Posted by: ken98 | October 5, 2011

Iconoclasm 101, Kindergartners Assaulting Emperors, and Monks Poorly Sketching

Day 754 – Ken here (W)(10-5-2011)
(DEF III, v.5, Ch.49, pp.90-100)(pages read: 2130)

Per Gibbon what Monks ARE NO GOOD AT

Per Gibbon what Monks ARE NO GOOD AT

We continue today with Iconoclasm (Icon=Image, clasm=Break, Image-Breaking) which flooded the empire from the 720’s through the mid-800’s, peaking in the mid 700’s. The fear in some Orthodox circles was that images were being worshiped almost like pagan idols. Eventually this fear resulted in imperial persecution, a definitive cultural/spiritual break between Italy and Constantinople, and a great deal of ecclesiastical ink and citizen blood being spilt in the process.

We pause to look at the Popes Martin I and Gregory II, and peer for a moment at Gibbon’s view of a 17th cent.(?) Orthodox priest’s view of a painting by Titian and enjoy all the cross-cultural divides which are thus revealed.

The Story
Overview of Image Worship – Iconoclasm 101 (Cont.)
  • Starts with acheiropoetos (not-made-by-hands) images – ie Image of Edessa, where a linen sheet was placed over Christ’s face and his features were impressed on it WITHOUT HUMAN HANDS creating the images
  • Then, that image WAS copied by monks into paint on boards, walls – and the original and copies were said to be charged as sources of spiritual power like electrical batteries – connected to the higher/greater power of God
  • Images were common only later in the Church
  • Anti-Image Christians were strongest in Asia Minor (the frontier between Islam and the Christian Empire)

    Leo III the Isaurian (717-741), the ICONOCLAST (Icon=image,Clast=break)
  • Imposed his views on the empire, Images=wrong in 726
  • At first, assembled council, which moved the icons in churches from the altar, etc, later and edict that removed them from cities, churches everywhere

    Council/Synod of Constantinople (754)
  • 338 bishops, 6 months, unanimous decree that all visible symbols of Christianity except the Eucharist are blasphemous
  • Made up of bishops of Asia, Anatolia – missing=Rome, Egypt,
  • This council, although it regularized a number of other matters also, was never recognized by Rome – however REMEMBER ALL THE COUNCILS ARE RECOGNIZED/NOT RECOGNIZED in various ways by various churches to this day – its a confusing mess not unlike a pile of freshly boiled spaghetti – Each “flavor” of “Catholic” Church, Orthodox Church, Reformation Church, etc has a different list of what is considered canonical – even in medieval times each of the regional churches (Spain, Gaul, Frankish, English, Irish, Bulgarian, Slavic, Russian, Persian, Egyptian, African, etc etc) had a different list of what they accepted
  • Image Worship however, DOES cause a rift between the empire’s ITALIAN possessions and the empire – the papacy takes advantage of this difference of interpretation to BREAK FREE of CONSTANTINOPLE and ASSERT PAPAL INDEPENDENCE – before this, Popes were REQUIRED TO BE RATIFIED by the emperor (see the Byzantine Papacy (537-752) – note the ending 752, just before our un-recognized synod – the Papacy moves for independence

    Persecution of Icon Worshipers(726-775)
  • The Islands and the Greek Peninsula are Icon-Worshipers – they try and unseat the emperor thru a naval assault and fail – the Isaurians (Asia Minor) win
  • St John of Damascus – now under Arab rule, write voluminously and intelligently of Icon-Worship and why it is right and good

    Italian Reaction and Gregory II and Greg.’s Letters (727)
  • As recently as the 650’s a Pope had been summarily summoned to Constantinople, defrocked, and sent into exile in the Crimea (southern Russia, northern shore of the Black Sea) – something you don’t usually think a pope would experience (Martin I)
  • Gregory, on hearing about the whole Iconoclasm controversy (and, as usual, for the Western Church, not really getting why it was such an issue back East) wrote letters to the Emperor, taking advantage of this “error” to renounce his loyalty to the empire and castigate the stupidity of the Greeks


    Modern rendering of Pope Martin I

    Martin was summoned, kidnapped, and exiled and died (in Russia) all because he, as Pope had displeased the Roman emperor Constans II - a different kind of papacy - one where the pope, like the Patriarch was more a bureau of the Roman government than an independent representative of God on Earth. All that was to change with the Iconoclasm Controversy a hundred years later - Rome declared her independence - Modern rendering of Pope Martin I


    The Sad Story of Pope Martin I (650’s)


    There was an almost-alternate universe for the papacy while Eastern Rome held Italy – this was from the 570’s through the 720’s when the emperor in Constantinople ruled who was Bishop of Rome as effectively as he (or she) would rule who was Patriarch of Constantinople.

