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Iconoclasts

Iconoclasts, "image-breakers" (Greek eikon, "image" and klazo, "I break"), a party opposed to the presence of statues and pictures in churches which arose in the Eastern Church at the beginning of the eighth century. A feeling against images, occasioned mainly by the fear of idolatry, had existed from an early period, and their use was forbidden by the Council of Elvira in Spain (306). But a great variety of opinion and practice prevailed, culminating at last in a bitter controversy in the reign of Leo III., "the Isaurian," Emperor of the East. By his decree in 730 the worship of images weis made a capital offence, and it was ordered that they should be removed from churches. Leo's violent measures were opposed not only by the Popes Gregory II. and Gregory III., but by the Patriarch of Constantinople and his clergy. The hostility they encountered in Venice and Ravenna resulted in the loss of the Italian possessions of the Eastern Empire. Constantine Copronymus, son of Leo, pursued the same course, and in a council of Eastern bishops at Constantinople (754) the previous enactments were confirmed. Owing to the influence of the Empress Irene (q.v.), image-worship was re-established at the Deutero-Nicene Council (787); but her successors at Constantinople were for the most part jealous iconoclasts, and the difference between the Eastern and Western Churches on this point contributed, though in a less degree than the Filioque controversy, to their final separation. [Greek Church:]

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