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first steps were moderate and cautious: he assembled CHAP.
a great council of senators and bishops, and enacted, with their consent, that all the images should be removed from the sanctuary and altar to a proper height in the churches, where they might be visible to the eyes, and inaccessible to the superstition, ofthe people. But it was impossible on either side to check the rapid though adverse impulse of veneration and abhorrence: in their lofty position, the sacred images still edified their votaries, and reproached the tyrant. He was himself provoked by resistance and invective; and his own party accused him of an imperfect discharge of his duty, and urged for his imitation the example of the Jewish king, who had broken without scruple the brazen serpent of the temple. By a second edict, he proscribed the existence as well as the use of religious pictures; the churches of Constantinople and the provinces were cleansed from idolatry; the images of Christ, the Virgin, and the saints, were demolished, or a smooth surface of plaster was spread over the walls of the edifice. The sect of the Iconoclasts was supported by the zeal and despotism of six emperors, and the East and West were involved in a noisy conflict of one hundred and twenty years. It was the design of Leo the Isaurian to pronounce the condemnation of images, as an article of faith, and by the authority of a general council: but the convocation of such an assembly was reserved for his son Constantine;” and though it is stigmatised by triumphant bigotry as a meeting of fools and atheists, their own partial and mutilated acts betray many symptoms of reason and piety. The debates
* Some flowers of rhetoric are xvyov ragayogov was assov, and the bishops rols Azaraloteory. By Damascenus it is styled 2xvgos x&l ałszros. (Opera, tom. i. p. 623). Spanheim's Apology for the Synod of Constantinople (p. 171, &c.) is worked up with truth and ingenuity, from such materials as he could find in the Nicene Acts (p. 1046, &c.). The witty John of Damascus converts oriazzarov;
into oriazorovs, makes them wouxtobovňovs, slaves of their belly, &c. Opera, tom, i. p. 306.
and decrees of many provincial synods introduced the summons of the general council which met in the suburbs of Constantinople, and was composed of the respectable number of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops of Europe and Anatolia; for the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria were the slaves of the caliph, and the Roman pontiff had withdrawn the churches of Italy and the West from the communion of the Greeks. This Byzantine synod assumed the rank and powers of the seventh general council; yet even this title was a recognition of the six preceding assemblies, which had laboriously built the structure of the Catholic faith. After a serious deliberation of six months, the three hundred and thirty-eight bishops pronounced and subscribed an unanimous decree, that all visible symbols of Christ, except in the Eucharist, were either blasphemous or heretical; that image-worship was a corruption of Christianity and a renewal of Paganism; that all such monuments of idolatry should be broken or erased; and that those who should refuse to deliver the objects of their private superstition were guilty of disobedience to the authority of the church and of the emperor. In their loud and loyal acclamations, they celebrated the merits of their temporal redeemer; and to his zeal and justice they intrusted the execution of their spiritual censures. At Constantinople, as in the former councils, the will of the prince was the rule of episcopal faith; but on this occasion, I am inclined to suspect that a large majority of the prelates sacrificed their secret conscience to the temptations of hope and fear. In the long night of superstition, the Christians had wandered far away from the simplicity of the gospel: nor was it easy for them to discern the clue, and tread back the mazes, of the labyrinth. The worship of images was inseparably blended, at least to a pious fancy, with the Cross, the Virgin, the Saints and their relics: the holy ground was involved in a cloud o:
of miracles and visions; and the nerves of the mind, curiosity and scepticism, were benumbed by the habits ofobedience and belief. Constantine himself is accused of indulging a royal licence to doubt, or deny, or deride the mysteries of the Catholics," but they were deeply inscribed in the public and private creed of his bishops; and the boldest Iconoclast might assault with a secret horror the monuments of popular devotion, which were consecrated to the honour of his celestial patrons. In the reformation of the sixteenth century, freedom and knowledge had expanded all the faculties
of man: the thirst of innovation superseded the re
verence of antiquity; and the vigour of Europe could disdain those phantoms which terrified the sickly and servile weakness of the Greeks.
