Iconoclastic controversy is a dispute over the use of religious images (icons) in the Byzantine Empire in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Iconoclasts (those who rejected images) objected to icon veneration; the defenders of the use of icons insisted on the symbolic nature of images and the dignity of created matter.


In 726, Leo III opposed the veneration of icons, ordered them to be removed, broken out, and painted over in all the churches of the empire. This measure caused significant irritation among different parts of society that soon divided on this issue into iconodules and iconoclasts, i.e., admirers of icons and iconoclasts, relatively.

The high society took the side of iconoclasm; even among the church hierarchy, there was a tendency towards this direction. And under one of the successors of Leo III, who generally held the iconoclasm (Constantine IV), the worship of icons was even formally condemned by the cathedral, in which a lot of clergies participated.

On the contrary, among ordinary people and the lower clergy, devotion reigned over the sacred images of Christ, the Mother of God, and the saints. Advocates of icon veneration were women of all classes of society and monks. When the order of Leo III began to be carried out, fights and battles took place.

It continued until the end of the century, when Empress Irina, who was distinguished by her devotion to icon veneration, convened the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicaea (787), which restored icon veneration. But the iconoclasm did not stop, although after that, now the veneration of the enemies of icon worship began to be persecuted.

Temporarily at the beginning of the VIII century, the iconoclasm again prevailed; even an attempt was made to abolish the veneration of icons by a new cathedral decree. But Empress Theodora, who gathered in 842 a cathedral that once again condemned iconoclasm as heresy and delivered the final triumph to Orthodoxy.