The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire

The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire

The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire

The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire

Excerpt

This book deals with the Iconoclastic Controversy in the Byzantine Empire. My interest in this subject goes back to my student days in Paris when my friend Dr. Erich Weil first called my attention to Byzantine history and to the Iconoclastic Movement. Later at Harvard University I was for several terms a member of the late Professor R. P. Blake's seminar on Byzantine history and literature in which he devoted considerable attention to the sources of the Iconoclastic Period. At the time my curiosity was stimulated by Ehrhard's remark that the principal work of the Patriarch Nicephorus, his Refutatio et Eversio, was still unedited. With that enthusiasm and helpfulness remembered by all who ever came in contact with him, Professor Blake ordered microfilms of the two surviving manuscripts of this work and later had prints made of them. At that time I had known the Patriarch primarily as a chronicler. I had therefore expected that his Refutatio et Eversio, written by one who had witnessed the stirring years of the Second Iconoclastic Controversy from an exceptionally favourable post of observation, would shed light on the events of the period. When I deciphered the manuscripts of his work my first reaction was disappointment. The Refutatio et Eversio deals exclusively with theological polemics and supplies little information on the political and ecclesiastical history of the period. Only gradually did I come to see the true importance of the Patriarch Nicephorus. In the first place, as an historical figure, he invites reflection on the course of events that might have ensued if his moderate views, rather than those of the more radical Theodore of Studios, had prevailed. Secondly, the Patriarch Nicephorus is practically alone in having preserved documents emanating from the Iconoclasts: precious fragments from the writings of the Emperor Constantine V, as well as the Dogmatic Definition and patristic florilegium issued by the Iconoclastic Council of St. Sophia. The views and tendencies of the Iconoclasts can thus be reconstructed and analysed. Finally, his theological works, and especially his Refutatio et Eversio, while perhaps lacking in historical concreteness, depth, and originality, are, as it were, the summa of the Controversy, being far more systematic than the works of . . .

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