts of the Gospel and the
teachings of the Fathers. And being the disciples and companions,
as it were, of those whose sounds went forth into all the earth,
ye became the leaders in the way of piety of all who bore the
name of Christ, setting forth clearly the word of truth, and giving
a brilliant example of orthodoxy and piety; so that ye were to
the faithful as so many burning lamps. The Church which was ready
to fall, ye upheld with your hands, strengthening it with sound
doctrine, and bringing into the unity of a right judgment those
who were at variance. We may therefore well say with boldness
that it was through you that the good pleasure of God brought
about the triumph of godliness, and filled our mouth with joy
and our tongue with gladness. And these things our lips utter
with a formal decree. For what is more glorious than to maintain
the Church's interests; and what else is more calculated to provoke
Certain men rose up, having the form of godliness, inasmuch
as they were clothed with the dignity of the priesthood, but denying
the power thereof; and thus deserving for themselves the charge
of being but priests of Babylon. Of such the word of prophecy
had before declared that "lawlessness went forth from the
priests of Babylon." Nay more, they banded themselves
together in a sanhedrim, like to that which Caiaphas held, and
became the propagators of ungodly doctrines. And having a mouth
full of cursing and bitterness, they thought to win the mastery
by means of abusive words. With a slanderous tongue and a pen
of a like character, and objecting to the very terms used by God
himself, they devised marvellous tales, and then proceeded to
stigmatise as idolaters the royal priesthood and the holy nation,
even those who had put on Christ, and by his grace had been kept
safe from the folly of idols. And having a mind set upon evil,
they took in hand unlawful deeds, thinking to suppress altogether
the depicting of the venerable images. Accordingly, as many icons
as were set in mosaic work they dug out, and those which were
in painted waxwork, they scraped away; thus turning the comely
beauty of the sacred temples into complete disorder. Among doings
of this sort, it is to be specially noted that the pictures set
up on tablets in memory of Christ our God and of his Saints, they
gave over to the flames. Finally, in a word, having desecrated
our churches, they reduced them to utter confusion. Then some
bishops became the leaders of this heresy and where before was
peace, they fomented strife among the people; and instead of wheat
sowed tares in the Church's fields. They mingled wine with water,
and gave the foul draught to those about them. Although but Arabian
wolves, they hid themselves under sheeps' clothing, and by specious
reasoning against the truth sought to commend their lie. But all
the while "they hatched asps' eggs and wove a spider's web,"
as says the prophet; and "he that would eat of their eggs,
having crushed one, found it to be addled, with a basilisk within
it," and giving forth a deadly stench.
In such a state of affairs, with a lie busy destroying the
truth, ye, most gracious and
most noble princes, did not idly allow so grave a plague, and
such soul-destroying error long to continue in your day. But moved
by the divine Spirit which abideth in you, ye set yourselves with
all your strength utterly to exterminate it, and thus preserve
the stability of the Church's government, and likewise concord
among your subjects; so that your whole empire might be established
in peace agreeably with the name [Irene] you bear. Ye rightly
reasoned, that it was not to be patiently endured, that while
in other matters we could be of one mind and live in concord,
yet in what ought to be the chief concern of our life, the peace
of the Churches, there was amongst us strife and division. And
that too, when Christ being our head, we ought to be members one
of another, and one body, by our mutual agreement and faith. Accordingly,
ye commanded our holy and numerously-attended council to assemble
in the metropolis of Nice, in order that after having rid the
Church of division, we might restore to unity the separated members,
and might be careful to rend and utterly destroy the coarse cloak
of false doctrine, which they had woven of thorn fibre, and unfold
again the fair robe of orthodoxy.
And now having carefully traced the traditions of the Apostles
and Fathers, we are bold to speak. Having but one mind by the
inbreathing of the most Holy Spirit, and being all knit together
in one, and understanding the harmonious tradition of the Catholic
Church, we are in perfect harmony with the symphonies set forth
by the six, holy and ecumenical councils; and accordingly we have
anathematised the madness of Arius, the frenzy of Macedonius,
the senseless understanding of Appolinarius, the man-worship of
Nestorius, the irreverent mingling of the natures devised by Eutyches
and Dioscorus, and the many-headed hydra which is their companion.
We have also anathematised the idle tales of Origen, Didymus,
and Evagrius; and the doctrine of one will held by Sergius, Honorius,
Cyrus, and Pyrrhus, or rather, we have anathematised their own
evil will. Finally, taught by the Spirit, from whom we have drawn
pure water, we have with one accord and one soul, altogether wiped
out with the sponge of the divine dogmas the newly devised heresy,
well-worthy to be classed with those just mentioned, which springing
up after them, uttered such empty nonsense about the sacred icons.
And the contrivers of this vain, but revolutionary babbling we
have cast forth far from the Church's precincts.
And as the hands and feet are moved in accordance with the
directions of the mind, so likewise, we, having received the grace
and strength of the Spirit, and having also the assistance and
co-operation of your royal authority, have with one voice declared
as piety and proclaimed as truth: that the sacred icons of our
Lord Jesus Christ are to be had and retained, inasmuch as he was
very man; also those which set forth what is historically narrated
in the Gospels; and those which represent our undefiled Lady,
the holy Mother of God; and likewise those of the Holy Angels
(for they have manifested themselves in human form to those who
were counted worthy of the vision of them), or of any of the Saints.
[We have also decreed] that the brave deeds of the Saints be
pourtrayed on tablets and on the walls, and upon the sacred vessels
and vestments, as hath been the custom of the holy Catholic Church
of God from ancient times; which custom was regarded as having
the force of law in the teaching both of those holy leaders who
lived in the first ages of the Church, and also of their successors
our reverend Fathers. [We have likewise decreed] that these images
are to be reverenced (
that is, salutations are to be offered to them. The reason for
using the word is, that it has a two-fold signification. For
in the old Greek tongue signifies both "to salute" and
"to kiss." And the preposition
gives to it the additional idea of strong desire towards the subject;
as for example, we have
and so also we have
Which last word implies salutation and strong love; for that which
one loves he also reverences (
and what he reverences that he greatly loves, as the everyday
custom, which we observe towards those we love, bears witness,
and in which both ideas are practically illustrated when two friends
meet together. The word is not only made use of by us, but we
also find it set down in the Divine Scriptures by the ancients.
