In the revival of letters and liberty this fictitious deed chap. was transpierced by the pen of Laurentius Valla, * the pen of an eloquent critic and a Roman patriot." His contemporaries of the fifteenth century were astonished at his sacrilegious boldness; yet such is the silent and irresistible progress of reason, that before the end of the next age the fable was rejected by the contempt of historians" and poets," and the tacit or modest censure of the advocates of the Roman church." The popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar; but a false and obsolete title still sanctifies their reign; and, by the same fortune which has attended the decretals and the Sibylline oracles, the edifice has subsisted after the foundations have been undermined. While the popes established in Italy their freedom Restoration revolt, were restored in the eastern empire.” Under the reign of Constantine the fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols, for such they were now held, were secretly cherished by the order and the sex most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the reason and authority of man. Leo the fourth maintained with less rigour the religion of his father and grandfather; but his wife, the fair and ambitious Irene, had imbibed the zeal of the Athenians, the heirs of the idolatry, rather than the philosophy, of their ancestors. During the life of her husband these sentiments were inflamed by danger and dissimulation, and she could only labour to protect and promote some favourite monks whom she drew from their caverns, and seated on the metropolitan thrones of the East. But as soon as she reigned in her own name and that of her son, Irene more seriously undertook the ruin of the Iconoclasts; and the first step of her future persecution was a general edict for liberty of conscience. In the restoration of the monks, a thousand images were exposed to the public veneration; a thousand legends were invented of their sufferings and miracles. By the opportunities of death or removal, the episcopal seats were judiciously filled; the most eager competitors for earthly or celestial favour anticipated and flattered the judgment of their sovereign; and the promotion of her secretary Tarasius gave Irene the CHAP. patriarch of Constantinople, and the command of the * oriental church. But the decrees of a general council could only be repealed by a similar assembly: * the Iconoclasts, whom she convened, were bold in possession, and averse to debate; and the feeble voice of the bishops was re-echoed by the more formidable clamour of the soldiers and people of Constantinople. The delay and intrigues of a year, the separation of the disaffected troops, and the choice of Nice for a VIIth genesecond orthodox synod, removed these obstacles; and o council,

and dominion, the images, the first cause of their j cardinal yielded to the voice of authority and the whispers of ambition (Quirini, * empress Comment, parsii. p. 123–136). Aoiso ‘I have read in the collection of Schardius (de Potestate Imperiali Eccle- ...” “” siastica, p. 734–780) this animated discourse, which was composed by the author, A. D. 1440, six years after the flight of pope Eugenius IV. It is a most vehement party pamphlet: Walla justifies and animates the revolt of the Romans, and would even approve the use of a dagger against their sacerdotal tyrant. Such a critic might expect the persecution of the clergy; yet he made his peace, and is buried in the Lateran (Bayle, Dictionnaire Critique, WALLA; Vossius, de Historicis Latinis, p. 580). * See Guicciardini, a servant of the popes, in that long and valuable digression, which has resumed its place in the last edition, correctly published from the author's MS. and printed in four volumes in quarto, under the name of Friburgo, 1775 (Istoria d’Italia, tom. i. p. 385–395). * The Paladin Astolpho found it in the moon, among the things that were lost upon earth (Orlando Furioso, xxxiv. 80). Di vari fiore ad un grand monte passa, Ch’ebbe già buono odore, or puzza forte Questo era il dono (se però dir lece) Che Costantino albuon Silvestro fece. Yet this incomparable poem has been approved by a bull of Leo X. w See Baronius, A.D. 324, No 117–123. A. D. 1191, No 51, &c. The cardinal wishes to suppose that Rome was offered by Constantine, and refused by Silvester. The act of donation he considers, strangely enough, as a forgery of the Greeks. * Baronius n'en dit gueres contre; encore en a-t-il trop dit, et l’on vouloit sans moi (Cardinal du Perron), qui l'empechai, censurer cette partie de son histoire. J'en devisai un jour avec le Pape, et il ne me repondit autre chose “che volete? i Canonici la lengono,” ille disoit en riant (Perroniana, p. 77).



y The remaining history of images, from Irene to Theodora, is collected, for the Catholics, by Baronius and Pagi (A. D. 780–840), Natalis Alexander (Hist. N. T. seculum viii. Panoplia adversus Hareticos, p. 118–178), and Dupin (Bibliot. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 136—154); for the Protestants, by Spanheim (Hist. Imag. p. 305–639), Basnage (Hist. de l'Eglise, tom. i. p. 556– 572. tom. ii. p. 1362–1385), and Mosheim (Institut. Hist. Eccles. secul. viii. et ix). The Protestants, except Mosheim, are soured with controversy; but the Catholics, except Dupin, are inflamed by the fury and superstition of the monks; and even Le Beau (Hist. du Bas Empire), a gentleman and a scholar, is infected by the odious contagion.

