Could you give some hints what led emperor Leo to start the iconoclast movement?

Daniel Tamas


When in 726 emperor Leo removed the image of Christ from the Chalke gate and put it in storage (whence it was later retrieved), he certainly could not foresee that this would set into motion a sequence of events which—from historical hindsight—now appear to us as a ‘movement’ with a clear name, ‘iconoclast’. He could not foresee that he would set in motion a long chain of events that would last until 843.

Scholars have proposed several explanations for the beginning of iconoclasm, which occurred at a time when Byzantium had recently experienced a siege by the Arab fleet (717) and the natural catastrophe of a sea quake or tsunami. In this situation, people may have felt the need to change their ways in order to attract the mercy of God. Since the previous century, there had been increased debate about the appropriate ways to depict Christ, further spurred on by comparison to the uniconic religions of Islam and Judaism. There had also been an increased popular devotion to images of Christ and the saints. Monasteries had become powerful as keepers of miracle-working relics of saints and as economic and social institutions. Leo’s measure may simply have been an attempt to attract God’s grace at a difficult time. It has also been suggested that he intended to curtail the growing influence of monasticism.


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