For it is written in the histories of the Kings,
"And David rose up and fell upon his face and did reverence
) Jonathan three times
and kissed him" (1 Kings xx., 41). And what is it that the
Lord in the Gospel says concerning the Pharisees? "They love
the uppermost rooms at feasts and greetings (
in the markets." It is evident that by "greetings"
here, he means reverence (
for the Pharisees being very high-minded and thinking themselves
to be righteous were eager to be reverenced by all, but not [merely]
to be kissed. For to receive salutations of this latter sort savoured
too much of lowly humility, and this was not to the Pharisees'
liking. We have also the example of Paul the divine Apostle, as
Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates: "When we were come
to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly, and the day following
Paul went in with us unto James, and all the presbyters were present.
And when he had saluted (
them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among
the Gentiles by his ministry" (Acts xxi., 17, 18, 19). By
the salutation here mentioned, the Apostle evidently intended
to render that reverence of honour (
) which we shew to one another,
and of which he speaks when he says concerning Jacob, that "he
) the top of
his staff" (Heb. xi., 21). With these examples agrees what
Gregory surnamed Theologus says: "Honour Bethlehem, and reverence
) the manger."
Now who of those rightly and sincerely understanding the Divine
Scriptures, has ever supposed that these examples which we have
cited speak of the worship in spirit (
)? [Certainly no one has ever
thought so] except perhaps some persons utterly bereft of sense
and ignorant of all knowledge of the Scriptures and of the teaching
of the Fathers. Surely Jacob did not adore (
the top of his staff; and surely Gregory Theologus does not bid
us to adore (
) the manger?
By no means. Again, when offering salutations to the life-giving
Cross, we together sing: "We reverence (
thy cross, O Lord, and we also reverence (
the spear which opened the life-giving side of thy goodness."
This is clearly but a salutation, and is so called, and its character
is evinced by our touching the things mentioned with our lips.
We grant that the word
is frequently found in the Divine Scriptures and in the writings
of our learned and holy Fathers for the worship in spirit (
), since, being a word of many
significations, it may be used to express that kind of reverence
which is service. As there is also the veneration of honour, love
and fear. In this sense it is, that we venerate your glorious
and most noble majesty. So also there is another veneration which
comes of fear alone, thus Jacob venerated Esau. Then there is
the veneration of gratitude, as Abraham reverenced the sons of
Heth, for the field which he received from them for a burying
place for Sarah his wife. And finally, those looking to obtain
some gift, venerate those who are above them, as Jacob venerated
Pharaoh. Therefore because this term has these many significations,
the Divine Scriptures teaching us, "Thou shalt venerate the
Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve," says simply
that veneration is to be given to God, but does not add the word
"only;" for veneration being a word of wide meaning
is an ambiguous term; but it goes on to say "thou shalt serve
) him only," for to
God alone do we render latria.
The things which we have decreed, being thus well supported,
it is confessedly and beyond all question acceptable and well-pleasing
before God, that the images of our Lord Jesus Christ as man, and
those of the undefiled Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, and
of the honourable Angels and of all Saints, should be venerated
and saluted. And if anyone does not so believe, but undertakes
to debate the matter further and is evil affected with regard
to the veneration due the sacred images, such an one our holy
ecumenical council (fortified by the inward working of the Spirit
of God, and by the traditions of the Fathers and of the Church)
anathematises. Now anathema is nothing less than complete separation
from God. For if any are quarrelsome and will not obediently accept
what has now been decreed, they but kick against the pricks, and
injure their own souls in their fighting against Christ. And in
taking pleasure at the insults which are offered to the Church,
they clearly shew themselves
to be of those who madly make war upon piety, and are therefore
to be regarded as in the same category with the heretics of old
times, and their companions and brethren in ungodliness.
We have sent our brethren and fellow priests, God-beloved
Bishops, together with certain of the Hegumenoi and clergy, that
they may give a full report of our proceedings to your godly-hearing
ears. In proof and confirmation of what we have decreed, and
also for the assurance of your most religious majesty, we have
submitted proofs from the Fathers, a few of the many we have
gathered together in illustration of the brightly shining truth.
And now may the Saviour of us all, who reigns with you (
) and who was pleased to vouchsafe
his peace to the Churches through you, preserve your kingdom for
many years, and also your council, princes, and faithful army,
and the whole estate of the empire; and may he also give you victory
over all your enemies. For he it is, who says: "As I live,
saith the Lord, they that glorify me, I will glorify." He
it is also who hath girded you with strength, and will smite all
your enemies, and make your people to rejoice.
And do thou, O city, the new Sion, rejoice and be glad; thou
that art the wonder of the whole world. For although David hath
not reigned in thee, nevertheless thy pious princes here preside
over thy affairs as David would have done. The Lord is in the
midst of thee; may his name be blessed forever and even Amen.
EXCURSUS ON THE TWO LETTERS OF GREGORY II. TO THE EMPEROR LEO.
(J. B. Bury, Appendix 14 to Vol, V. of his edition
of Gibbon's Rome. 1898.)
It is incorrect to say that "the two epistles of Gregory
II. have been preserved in the Acts of the Nicene Council"
[as Gibbon does]. In modern collections of the Acts of Ecclesiastical
Councils, they have been printed at the end of the Acts of the
Second Nicene Council. But they first came to light at the end
of the XVIth. century and were printed for the first time in the
Annales Ecclesiastici of Baronius, who had obtained them from
Fronton le Duc. This scholar had copied the text from a Greek
MS. at Rheims. Since then other MSS. have been found, the earliest
belonging to the XIth., if not the Xth century.
In another case we should say that the external evidence for
the genuineness of the epistles was good. We know on the authority
of Theophanes that Gregory wrote one or more letters to Leo (
, sub A. M. 6172,
, sub A. M. 6221); and we
should have no external reasons to suspect copies dating from
about 300 years later. But the omission of these letters in the
Acts of the Nicene Council, though they are stated to have been
read at the council, introduces a shadow of suspicion. If they
were preserved, how comes it that they were not preserved in the
Acts of the Council, like the letter of Gregory to the Patriarch
Germanus? There is no trace anywhere of the Latin originals.