The scandal of an abstract heresy can be only pro-Their per
claimed to the people by the blast of the ecclesiastical
trumpet; but the most ignorant can perceive, the most . and torpid must feel, the profanation and downfall of their A.I. 726 visible deities. The first hostilities of Leo were di-T"
rected against alofty Christ on the vestibule, and above the gate, of the palace. A ladder had been planted for the assault, but it was furiously shaken by a crowd of zealots and women: they beheld, with pious transport, the ministers of sacrilege tumbling from on high, and dashed against the pavement; and the honours of the ancient martyrs were prostituted to these criminals, who justly suffered for murder and rebellion." The execution of the imperial edicts was resisted by frequent tumults in Constantinople and the provinces:
t He is accused of proscribing the title of saint; styling the Virgin, mother
of Christ; comparing her after her delivery to an empty purse; of Arianism,
Nestorianism, &c. In his defence, Spanheim (c. iv. p. 207) is somewhat embarrassed between the interest of a Protestant and the duty of an orthodox divine. u The holy confessor Theophanes approves the principle of their rebellion, Suo Ziyovu vol &nx” (p. 339). Gregory II. (in Epist. i. ad Imp. Leon. Concil. tom. viii. p. 661. 664) applauds the zeal of the Byzantine women who killed the imperial officers.
the person of Leo was endangered, his officers were massacred, and the popular enthusiasm was quelled by the strongest efforts of the civil and military power. Of the Archipelago, or Holy Sea, the numerous islands were filled with images and monks: their votaries abjured, without scruple, the enemy of Christ, his mother, and the saints: they armed a fleet of boats and galleys, displayed their consecrated banners, and boldly steered for the harbour of Constantinople, to place on the throne a new favourite of God and the people. They depended on the succour of a miracle; but their miracles were inefficient against the Greek Jire; and, after the defeat and conflagration of their fleet, the naked islands were abandoned to the clemency or justice of the conqueror. The son of Leo, in the first year of his reign, had undertaken an expedition against the Saracens: during his absence, the capital, the palace, and the purple, were occupied by his kinsman Artavasdes, the ambitious champion of the orthodox faith. The worship of images was triumphantly restored: the patriarch renounced his dissimulation, or dissembled his sentiments; and the righteous claim of the usurper was acknowledged, both in the new, and in ancient Rome. Constantine flew for refuge to his paternal mountains; but he descended at the head of the bold and affectionate Isaurians; and his final victory confounded the arms and predictions of the fanatics. His long reign was distracted with clamour, sedition, conspiracy, and mutual hatred, and sanguinary revenge: the persecution of images was the motive, or pretence, of his adversaries; and, if they missed a temporal diadem, they were rewarded by the Greeks with the crown of martyrdom. In every act of open and clandestine treason, the emperor felt the unforgiving enmity of the monks, the faithful slaves of the superstition to which they owed their riches and influence. They prayed, they preached, they absolved, they inflamed, they conspired: the solitude of Palestine poured forth a torrent of invective; and the pen of St. John Damascenus, the last of the Greek fathers, devoted the tyrant's head, both in this world and the next." I am not at leisure to examine how far the monks provoked, nor how much they have exaggerated, their real and pretended sufferings, nor how many lost their lives or limbs, their eyes or their beards, by the cruelty of the emperor. From the chastisement of individuals, he proceeded to the abolition of the order; and, as it was wealthy and useless, his resentment might be stimulated by avarice, and justified by patriotism. The formidable name and mission of the Dragon,” his visitor-general, excited the terror and abhorrence of the black nation: the religious communities were dissolved, the buildings were converted into magazines, or barracks; the lands, moveables, and cattle, were confiscated; and our modern precedents will support the charge, that much wanton or malicious havoc was exercised against the relics, and even the books, of the monasteries. With the habit and profession of monks, the public and private worship of images was rigorously proscribed; and it should seem, that a
* John, or Mansur, was a noble Christian of Damascus, who held a considerable office in the service of the caliph. His zeal in the cause of images exposed him to the resentment and treachery of the Greek emperor; and on the suspicion of a treasonable correspondence, he was deprived of his right hand, which was miraculously restored by the Virgin. After this deliverance, he resigned his office, distributed his wealth, and buried himself in the monastery of St. Sabas, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The legend is famous; but his learned editor, father Lequien, has unluckily proved that St. John Damascenus was already a monk before the Iconoclast dispute (Opera, tom. i. Wit. St. Joan. Damascen. p. 10–13, et Notas ad loc.)
" After sending Leo to the devil, he introduces his heir—ro alagov avorov 7tvynozz, zz, rns xzxz; avrov xxneovogos sy 3iorx4 ytvousvos (Opera Damascen. tom. i. p. 625). If the authenticity of this piece be suspicious, we are sure that in other works, no longer extant, Damascenus bestowed on Constantine the title of vsov Mazowsé, Xelatoozozov, Azurzyıov (tom. i. p. 306).
* In the narrative of this persecution from Theophanes and Cedrenus, Spanheim (p. 235–238) is happy to compare the Draco of Leo with the dragoons (Dracones) of Louis XIV.; and highly solaces himself with this controversial pun.