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A patriarch of Constantinople in the fight against iconoclasm: St. Nichifor the Confessor (758-829)


This study aims to describe the biography and the fi ght against the iconoclast heresy of one of the
most infl uential fi gures of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and, at the same time, one of the most
important theologians of the icon that the Orthodox Church has – Saint Nicephorus the Confessor,
who deployed his work in Byzantium in eighth-ninth centuries. There are reviewed the main
sources that present his life, the relocation of his relics, his activity as a patriarch and his struggle
against iconoclasm and specialty literature reference books on the personality of the Saint. Then
are presented chronologically the main stages of his biography: his birth and childhood in Constantinople,
in the family of an imperial secretary, himself a worshiper of holy images; the activity
of the young Nicephore in the Imperial Chancellery, followed by a solitary retirement period to an
almost monastic existence. His activity as head of the Orphanotrophon of Constantinople, followed,
in 806, by his ascention to the patriarchal throne of Constantinople. Particular attention is paid to
the tireless struggle Saint Nicephore led as patriarch against the iconoclastic heresy in the time of
Emperor Leo V the Armenian and Michael II Amorium, or during his long exile, while he wrote an
extensive dogmatical and polemical work to combat this heresy. His fi ght and his confession, dramatic
example of courage and unshakable faith, received posthumous recognition through his canonization,
the relocation of his relics to Constantinople, the inclusion of his name in the Orthodox
Synaxarion and Synodikon and especially by his place of honor within the Orthodox Church, which
considers him one of the most signifi cant theologians of the icon, next to Saint John of Damascus
and Saint Theodore the Studite.
Keywords: Constantinople, patriarch, iconoclasm, the worship of images.


 

┼×TEFAN IONESCU-BERECHET