Turning to the contents, we find enough to convert suspicion
into a practical certainty that the documents are forgeries. This
is the opinion of M. l'abbe Duchesne (the editor of the Liber
Pontificalis), M. L. Guerard (Melanges d'Archcaleologie et d'Histoire,
p. 44 sqq., 1890); Mr. Hodgkin (Italy and her Invaders, Vol. vi.,
p. 501 sqq.) A false date (the beginning of Leo's reign is placed
in the XIVth. instead of the XVth. indiction), and the false implication
that the Imperial territory of the "Ducatus Romae" terminated
at twenty-four stadia, or three miles, from Rome, point to an
author who was neither a contemporary of Leo nor a resident in
Rome. But the insolent tone of the letters is enough to condemn
them. Gregory II. would never have addressed to his sovereign
the crude abuse with which these documents teem. Another objection
(which I have never seen noticed) is that in the First Letter
the famous image of Christ which was pulled down by Leo, is stated
to have been in the "Chalkoprateia" (bronzesmith's quarter),
whereas, according to the trustworthy sources, it was above the
Chalka gate of the Palace.
Rejecting the letters on these grounds--which are supported
by a number of smaller points--we get rid of the difficulty about
a Lombard siege of Ravenna before A. D. 727: a siege which is
not mentioned elsewhere and was doubtless created by the confused
knowledge of the fabricator.
EXCURSUS ON THE RECEPTION OF THE SEVENTH COUNCIL.
The reception of the Seventh Council in the East was practically
universal. No historian pretends that the iconoclastic opinions
had any hold over the masses of the people. It was strictly speaking
a court movement, backed by the army, and whenever the images
were laid low and their veneration condemned it was by the power
of the State, enforcing its will upon a yielding and (as we would
call them to-day) Erastian clergy. (Cf. Harnack, History of Dogma,
Eng. tr. Vol. iv., p. 326.)
The struggle indeed was not quite put an end to by the conciliar
decree After the death of the Empress in A. D. 803, several iconoclastic
rulers sat on the throne of the East,
among them Michael the Stammerer, who (as Michaud wittily says)
"fought the images and married the nuns." He sent
a letter, which is still extant, to Louis le Debonnaire of France,
setting forth the superstitions of the orthodox, which is most
curious and interesting reading. ( Vide Mansi. )
His successor was Theophilus, who reigned from 829 until 842,
and was a fanatical iconoclast. The Patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria,
and Jerusalem wrote to him officially, several years after his
accession, begging him not to imitate the bad example of the iconoclasts.
At that time the only Patriarch who sided with the heretics was
John the Grammarian, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the very
same who in 814 had repudiated the iconoclast doctrine! With the
death of this Emperor, the power of the Iconoclasts likewise died;
and at the accession of Michael III with his mother Theodora and
his sister Thecla came the final triumph of the images. I shall
quote here the words of Harnack: "Then came an Empress, Theodora,
who finally restored the worship. This took place at the Synod
held at Constantinople A. D. 842. This Synod decreed that a Feast
of Orthodoxy (
should be celebrated annually, at which the victory over the iconoclasts
should be regularly remembered. Thus the whole of orthodoxy was
united in image-worship. In this way the Eastern Church reached
the position which suited its nature. We have here the conclusion
of a development, consistent in the main points. The divine and
sacred, as that had descended into the sensuous world by the incarnation,
had created for itself in the Church a system of material, supernatural
things, which offered themselves for man's use." (Hist. Dogma.
Vol. iv., p. 328.)
Much has been written, and truly written, of the superiority
of the iconoclastic rulers; but when all has been said that can
be, the fact still remains, that they were most of them but sorry
Christians, and the justice of the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin's
summing up of the matter will not be disputed by any impartial
student. He says, "No one will deny that with rarest exceptions,
all the religious earnestness, all which constituted the quickening
power of a church, was ranged upon the other [i.e. the orthodox]
side. Had the Iconoclasts triumphed, when their work showed itself
at last in its true colours, it would have proved to be the triumph,
not of faith in an invisible God, but of frivolous unbelief in
an incarnate Saviour." (Trench. Medioeval History, Chap.
We come now to consider what reception the Seventh of the
General Councils met with in the West. And first we find that
it was accepted, so far at least as its dogmatic decrees went,
by the Pope, the whole Roman Church and, so far as we know, by
all the West except the realm of Charlemagne and, as would naturally
be expected, the English Church.
It is true that this was a large and very important exception;
so large and so important that it becomes necessary to examine
in detail the causes which led to this rejection.
Some persons have supposed that the English council held at
Calcuth in 787 rejected the ecumenical character of II. Nice,
because in two of its canons (the let and the 4th) it only speaks
of "the faith of the Six General Councils." But it is
evident that the reason for this was that it had not yet heard
of the Nicene synod; moreover such action would have been clearly
impossible, since the council was presided over by the Bishop
of Ostia, the legate of Pope Hadrian.
The first opposition to the council in the West was made apparently
by Charlemagne himself. Pope Hadrian sent him a translation of
the acts into Latin and signified his accept-
ance of the council. But this translation was so badly done that
not only was a large part of the acts utterly unintelligible,
but also, in at least one place, a bishop of the council was made
to say that the sacred images were to be adored with the same
supreme worship as is paid to the Holy Trinity.
It may not be wholly charitable to suggest the possibility
of such a thing having any influence in the matter. On the other
hand it would be unfair to the reader not to state that Charlemagne
had, or thought that he had, serious grievances against the Empress
Irene, and that he might not have been sorry to have discovered
some reason for which to reject her council. It should, moreover,
be remembered how much the Pope in his struggle for independence
of the Eastern Empire trusted to Charlemagne, and therefore how
reluctant he might readily have been to break with so important
an ally; and so might be induced to tolerate the rejection by
the Frankish Emperor of what had been received by him, the Vicar
of Christ and the successor of Peter, as the Seventh Ecumenical
Synod of the Catholic Church.