    Martin is an example of what could happen when the Bishop of Rome collided with the emperor of Rome. The Bishop lost – bigtime.

    Had Constantinople stayed the overseer of Rome, the papacy would have stayed under the thumb of a secular ruler and history in Western Europe would have turned out very differently. But the Iconoclasm controversy and Charlemagne and the Lombards in Northern Italy effectively pushed the papacy out of Roman hands and bounced it back and forth between Lombard and Frankish political protection.

    This from WIKI:

    Pope Saint Martin I, born near Todi, Umbria in the place now named after him (Pian di San Martino), was pope from 649 to 653, succeeding Theodore I in July 5, 649. The only pope during the Byzantine Papacy whose election was not approved by a iussio from Constantinople, Martin I was abducted by Constans II and died in the Crimean peninsula.

    He was the last apocrisiarius (a high diplomatic representative, the title being used by Byzantine ambassadors as well as by the representatives of bishops to the secular authorities) to be elected pope.

    He had previously acted as papal apocrisiarius or legate at Constantinople, and was held in high repute for his learning and virtue.

    Papacy (649–653)

    One of his first official acts was to summon the Lateran Council of 649 to deal with the Monothelites, whom the Church considered heretical. The Council met in the church of St. John Lateran; was attended by 105 bishops (chiefly from Italy, Sicily, and Sardinia, with a few from Africa and other quarters); held five sessions or secretarii from October 5 to October 31, 649, and in twenty canons condemned Monothelitism, its authors, and the writings by which Monothelitism had been promulgated. In this condemnation were included, not only the Ecthesis (the exposition of faith of the patriarch Sergius for which the emperor Heraclius had stood sponsor), but also the typus of Paul, the successor of Sergius, which had the support of the reigning emperor (Constans II).

    Abduction and exile (653–655)

    Martin was very energetic in publishing the decrees of the Lateran Council of 649 in an encyclical, and Constans replied by enjoining his exarch (governor) in Italy to arrest the pope should he persist in this line of conduct and send Martin as a prisoner to Constantinople.

    These orders were found impossible to carry out for a considerable space of time, but at last Martin was arrested in the Lateran on June 17, 653, along with Maximus the Confessor. He was hurried out of Rome and conveyed first to Naxos, Greece, and subsequently to Constantinople, arriving on September 17, 653. After suffering an exhausting imprisonment and many alleged public indignities, he was ultimately banished to Chersonesos Taurica (a city in present-day southern Ukraine in the Crimea region), where he arrived on May 15, 655, and died on September 16 of that year.

    Place in the calendar of saints

    April 14 is the optional memorial of St Martin I. He is also venerated as a saint and martyr in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    (from Pope Martin I in WIKI)

    Pope Gregory II from a 15th Century Florentine Manuscript

    Gregory II used a typically much more direct writing style (which we can only assume was the typical Roman style in the 720s) which was melo-dramatic, direct, and a little petulant and childish to modern ears - not what you'd expect in diplomatic correspondence between 2 powerful governors (Pope and Emperor) in the Early Middle Ages. Pope Gregory II from a 15th Century Florentine Manuscript


    Interesting Correspondence – Gibbon Quotes Gregory II’s Letters to Constantine VII


    And If You Come After Me, Why We Will Just Find Someone Else To Help Us

    What’s interesting here is that for the last century, the ROMANS have been protecting the PAPACY FROM the LOMBARDS – now the Pope sees his opportunity and states the unthinkable, in a kind of petulant way.

    During ten pure and fortunate years,” says Gregory to the emperor, “we have tasted the annual comfort of your royal letters, subscribed in purple ink, with your own hand, the sacred pledges of your attachment to the orthodox creed of our fathers. How deplorable is the change! how tremendous the scandal! You now accuse the Catholics of idolatry; and, by the accusation, you betray your own impiety and ignorance. To this ignorance we are compelled to adapt the grossness of our style and arguments: the first elements of holy letters are sufficient for your confusion; and were you to enter a grammar-school, and avow yourself the enemy of our worship, the simple and pious children would be provoked to cast their horn-books at your head.”

    (DEF III, Vol.5, Ch.49. pp.99-101)

    Even Children Would Throw Their ABC-Books At YOU!

    “You assault us, O tyrant! with a carnal and military hand: unarmed and naked we can only implore the Christ, the prince of the heavenly host, that he will send unto you a devil, for the destruction of your body and the salvation of your soul. You declare, with foolish arrogance, I will despatch my orders to Rome: I will break in pieces the image of St. Peter; and Gregory, like his predecessor Martin, shall be transported in chains, and in exile, to the foot of the Imperial throne. Would to God that I might be permitted to tread in the footsteps of the holy Martin! but may the fate of Constans serve as a warning to the persecutors of the church!

