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Second Council of Nicaea

The Second Council of Nicaea is recognized as the seventh of the rst seven ecumenical councils by both West
and East. Orthodox, Catholics, and Old Catholics unanimously recognize it; Protestant opinions on it are varied.
It met in AD 787 in Nicaea (site of the First Council of
Nicaea; present-day znik 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 (717741). His son,
Constantine V (741775), had held the Council of Hieria
to make the suppression ocial.


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 ve major patriarchs were
represented. The emperors vigorous enforcement of the
ban included persecution of those who worshiped icons
and monks in general. There were also political overtones to the persecutionimages 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] Constantines iconoclastic tendencies were shared by Constantines son, Leo IV. After
the latters early death, his widow, Irene of Athens, as regent for her son, began its restoration, moved thereto by
personal inclination and political considerations.

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.[6]

In 784 the imperial secretary Patriarch Tarasius was appointed successor to the Patriarch Paul IVhe 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 psychologically another ecumenical council was necessary for its restoration.

2 Proceedings of the Council

Pope Adrian I was invited to participate, and gladly accepted. However, the invitation intended for the oriental
patriarchs could not even be delivered to them. The
Roman legates were an archbishop and an abbot, both
named Peter.

First Session (September 24, 787) Three bishops,

Basilius of Ancyra, Theodore of Myra, and Theodosius
of Amorium begged for pardon for the heresy of iconoclasm.

Second Session (September 26, 787) Papal legates read
the letters of Pope Hadrian I asking for agreement with
veneration of images, to which question the bishops of the
council answered: We follow, we receive, we admit.
Third Session (September 28, 787) Other bishops having made their abjuration, were received into the council.

press Irene and her son were present and they signed the
The clear distinction between the adoration oered to
God, and that accorded to the images may well be looked
upon as a result of the iconoclastic reform. The twentytwo canons[7] 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.

Fourth Session (October 1, 787) Proof of the lawfulness of the veneration of icons was drawn from Exodus
25:19 sqq.; Numbers 7:89; Hebrews 9:5 sqq.; Ezekiel
41:18, and Genesis 31:34, but especially from a series
of passages of the Church Fathers;[1] the authority of the
latter was decisive.
The council also decreed that every altar should contain
Fifth Session (October 4, 787) It was claimed that the a relic, which remains the case in modern Catholic and
iconoclast heresy came originally from Jews, Saracens, Orthodox regulations (Canon VII), and made a number of
decrees on clerical discipline, especially for monks when
and Manicheans.
mixing with women.
Sixth Session (October 6, 787) The denition of the
pseudo-Seventh council (754) was read and condemned. The papal legates voiced their approval of the restoration of the veneration of icons in no uncertain terms, and
Seventh Session (October 13, 787) The council issued the patriarch sent a full account of the proceedings of
a declaration of faith concerning the veneration of holy the council to Pope Hadrian I, who had it translated (the
translation Anastasius later replaced with a better one).
This council 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 rst Sunday of Great Lentthe 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 council as the culmination of the Churchs battles against heresy, while the
latter commemorates the council itself.

3 See also
Plato of Sakkoudion
Hagia Sophia of Nicaea, where the Council took place; Iznik,

It was determined that As the sacred and life-giving

cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the
images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels,
as well as those of the saints and other pious and holy
men be embodied in the manufacture of sacred vessels,
tapestries, vestments, etc., and exhibited on the walls of
churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by
the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who
might see them. For the more they are contemplated, the
more they move to fervent memory of their prototypes.
Therefore, it is proper to accord to them a fervent and
reverent adoration, not, however, the veritable worship
which, according to our faith, belongs to the Divine Being
alone for the honor accorded to the image passes over
to its prototype, and whoever adores the image adores in
it the reality of what is there represented.
Eighth Session (October 23, 787) The last session was
held in Constantinople at the Magnaura Palace. The Em-

Sabas of Stoudios

4 Footnotes
[1] 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:
[3] Warren T. Treadgold (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. p. 388.
ISBN 978-0-8047-2630-6. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
[4] Ostrogorsky, p.178.
[5] Gibbon, p.1693.
[6] Ostrogorsky, p.178

Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. New York:Random House Inc., 1995.
ISBN 0-679-60148-1
Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State.
New Brunswick:Rutgers University Press, 1969.
ISBN 0-8135-0599-2
Raab, Clement. The Twenty Ecumenical Councils of
the Catholic Church, 1937.
This article incorporates text from a publication now
in the public domain: Jackson, Samuel Macauley,
ed. (1914). "article name needed ". New SchaHerzog
Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (third ed.).
London and New York: Funk and Wagnalls.

Further reading
Mendham, John, tr. The seventh general council, the second of Nicaea, held A.D. 787, in which
the worship of images was established with copious
notes from the Caroline books, compiled by order
of Charlemagne for its confutation, London, W.E.
Painter, 1850.
Concilium Universale Nicaenum Secundum. Concilium actiones I-III, ed. Erich Lambertz (Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum 2,3,1), Berlin, New York
2008. ISBN 978-3-11-019002-1 Edition with introduction in the sources.


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