As a result of this feeling of Charlemagne's, there were written
what we call the "Caroline Books," and these exercised
so mighty an influence on this whole question, and so completely
misled even the learned, that I shall give a careful examination
of their authorship, authority, and contents; for there can be
no doubt that it was the influence of these books (which appeared
in 790) that induced the unfortunate action of the Council of
Frankfort four years later (in 794); and that of the Convention
of Paris in 825.
EXAMINATION OF THE CAROLINE BOOKS.
I. Authorship of the Caroline Books.
I find that many writers on the subject of what they call
"image worship," speak frequently of these "Caroline
Books," and refer to them with great admiration. It is also
absolutely certain that many of these writers have never read,
possibly never seen, the books of which they write so eloquently.
I have used the reprint of Melchior Goldast's edition (Frankfort,
1608) in Migne's Patrologia Latina, Tom. xcviij., in this article.
The work begins thus. "In the name of our Lord and Savior
Jesus Christ beginneth the work of the most illustrious and glorious
man Charles, by the will of God, king of the Franks, Gauls, Germany,
etc., against the Synod which in Greek parts firmly and proudly
decreed in favour of adoring (adorandis) images," then follows
immediately what is called "Charlemagne's Preface."
Now of course nobody supposes for a moment that. Charlemagne
wrote these books himself. But Sir William Palmer (Treatise on
the Church, 'Vol. II., p. 204) says that the prelates of the realm
of France "composed a reply to this Synod," he further
says that "This work was published by the authority and in
the name of the Emperor Charlemagne and with the consent of his
bishops, in 790" (p. 205). I am entirely at a loss to know
on what authority these statements rest. The authorship of the
work has not without great show of reason, been attributed to
Alcuin. Besides the English tradition that he had written such
a book, there has been pointed out the remarkable similarity of
his commentary on St. John (4, 5, et seqq.) to a passage in Liber
IV., cap. vj., of these Caroline Books. (On this point see Forster,
General Preface to the Works of Alcuin n. 10) But after all
whether Alcuin was the author or no, matters little, the statement
that the "bishops of France" were in any sense responsible
for it is entirely gratuitous, unless indeed some should think
it may be gathered from the statement of the Preface;
"We have undertaken this work with the priests who are
prelates of the Catholic flocks in the kingdom which has been
granted to us of God." But this would not be the only
book written at the command of, and set forth by, a secular prince
and yet claiming the authority of the Church. I need only give
as examples "The Institution of a Christian Man" and
the Second Prayer Book of Edward the VIth.
II. Authority of the Caroline Books.
But be their authorship what it may, we come next to consider
their authority; and here we are met with the greatest difficulty,
for it is certain that despite the statements to the contrary,
these books were not those sent to Pope Hadrian by Charlemagne,
those of which the Pope deigned to write a refutation. This Hefele
has clearly proved, by pointing out that those sent to the Pope
treated the matter in an entirely different order; that there
were in those sent only 85 chapters, while these books have 120
(or 121 if the authenticity of the last chapter is granted). Moreover
the quotations made by Hadrian do not occur verbatim in the Caroline
books, but are in some eases enlarged, in others abbreviated.
(Cf. Hefele's treatment of the whole subject in the original German.)
Petavius thinks that what Hadrian received were extracts from
the Caroline Books, made by the Council of Frankfort.
Hefele arrives at a directly opposite conclusion, viz., that
the Caroline Books are an expansion of the Capitula sent to the
Pope, and that this expansion was made at the bidding of Charlemagne.
It should be noted here that Baronius, Bellarmine, Binius,
and Surius all question the authenticity of the Caroline Books
altogether, (Vide Baron, Annal., A.D., 794.) But this extreme
position seems to be refuted by the fact that certain quotations
made by Hincmar are found in the books as we have them. (Cf. Sirmond
in Mansi, Tom. XIII., 905, Labbe, Tom. VII., col. 1054.)
III. Contents of the Caroline Books.
If the authorship and authority of these books are difficult
subjects, the contents of the books are still more extraordinary,
for it seems to be certain, past all possibility of doubt, that
the authors of these books had never read the acts nor decrees
of the Seventh Ecumenical Synod, of which they were writing; and
further that he or they were also completely ignorant of what
took place at the Conciliabulum of 754.
One example will be sufficient to prove this point. In Book
IV., Chapter XIV., and also in chapter XX., (Migne's ed., col.
1213 and col. 1226), the charge is made that the Seventh Council,
especially Gregory, the bishop of Neocsesarea, unduly flattered
the Empress. Now as a matter of fact the remarks referred to were
made at the Conciliabulum of 754, and not at the Second Council
of Nice; they were not made by Gregory of Neocaesarea at all,
and the reason they are attributed to him is because he read them
in the proceedings of that pseudo-council to the true council
Other examples could easily be given, but this is sufficient.
Ab uno disce omnes. The most famous however of all the ignorant
blunders found in these books must not here be omitted. It occurs
in Book III., chapter xvij., and is no less serious than to attribute
to Constantius, the bishop of Cyprus, the monstrous statement
that the sacred images were to be given the supreme adoration
due to the Holy Trinity. What a complete mistake this was, we
have already pointed out, and will have been evident to anyone
who has read the extracts of the acts given in the foregoing pages.
I have said "mistake ;" and I have said so deliberately,
because I am convinced that the Caroline books, the decree of
Frankfort, and the decision of the Convention of Paris, all sprung
from ignorance and blundering; and largely through the force of
this particular false statement on which I am writing. But I must
not omit the statement of Sir William Palmer, a champion of these
books, that "the acts of the synod of Nice having been sent
to Rome in the year 787, Pope Hadrian himself, according to Hincmar,
transmitted them into France to Charlemagne, to be confirmed by
the bishops of Iris kingdom; and the Emperor [i.e. Charlemagne]
also received the acts directly from Constantinople according
to Roger Hovedon. These prelates, thus furnished with an authentic
copy and not a mere translation, composed a reply to the synod"
(Treatise on the Church, Vol. II., p. 203).