d of Nice, the episcopal conscience was again, after the Greek o;

fashion, in the hands of the prince. No more than j. eighteen days were allowed for the consummation of this important work: the Iconoclasts appeared, not as judges, but as criminals or penitents: the scene was decorated by the legates of pope Adrian and the eastern patriarchs," the decrees were framed by the president 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 hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead, and the figure of Christ, be entitled to the same mode of adoration. Of this second Nicene council, the acts are still extant; a curious monument of superstition and ignorance, of falsehood and folly. I shall only notice the judgment of the bishops, on the comparative merit of image-worship

* See the Acts, in Greek and Latin, of the second Council of Nice, with a number of relative pieces, in the viiith volume of the Councils, p. 645–1600. A faithful version, with some critical notes, would provoke, in different readers, a sigh or a smile. • The pope's legates were casual messengers, two priests without any special commission, and who were disavowed on their return. Some vagabond monks were persuaded by the Catholics to represent the oriental patriarchs. This curious anecdote is revealed by Theodore Studites (epist. i. 38. in Sirmond. Opp. tom. v. p. 1319), one of the warmest Iconoclasts of the age.

and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with the daemon of fornication, on condition of interrupting his daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. “Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his Mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,” replied the casuist, “to enter every brothel, and visit every prostitute, in the city.” For the honour of orthodoxy, at least the orthodoxy of the Roman church, it is somewhat unfortunate, that the two princes who convened the two councils of Nice are both stained with the blood of their sons. The second of these assemblies was approved and rigorously executed by the despotism of Irene, and she refused her adversaries the toleration which at first she had granted to her friends. During the five succeeding reigns, a period of thirty-eight years, the contest was maintained, with unabated rage and various success, between the worshippers and the breakers of the images; but I am not inclined to pursue with minute diligence the repetition of the same events. Nicephorus allowed a general liberty of speech and practice; and the only virtue of his reign is accused by the monks as the cause of his temporal and eternal perdition. Superstition and weakness formed the character of Michael the first, but the saints and images were incapable of supporting their votary on the throne. In the purple, Leo the fifth asserted the name and religion of an Armenian; and the idols, with their seditious adherents, were condemned to a second exile. Their applause would have sanctified the murder of an impious tyrant, but his assassin and successor, the second Michael, was tainted from his birth with the Phrygian heresies: he attempted to mediate between the contending parties; and the intractable spirit of the Catholics insensibly cast him into the opposite scale. His moderation was guarded by timidity; but his son Theophilus, alike ignorant of fear and pity, was the last and most cruel of the Iconoclasts. The enthusiasm of the times ran strongly against them; and the emperors, who stemmed the torrent, were exasperated and punished by the public hatred. After the death of Theophilus, the final victory of the images was achieved by a second female, his widow Theodora, whom he left the guardian of the empire. Her measures were bold and decisive. The fiction of a tardy repentance absolved the fame and the soul of her deceased husband: the sentence of the Iconoclast patriarch was commuted from the loss of his eyes to a whipping of two hundred lashes: the bishops trembled, the monks shouted, and the festival of orthodoxy preserves the annual memory of the triumph of the images. A single question yet remained, whether they are endowed with any proper and inherent sanctity: it was agitated by the Greeks of the eleventh century;" and as this opinion has the strongest recommendation of absurdity, I am surprised that it was not more explicitly decided in the affirmative. In the West, pope Adrian the first accepted and announced the decrees of the Nicene assembly, which is now revered by the Catholics as the seventh in rank of the general councils. Rome and Italy were docile to the voice of their father; but the greatest part of the Latin Christians were far behind in the race of superstition. The churches of France, Germany, England, and Spain, steered a middle course between the adoration and the destruction of images, which they admitted



Final establishment of images by the empress Theodora, A.D. 842.

b Xug?ses, 2s coi an xzraxıruv sy ro, rows, ravrn rocystoy sus 3 on suo's Aéns, on ivo. wevna's ro reorzuyuy row xvgloy huoy zai Stov Incouv Xgurrow orz rms 3125 aurov an~60s sv suzov. These visits could not be innocent, since the Ad.4%avy zogysia; (the

daemon of fornication) troxtail be avrov . . . sy Paz ovy &s orixiuro avro a pooea, &c. Actio iv. p. 901. Actio v. p. 1031.


of the

* See an account of this controversy in the Alexius of Anna Comnena (l. v.

p. 129) and Mosheim (Institut. Hist. Eccles. p. 371, 372).

« ForrigeFortsett »