Catholic Dictionary




A heresy that rejected as superstition the use of religious images and advocated their destruction. It was occasioned by the rise of Islam, which considers all sacred images idolatrous. Moslem pressure on those in political power precipitated the crisis, which came in two phases. The first phase began with Emperor Leo the Isaurian in 726 and closed with the seventh general council and Second Council of Nicaea in 787. The second phase started with Emperor Leo V, the Armenian, and ended when the Feast of Orthodoxy was established in 842 under Empress Theodora. Sts. John Damascene and Theodore were the principal defenders of sacred images. As defined by II Nicaea, these images may be lawfully displayed and venerated. The respect shown them really is given to the person they represent. (Etym. Greek eikōn, image + klaein, to break.)