If Sir William is right, then the author of the Caroline books
is thrown into a dark shade indeed, for either he was too ignorant
or too careless to read the original Greek, or else, knowing the
real state of the case, deliberately misrepresented the synod.
Sir William feels this difficulty, and, a few lines below the
sentence I have quoted, attributes the misstatements to a "mistranslation,"
viz. the false statement--upon which alone all the rest hung -attributed
to the bishop of Cyprus. But the two claims are contraria inter
se. If they were using an authentic copy of the original sent
from Constantinople then they could not have been misled by a
"mistranslation;" if they used a mistranslation and
took no pains to read the decrees, their opinion and their writings--as
well as the decrees which followed
from them--were evidently entirely without theological value,
and this is the estimation in which they have been held by all
unprejudiced scholars without exception, whether agreeing with
their conclusions or no.
It will be well to set plainly before the reader the foundation
upon which rests the dogmatic teaching of the Caroline Books.
This is, in short, the authority of the Roman See. That there
may be no possible doubt upon this point, I proceed to quote somewhat
at length chapter vi., of Book I.; the heading of which reads
as follows: "That the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church
is placed above all other Churches, and is to be consulted at
every turn when any controversy arises with regard to the faith."
"Before entering upon a discussion of the witnesses which
the Easterns have absurdly brought forward in their Synod, we
think well to set. forth how greatly the holy Roman Church has
been exalted by the Lord above the other Churches, and how she
is to be consulted by the faithful: and this is especially the
case since only such books as she receives as canonical and only
such Fathers as she has recognized by Gelasius and the other Pontiffs,
his successors, are to he accepted and followed; nor are they
to be interpreted by the private will of anyone, but wisely and
soberly. ... For as the Apostolic Sees in general are to be preferred
to all the other dioceses of the world, much more is that see
to be preferred which is placed over all the other apostolic sees.
For just as the Apostles were exalted above the other disciples,
and Peter was exalted above the other Apostles, so the apostolic
sees are exalted above the other sees, and the Roman See is eminent
over the other apostolic sees. And this exaltation arises from
no synodical action of the other Churches, but she holds the primacy
(primatum) by the authority of the Lord himself, when he said,
'Thou art Peter, etc.'
"This church, therefore, fortified with the spiritual
arms of the holy faith, and satiated with the health-giving fountains
which flow from the well of light. and from the source of goodness,
resists the horrible and atrocious monsters of heresies, and ministers
the honey-sweet cups of teaching to the Catholic Churches of the
whole world. ... Whence [i.e. from St. Jerome consulting the Pope]
we can understand how Saints and learned men who were shining
lights in different parts of the world, not only did not depart
in faith from the holy Roman Church, but also asked aid of her
in time of necessity for the strengthening of the faith. And this
all Catholic Churches should regularly observe, so that they may
seek help froth her, after Christ, for protecting the faith: which
(quoe) having neither spot nor wrinkle, smites the portentous
heads of heresies, and strengthens the minds of the faithful in
the faith. And although many have separated front this holy and
venerable communion, nevertheless never have the Churches of our
part done so, but instructed by that apostolical erudition, and
by his assistance from whom cometh every good and perfect gift,
have always received the venerable charismata ... .; and are careful
to follow the see of blessed Peter in all things, as they desire
thither to arrive where he sits as keeper of the keys. To which
blessedness may he who deigned to found his Church upon Peter
bring us, and make us to persevere in the unity of the holy Church;
and may we merit a place in that kingdom of heaven through the
intervention of him whose See we follow and to whom have been
given the keys."
Such is the doctrinal foundation of the Caroline books, viz.:
the absolute authority of the Roman See in matters pertaining
to the faith of the Church. It is certainly very difficult to
understand how the author of these books could have known that
the doctrinal decree of the Synod of Nice had received the approbation
of this supreme power which it was so necessary to consult and
defer to; and that the Synod which he denounces and rejects had
been received by that chief of all the Apostolic Sees as the Seventh
of the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church.
Whether the author [or authors] had ever seen the Pope's letter
or no, one thing is certain, he never read with any care even
the imperfect translation with which he had been furnished, and
of that translation Anastasius Bibliothetius says: "The translator
both misunderstood the genius of the Greek language as well as
that of the Latin, and has merely translated word for word; and
in such a fashion that it is scarcely ever possible to know (aut
vix aut nunquam) what it means; moreover nobody ever reads this
translation and no copies of it are made."
This being the case, when we come to examine the Caroline
Books, we are not astonished to find them full of false statements.
In the Preface we are told that the Conciliabulum was "held
in Bithynia;" of course as a matter of fact it met in Constantinople.
In Bk. I., chapter j., we find certain words said to occur
in the letters of the Empress and her son. On this Hefele remarks:
"One cannot find the words in either of the two letters of
these sovereigns, which are preserved in the acts of the Council
of Nice, it is the synod that uses them."
In the Second Book, chapter xxvij., the council is charged
with saying "Just as the Lord's body and blood pass over
from fruits of the earth to a notable mystery, so also the images,
made by the skill of the artificers, pass over to the veneration
of those persons whose images they bear." Now this was never
said nor taught by the Nicene Synod, but something like it was
taught by the Constantinopolitan conciliabulum of 754; but the
very words cited occur neither in the one set of acts nor in the
other! The underlying thought however was, as we have said, clearly
exposed by the iconoclastic synod of 754 and as clearly refuted
by the orthodox synod of 787.
In Book III., chapter V., we are told that "Tarasius
said in his confession of faith that the Holy Spirit was the companion
(contribulum in the Caroline Books) of the Father and of the Son."
It was not Tarasius who said so at all, but Theodore of Jerusalem,
and in using the word
but copying Sophronius of Jerusalem.
