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Second Council of Nicaea
Menologion of Basil 024.jpg
Date787
Accepted by
Previous council
Next council
Convoked byConstantine VI and Empress Irene (as regent)
PresidentPatriarch Tarasios of Constantinople, and legates of Pope Adrian I
Attendance308 bishops, 350 members total (including two papal legates)
TopicsIconoclasm
Documents and statements
veneration of icons approved
Chronological list of ecumenical councils

The Second Council of Nicaea is recognized as the last of the first seven ecumenical councils by the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. In addition, it is also recognized as such by the Old Catholics, the Anglican Communion, and others. Protestant opinions on it are varied.

It met in AD 787 in Nicaea (site of the First Council of Nicaea; present-day İznik, Bursa, in Turkey), to restore the use and veneration of icons (or holy images),[1] which had been suppressed by imperial edict inside the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Leo III (717–741). His son, Constantine V (741–775), had held the Council of Hieria to make the suppression official.

Background

Further information: Byzantine Iconoclasm

The veneration of icons had been banned by Byzantine Emperor Constantine V and supported by his Council of Hieria (754 AD), which had described itself as the seventh ecumenical council.[2] The Council of Hieria was overturned by the Second Council of Nicaea only 33 years later, and has also been rejected by Catholic and Orthodox churches, since none of the five major patriarchs were represented. The emperor's vigorous enforcement of the ban included persecution of those who venerated icons and of monks in general. There were also political overtones to the persecution—images of emperors were still allowed by Constantine, which some opponents saw as an attempt to give wider authority to imperial power than to the saints and bishops.[3] Constantine's iconoclastic tendencies were shared by Constantine's son, Leo IV. After the latter's early death, his widow, Irene of Athens, as regent for her son, began its restoration for personal inclination and political considerations.

In 784 the imperial secretary Patriarch Tarasius was appointed successor to the Patriarch Paul IV—he accepted on the condition that intercommunion with the other churches should be reestablished; that is, that the images should be restored. However, a council, claiming to be ecumenical, had abolished the veneration of icons, so another ecumenical council was necessary for its restoration.

Pope Adrian I was invited to participate, and gladly accepted, sending an archbishop and an abbot as his legates.

An icon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (17th century, Novodevichy Convent, Moscow).
An icon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (17th century, Novodevichy Convent, Moscow).

In 786, the council met in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople. However, soldiers in collusion with the opposition entered the church, and broke up the assembly.[4] As a result, the government resorted to a stratagem. Under the pretext of a campaign, the iconoclastic bodyguard was sent away from the capital – disarmed and disbanded.

The council was again summoned to meet, this time in Nicaea, since Constantinople was still distrusted. The council assembled on September 24, 787 at the church of Hagia Sophia. It numbered about 350 members; 308 bishops or their representatives signed. Tarasius presided,[5] and seven sessions were held in Nicaea.[4]

Proceedings

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The twenty-two canons[6] drawn up in Constantinople also served ecclesiastical reform. Careful maintenance of the ordinances of the earlier councils, knowledge of the scriptures on the part of the clergy, and care for Christian conduct are required, and the desire for a renewal of ecclesiastical life is awakened.

The council also decreed that every altar should contain a relic, which remains the case in modern Catholic and Orthodox regulations (Canon VII), and made a number of decrees on clerical discipline, especially for monks when mixing with women.

Acceptance by various Christian bodies

The papal legates voiced their approval of the restoration of the veneration of icons in no uncertain terms, and the patriarch sent a full account of the proceedings of the council to Pope Hadrian I, who had it translated (Pope Anastasius III later replaced the translation with a better one). The papacy did not, however, formally confirm the decrees of the council till 880. In the West, the Frankish clergy initially rejected the Council at a synod in 794, and Charlemagne, then King of the Franks, supported the composition of the Libri Carolini in response, which repudiated the teachings of both the Council and the iconoclasts. A copy of the Libri was sent to Pope Hadrian, who responded with a refutation of the Frankish arguments.[7] The Libri would thereafter remain unpublished until the Reformation, and the Council is accepted as the Seventh Ecumenical Council by the Catholic Church.

The council, or rather the final defeat of iconoclasm in 843, is celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine Rite as "The Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy" each year on the first Sunday of Great Lent, the fast that leads up to Pascha (Easter), and again on the Sunday closest to October 11 (the Sunday on or after October 8). The former celebration commemorates the defeat of iconoclasm, while the latter commemorates the council itself.

Many Protestants who follow the French reformer John Calvin generally agree in rejecting the canons of the council, which they believe promoted idolatry. He rejected the distinction between veneration (douleia, proskynesis) and adoration (latreia) as unbiblical "sophistry" and condemned even the decorative use of images.[8] In subsequent editions of the Institutes, he cited an influential Carolingian source, now ascribed to Theodulf of Orleans, which reacts negatively the council's acts. Calvin did not engage the apologetic arguments of John of Damascus or Theodore the Studite, apparently because he was unaware of them.[citation needed]

Critical edition of the Greek text

Translations

There are only a few translations of the above Acts in the modern languages:

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Gibbon, p.1693
  2. ^ Council of Hieria, Canon 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!" http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/icono-cncl754.asp
  3. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 388.
  4. ^ a b Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 178.
  5. ^ Gibbon, p.1693.
  6. ^ "NPNF2-14. The Seven Ecumenical Councils - Christian Classics Ethereal Library". www.ccel.org.
  7. ^ Hussey 1986, p. 49-50.
  8. ^ cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.11
  9. ^ See: http://www.knigafund.ru/books/12281/read Archived 2016-10-26 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ See: N. Tanner, "Atti del Concilio Niceno Secondo Ecumenico Settimo, Tomi I–III, introduzione e traduzione di Pier Giorgio Di Domenico, saggio encomiastico di Crispino Valenziano", in "Gregorianum", N. 86/4, Rome, 2005, p. 928.
  11. ^ Catholic Church, Atti del Concilio Niceno Secondo Ecumenico Settimo (Citta del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2004) ISBN 9788820976491
  12. ^ Firsov, Evgeniĭ Vasilʹevich (2016). Акты Второго Никейского (Седьмого Вселенского) собора (787 г.). ISBN 9785446908912.

Sources

Further reading

There is no up-to-date English monograph on either the council or the iconoclast controversy in general. But see L. Brubaker and J. Haldon, Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era c. 680 to 850: A History (Cambridge 2011).