Page:Vactican as a World Power.djvu/100

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

of the cult with a sensitive Semitic rigour appeared in reaction against the boundless, superstitious veneration of holy images, against which Gregory the Great had already warned the West. The Emperor, who was won over to this point of view, loosed a destructive wave of Iconoclasm, possibly because he wished to curry favour with his Iconoclastic Islamic neighbours. The consequence was that during the reign of his son, Constantine Copronymus, there followed a cruel persecution of the monastic opposition. It was not until the widowed regent, Irene, intervened that a temporary truce was established. Under her regency the Second General Council of Nice restored the Catholic rule in 787, and the veneration of images was again declared legitimate in the East.

At this Council two Roman legates also spoke in the name of Pope Hadrian. His predecessors had already defended the old custom against the East, fully conscious as they were that the Church of the West was gaining new political strength and that there was a general trend toward separation from Imperial territories so overburdened with taxes. But now decisions of the Council met with resistance from the Franks. Charlemagne, through his theologians, fought against the Eastern way of venerating religious images. The reason was not merely that wholly misleading translations of the documents set before him had given him to understand that not merely veneration, but actual worship of the images had been permitted. It was also and primarily an attitude of jealousy toward Byzantium as well as a goodly measure of annoyance at the role which the Pope had played in this matter. While Prankish ambassadors resided in Constantinople to promote the betrothal of Charlemagne's daughter to the son of Irene, preparations for the Council were under way. This circumstance and the fact that he was the powerful lord of Western Christianity sufficed to make him certain that he would be asked to share in the synod, which was of a universal character. But Irene did not extend an invitation to the Prankish Church, obviously because Pope Hadrian had sought to keep Charlemagne out. This and in all probability other incidents that had followed the engagement, induced Charlemagne to break it off and thereupon to adopt an openly hostile attitude towards Byzantium. When the Council announced its decisions, he answered with a statement of opposing views drawn up by his theologians. A