Chapter XVII. begins thus: "How rashly and (so to speak)
like a fool, Constantine, bishop of Constantia in Cyprus, spoke
when he said, with the approval of the rest of the bishops, that
he would receive and honourably embrace the images; and babbled
that the service of adoration which is due to the consubstantial
and life-giving Trinity, should be given images, we need not here
discuss, since to all who either read or hear this it will be
clear that he was swamped in no small error, to wit to confess
that he exhibited to creatures the service due to the Creator
alone, and through his desire to favour the pictures overturned
all the Holy Scriptures. For what sane man ever either said or
thought of saying such an absurdity, as that different pictures
should be held in the same honour as the holy, victorious Trinity.
the creator of all things, etc." But as will be seen by a
glance at the acts this is exactly the opposite of what Constantine
did say. Now if, as Sir William Palmer asserts, the author had
before him the genuine acts in the original, I do not see how
his honesty Call be defended, or if his honesty is kept intact,
it must be at the expense of his learning or carefulness. Bower
felt this so keenly that he thinks the Caroline Books attribute
the words to Constantine the bishop alone and not to the council.
But the subterfuge is vain, for, as we have just seen, the author
affirms that Constantine's speech received "the assent of
the rest of the bishops (coeteris consentientibus)," and
further not obscurely suggests that Constantine had the courage
to say what the others were content to think, but did not dare
In Book IV., the third chapter distinctly states that while
lights and incense were used
by them in their churches, yet that neither the one nor the other
was placed before images. If this can be relied upon it would
seem to fix the Frankish custom of that date.
Chapters XIV. and XX. are distinguished by the most glaring
blunders, for they attribute to the Council of Nice the teachings
of the Conciliabulum, and in particular they lay them to the door
of Gregory of Neocaesarea because he it was who read them.
Finally, in chapter the twenty-eighth, the ecumenical character
of II. Nice is denied, on the ground that it has not preserved
the faith of the Fathers, and that it was not universal in its
constitution. I beg the reader, who has fresh in his memory the
Papal claims set forth in a previous chapter, to consider whether
it is possible that the author of that chapter should have seen
and known of the Papal acceptance of the Seventh Synod and yet
have written as follows: "Among all the inanities said and
done by this synod, this does not seem by any means to be the
least, that they styled it ecumenical, for it neither held the
purity of the ecumenical faith, nor did it obtain authority through
the ecumenical action of the Churches. . . . If this synod
had kept clear of novelties and had rested satisfied with the
teachings of the ancient Fathers, it might have been styled ecumenical.
But since it was not contented with the teachings of the ancient
Fathers it cannot be styled ecumenical," etc., etc.
Such are in brief the contents and spirit of the Caroline
Books. Binius indeed says that he found a twenty-ninth chapter
in a French MS. of Hadrian's Epistle. It is lacking in the ordinary
codices. Petavius thinks it was added by the Council of Frankfort.
It is found in Migne (col. 1218) and the main point is that St.
Gregory's advice is to be followed, viz.: "We permit images
of the Saints to be made by whoever is so disposed, as well in
churches as out of them, for the love of God and of his Saints;
but never compel anyone who does not wish to do so to bow to them
(adorare eas); nor do we permit anyone to destroy them, even if
he should so desire." I cannot but think that this would
be a very lame conclusion to all the denunciation of the preceding
IV. The Chief Cause of Trouble a Logomachy.
Now from all this one thing is abundantly clear, that the
great point set forth with such learning and perspicuity by the
Seventh Synod, to wit, the distinction between
was wholly lost upon
these Frankish writers; and that their translation of both words
by "adoro" gave rise to nine-tenths of the trouble that
followed. The student of ecclesiastical history will remember
how a similar logomachy followed nearly every one of the Ecumenical
Synods, and will not therefore be astonished to find it likewise
here. The "homousion," the "theotocos," the
"two natures," "the two wills," each one gave
rise to heated discussion in different sections of the Church,
even after it had been accepted and approved by a Synod which
no one now for an instant disputes to have been ecumenical.
Moreover, that after this serious error and bungling on the
part of the Caroline divines and of the French and Allemanic Churches,
the Pope did not proceed to enforce the accept-ante of the council
will not cause astonishment to any who are familiar with what
St. Athanasius said with regard to the Semi-Arians, who even after
I. Nice refused to use the word "homousios;" or with
the extreme gentleness and moderation of St. Cyril of Alexandria
in his treatment of John of Antioch.
Perhaps before leaving the subject I should give here the
chief strictures which Hefele makes upon these books ( 400).
(1) The Caroline Books condemn passages which they quote (without
saying so) from Pope Hadrian's own letter to the Empress.
(2) They blame St. Basil for teaching that the reverence done
to the image passes on to the prototype.
(3) They treat St. Gregory Nyssen with contempt, and refuse
to listen to him (Lib. II., c. xvij.).
(4) They are full of most careless and inexcusable blunders.
(a) They attribute to the Emperors a phrase which belongs
to the Synod (L j.).
(b) They confound Leontius with John (I. xxj.).
(c) They confound Tarasius with Theodore of Jerusalem
(d) They impute to the Council the opinions of the Iconoclastic
Conciliabulum (IV., xiv. and xx. ).
(e) They attribute to Epiphanius the deacon the propositions
of others when he merely read (IV., xv. )
It had usually been supposed that these Four Books were the
"quaedam capitula" which Charlemagne had sent by Angelbert
to Pope Hadrian "to be corrected by his judgment (ut ilius
judicio corrigerentur). Considering the nature of the contents
of the Caroline Books as we now have them, such would seem a priori
highly improbable, but this matter has been practically settled,
as we have already pointed out, by Bishop Hefele, who has shown
from Pope Hadrian's answer "correcting" those "capitula,"
that they must have been entirely different in order though no
doubt their contents were similar. The differing views of Petavius
and Walch will be found in full in Hefele (401).
In concluding his masterly treatment of this whole matter,
Hefele makes (402) a remark well worthy of repetition in this
"The great friendship which Charles shewed to Pope Hadrian
down to the hour of his death proves that their way of thinking
with regard to the cultus of images was not so opposite as many
suppose, and--above all--as many have tried to make out."
I shall close this matter with the admirably learned and judicious
words of Michaud.
"No doubt there had been abuses in connexion with the
worship of images; but the Council of Nice never approved of these.
