L’iconoclasme byzantin, entre politique impériale et problèmes théologiques

Marie-France AUZEPY


This paper shows the difficulties of the historical interpretation of Byzantine iconoclasm: the lack of sources and the prevalence of an iconophile point of view contribute to this matter of fact. The iconoclasm is here interpreted as an imperial politics, adopted because of some changes which the Eastern Roman Empire had to face (Muslim and Bulgarian threat, natural catastrophes), then as an official dogma of the Church. The rejection of idolatry finds a solid basis in the Ancient Testament, very much used by the theologians of the iconoclastic period (730-843). If the image of Christ is forbidden in order to avoid idolatry, this is not the case for the image of the Emperor: that appears as a substitution, violently attacked by those who perpetuated the devotion to sacred images. The iconoclastic Emperor is thus assimilated to each enemy of Jesus, being treated as Jew, Muslim, sorcerer, and even Satan. The fight against iconoclasm as imperial politics permitted to the Patriarchate to emerge out of the imperial domination and to affirm its autonomy, even if not as great as the one of Papacy. The iconoclastic Emperor paid the ransom of this religious victory.

Keywords: iconoclasm, imperial politics, Byzantine Emperor, historical perspectives