    After his just condemnation by the bishops of Sicily, the tyrant was cut off, in the fullness of his sins, by a domestic servant: the saint is still adored by the nations of Scythia, among whom he ended his banishment and his life. But it is our duty to live for the edification and support of the faithful people; nor are we reduced to risk our safety on the event of a combat.

    Incapable as you are of defending your Roman subjects, the maritime situation of the city may perhaps expose it to your depredation but we can remove to the distance of four-and-twenty stadia, to the first fortress of the Lombards, and then – you may pursue the winds. Are you ignorant that the popes are the bond of union, the mediators of peace, between the East and West? The eyes of the nations are fixed on our humility; and they revere, as a God upon earth, the apostle St. Peter, whose image you threaten to destroy.

    The remote and interior kingdoms of the West present their homage to Christ and his vicegerent; and we now prepare to visit one of their most powerful monarchs, who desires to receive from our hands the sacrament of baptism. The Barbarians have submitted to the yoke of the gospel, while you alone are deaf to the voice of the shepherd. These pious Barbarians are kindled into rage: they thirst to avenge the persecution of the East. Abandon your rash and fatal enterprise; reflect, tremble, and repent. If you persist, we are innocent of the blood that will be spilt in the contest; may it fall on your own head!”

    (DEF III, Vol.5, Ch.49. pp.99-101)


    Last Word…


    Quotable Gibbon


    A Whole Lot of Monk-Hating

    Monks are BAD artists – and Proud of it

    Gibbon gives us here a consistently negative view of monks (one of the literally many hundred examples of his hatred and disdain of monasteries and all things monkish), but inadvertently also shows some very interesting cross-cultural differences between East and West.

    In his (always more interesting) footnote to his text, Gibbon references the monks poor artistic abilities by quoting the story of a Greek priest who is scandalized by a religious portrait of Titian (which is obviously a 16th cent. story and so a good 700 years after our time – BUT when you think of it – this is a notable example AGAIN of the STRENGTH of Eastern Rome’s culture, that issues settled in the 800’s were still painfully contested by Orthodox priests in the 1500’s). The problem with the portrait is that IT IS NOT FLAT, BUT APPEARS TO BE 3-DIMENSIONAL, and is therefor like a sculpture and is therefor a blasphemous idolatry – UNLIKE ICONS which are in a peculiar FLAT LATE ROMAN STYLE which is obviously spiritual and much closer to (well, an icon-adorer would say exactly like) the actual holy image of the saint, Virgin, Christ, etc).

    Again what fascinates me, is the cultural differences – the priest is upset by the “naturalness” of the portrait, which is a Late Roman trait carried over into the Byzantine Iconoclasm crises of the 700’s and 800’s and was elaborately and intelligently and exhaustively worked out as only Church Fathers (such as John of Damascus) and other keen Greek minds could do. Gibbon sees DEGENERACY. The Catholic Church sees Aids to Faith. We see art. And we are all looking at the same thing.

    Gibbon comes from a firm Enlightenment viewpoint, just discovering the use of pure science and reason, addicted to a rational world, and THUS, VERY HOSTILE to Reasonless Imagination and Passion (in his eyes).

    John of Damascus and the priest see a kind of Platonic Ideal reflected through the paint on the wood and bringing (through adoration) the mind of man closer to the awesome purity and beauty and power of God – all in all a direct connection to the early Church in the 200’s and the new piety (almost a kind of physics) that positied/viewed spiritual power as “concentrated” in earthly things (martyr’s bones, images, holy places like Jerusalem) and available for use by man.

    We today see a different worldview, a different conception of man in the universe as we compare the form and line of a piece of art as an image of a thing’s inner meaning to a mere photographic reproduction of its visible appearance. So, “flat” Iconic art seems to us to be more interested in spiritual truths than accurate representations. Not something Gibbon would have appreciated.

    I love this kind of thing – it helps you figure out who you are, and who people in the past think they were – it is the very stuff of history.

    Gibbon, on the spread of Image-Creation, that is, Icon-Making:

    The fruitful precedent was speedily transferred to the Virgin Mary, and the saints and martyrs. In the church of Diospolis, in Palestine, the features of the Mother of God were deeply inscribed in a marble column; the East and West have been decorated by the pencil of St. Luke; and the Evangelist, who was perhaps a physician, has been forced to exercise the occupation of a painter, so profane and odious in the eyes of the primitive Christians. The Olympian Jove, created by the muse of Homer and the chisel of Phidias, might inspire a philosophic mind with momentary devotion; but these Catholic images were faintly and flatly delineated by monkish artists in the last degeneracy of taste and genius (14).

    Note 014
    “Your scandalous figures stand quite out from the canvass: they are as bad as a group of statues!” It was thus that the ignorance and bigotry of a Greek priest applauded the pictures of Titian, which he had ordered, and refused to accept.]

    (DEF III, Vol.5, Ch.49, p.91)

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