No doubt, too, certain marks of veneration used in the East were
not practised in Gaul; but the Council of Nice did not go into
these particulars. It merely determined the principle, to wit,
the lawfulness and moral necessity of honouring the holy images;
and in doing this it did not in any degree innovate. Charlemagne
ought to have known this, for, already in the sixth century Fortunatus,
in his Poem on St. Martin, tells how in Gaul they lighted lamps
before the images. The great point that Charlemagne made was
that what was called in the West 'adoration,' in the strict sense
(that is to say the worship of Latria) should be rendered to none
other than God; now this is exactly the doctrine of the Council
of Nice. Charlemagne himself admits that the learned may venerate
images, meaning thereby that the veneration is really addressed
to the prototypes, but that such veneration is a source of scandal
to the ignorant who in the image venerate nothing but the material
image itself (Lib. III., cap. xvj.)."
EXCURSUS ON THE COUNCIL OF FRANKFORT, A. D, 794.
It has been commonly represented that the Council of Frankfort,
which was a large Synod of the West, with legates of the Pope
present and composed of the bishops of Gaul, Germany, and Aquitaine,
devoted its attention to a consideration of the question of the
eration due to images and of the claims of the Second Council
of Nice to being an Ecumenical Synod. I do not know upon what
grounds such statements have rested, but certainly not upon anything
revealed by any remains of the council we possess, for among these
we find but one brief paragraph upon the subject, to wit, the
Second Canon, which reads as follows (Labbe and Cossart, Concilia,
Tom. vii, col. 1057):
"II. The question was brought forward concerning the
recent synod which the Greeks had held at Constantinople concerning
the adoration of images, that all should be judged as worthy of
anathema who did not pay to the images of the Saints service and
adoration as to the Divine Trinity. Our most holy fathers rejected
with scorn and in every way such adoration and service, and unanimously
Now in the first place I call the reader's attention to the
fact that the Conciliabulum of 754 was held at Constantinople
but that the Seventh Council was held at Nice. It would seem as
if the two had got, mixed in the mind of the writer. 
In the second place neither of these synods, nor any other
synod, decreed that the "service" (
and "adoration" (
due to the holy Trinity was under pain of anathema to be given
to "the images of the Saints."
On this second canon Hefele writes as follows:
(Hefele. Concil., 398).
The second of these canons deserves our full attention; in
it, as we have seen, the Synod of Frankfort expresses its feeling
against the Second Ecumenical Council of Nice, and against the
veneration of images; Eginhard also gives us the information that
it took this action, viz.: "for it was decided by all [i.e.
at Frankfort] that the synod, which a few years before was gathered
together in Constantinople (sic) under Irene and her son Constantine,
and is called by them not only the Seventh but also Ecumenical,
should neither be held nor declared to be the Seventh nor ecumenical
but wholly without authority."
Hefele rejects the views of Baronius, Bellarmine, Surius,
and Binius. I have no intention of defending the position of any
one of these writers but I translate Binius's note, merely remarking
that it is easier to reject his conclusion than to answer the
arguments upon which it rests.
(Severinus Binius, Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. VII., col.
Baronius was of opinion that the Second Council of Nice was
condemned by this council; and before him Bellarmine had taught
the same thing. But two things make me dissent from their conclusion:
First. That as the history and acts of this council inform
us that the legates of Pope Hadrian (whom Ado in his chronology
names Theophylact and Stephen) were present at this council, it
was not possible that the whole council was ignorant by what authority
the true Seventh Council was assembled at Nice, and what its decrees
had been. For as this Synod at Nice was assembled under the same
Pontiff, the legates of that same Pontiff could not have been
ignorant of its authority and teaching. Therefore even if false
rumours concerning the Seventh Synod had been scattered about,
as Genebrardus affirms (on what foundation I know not), the Fathers
of the Council of Frankfort could have been instructed by the
papal legates, and been given information and taught what were
the writings of that Seventh Council. Moreover since the celebration
of that Nicene Council was an event most celebrated and most widely
published throughout the whole Church, it is not credible that
the bishops of all France and Germany, assembled in this place,
no single one was found who had accurate information concerning
the manner in which the Council of Nice was assembled, or of how
it had received the approval of the Supreme Pontiff. For as a
matter of fact, that error of adoring images as gods is rather
an error of the Gentiles than of any heretics or of any who profess
the faith of Christ. Therefore in no way is it credible that the
fathers of the Council of Frankfort should have thought this,
or rashly on account of certain rumours have believed this; especially
since at that time in no Church was there the suspicion of any
such error; and the bishops of the council were too pious and
Catholic to allow the suspicion that out of base enmity to the
Orientals they were led to attribute error to the fathers of the
most sacred Council of Nice, or that they would have attached
an heretical sense to their decision.
Another reason is this; that the fathers of this council often
made profession of acting under the obedience of the Roman Pontiffs;
and in the book Sacrosyllabus at the end, when they gave sentence
against the heretics, they subjoin these words: "The privilege
of our lord and father the Supreme Pontiff, Hadrian I. Pope of
the most blessed See, being in all respects maintained."
And this same principle the same fathers often professed in this
council, that they followed the tradition of their predecessors,
and did not depart from their footsteps; and that Charlemagne,
who was present, at this council, in his letter to the Spanish
bishops, said that in the first place he had consulted the pontiiff
of the Apostolic See, what be thought concerning the matter treated
of in that council: and that a little further on lie adds these
words: "I am united to the Apostolic see. and to the ancient
Catholic traditions which have come down from the beginnings of
the new-born Church, with my whole mind, and with complete alacrity
Now the fathers of this council could not make such a profession
if they had condemned the Sacrosant Synod of Nice, which had been
confirmed by the Apostolic See. For as I have shown above they
could not have been misled by false information upon this point.
If therefore knowingly and through heretical pravity they did
these things, so too they did them out of pertinacity and heresy;
and so concerning the authority of the Apostolic See one way they
had thought and another way spoken. But in my judgment such things
are not to be imputed to so great and to such an assembly of bishops,
for it is not likely that the fathers of this council, in the
presence of the legates of the Supreme Pontiff and of a Catholic
Prince, would have condemned the Seventh Synod, confirmed as it
was by the authority of the Pontiff and have referred the matter
to Hadrian the Supreme Pontiff.
Moreover it would have surely come to pass that if the Nicene
Council had been condemand by the authority of this synod, and
so the error of the Iconoclasts had been approved through erroneous
information, before our days some follower of that error would
have tried to back up himself and his opinion by its authority:
but no one did this, and this is all the more noteworthy since,
only shortly after the time of Charlemagne, Claudius of Turin
sprang up in that very Gaul, and wished to introduce that error
into the Western Church, and he could have confirmed his teaching
in the highest manner if he could have shewn that that plenary
council of the West had confirmed his error. But as a matter of
fact Claudius did not quote it in Iris favour; nor did Jonas of
Orleans, who wrote against him at that time, and overthrew his
foundations, make any mention in this respect of the Council of
Frankfort in his response.
Lastly I add that the Roman Church never gave its approbation
and received any provincial synod, so far as one part of its action
was concerned while in another part it was persistently heretical.
But this provincial council so far as it defined concerning the
servitude and filiation of Christ was received and approved by
the Church, it is not then credible that in the same council the
Nicene Synod would have been condemned.
I need only add that every proposed theory is so full of difficulties
as to seem to involve more absurdities and improbabilities than
it explains. The reader is referred especially to Vasquez (De
adorat. imag., Lib. II., Dispt. VII., cap. vij.) and to Suarez
(Tom. I, Disp. LIV., Sec. iij.), for learned and instructive discussions
of the whole matter.
EXCURSUS ON THE CONVENTION SAID TO HAVE BEEN HELD IN PARIS.
It is curious that besides the Caroline Books and the second
canon of Frankfort, another matter of great difficulty springs
up with regard to the subject of the authority of the Seventh
Synod. In 1596 there appeared what claims to be an ancient account
of a convention of bishops in Paris in the year 824. The point
in which this interests us is that the bishops at this meeting
are supposed to have condemned the Seventh Council, and to have
approved the Caroline books. The whole story was rejected by Cardinal
Bellarmine and he promptly wrote a refutation. Sismondi accepted
this view of the matter, and Labbe has excluded the pretended
proceedings from his "Concilia" altogether.
But while scholars are agreed that the assigned date is impossible
and that it must be 825, they have usually accepted the facts
as true, I need not mention others than such widely differing
authors as Fleury (Hist. Eccles., Lib, xlvij. iv.), Roisselet
de Sauclieres (Hist. Chronol., Tome III., No. 792, p. 385), and
Hefele (Concilien, 425).
It would be the height of presumption were I to express any
opinion upon this most disputed point, the reader will find the
whole matter at length in Walch (Bd. XI., S. 135, 139). I only
here note that if the account be genuine, then it is an established
fact that as late as 825, an assembly of bishops rejected an Ecumenical
Council accepted by the pope, and further charged the Supreme
Pontiff with having "commanded men to adore superstitiously
images (quod superstitiose eas adorare jussit)," and asked
the reigning Pontiff to correct the errors of his predecessors,
and all this without any reproof from the Holy See!
Hefele points out also that they not only entirely misrepresent
the teaching of Hadrian and the Seventh Council, but that they
also cite a passage from St. Augustine, "which teaches exactly
the opposite of that which this synod would make out, for the
passage says that the word colere can be applied to men."
HISTORICAL NOTE ON THE SO-CALLED "EIGHTH GENERAL COUNCIL" AND SUBSEQUENT COUNCILS.
Whatever may be the final verdict of history with regard to
the Caroline books, to the action of this Synod of Frankfort,
and to the genuineness of the account of the Convention of Paris,
there can be no doubt with regard to the position held by the
Seventh of the Ecumenical Synods in all subsequent conciliar action.
In 869 was held at Constantinople what both the Easterns
and Westerns then considered to be the Eighth of the Ecumenical
Synods. Its chief concern was to restore peace and it thought
to accomplish this by taking the strongest position against Photius.
At this Synod the Second Council of Nice was accepted in the most
explicit manner, not only its teaching but also its rank and number.
But not many years afterwards Photius again got the upper
hand and another synod was held, also at Constantinople, in A.D.
879, which restored Photius and which was afterwards accepted
by many Easterns as the Eighth of the Ecumenical Synods. But at
this synod, as well as in that of 869, the position of Second
Nice was fully acknowledged. So that after that date, roughly
speaking one century after the meeting of the Seventh Synod, despite
all opposition it was universally recognized and revered, even
by those who were so rapidly drifting further and further apart
as were the East and West in the time of Photius and his successors.
At the Council of Lyons in A. D. 1274 there was consent on
all hands that all were united in accepting the Seven Synods as
a basis of union.
And finally when the acts and agreements of the Council of
Florence (1438) appeared in the first edition issued under papal
authority, that synod was styled the "Eighth," and in
this there was no accident, for during the debate the Cardinal
Julian Caesarini had asked the Greeks for the proceedings of the
Eighth Synod and Mark answered: "We cannot be forced to count
that synod as ecumenical, since we do not at all recognize it
but in fact reject it. ... " A few years afterwards was held
a second synod which restored Photius and annulled the acts of
the preceding assembly, and this synod also bears the title of
the Eighth Ecumenical. But Cardinal Julian did not enter on any
defence of the Ecumenical character of this so-called "Eighth
For the purposes of this discussion, the matter is perfectly
clear, and even if some later writers speak still of the "Six
Ecumenical Councils" in doing so they are rejecting the Eighth
as much as the Seventh; in fact they are rejecting neither, But
speaking as did St. Gregory, who still mentioned the Four General
Councils and compared them to the Four Gospels, although the fifth
had been already held. Those few Frankish writers who continued
to speak of II. Nice as a pseudo council did so out of ignorance
or else in contrariety to the teaching of the Roman Church to
whose obedience they professed subjection. It is no place of mine
to offer moral reflections upon their doings.
from The Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church, trans H. R. Percival, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, (repr. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1955), XIV, pp. 523-587
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(c)Paul Halsall Feb 1996