Thursday, 8 January 2015


Celebrated on the first Sunday of the Great Lent (1 March, this year), the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy celebrates the restoration of icons, holy images, to the Church, and the victory of the iconodules—those who venerate images, the iconophiles over the iconoclasts who considered the practise idolatry.

The service that takes place in churches on that day has come to present the defeat of heretical thinking in general but the mass remembers a historic event that took place in March of 843 when the icons were returned to the Hagia Sophia. Recursively, an icon was created to illustrate this auspicious event. I had always believed that the iconoclasm was an internal matter and one could easily imagine disputes arising, as they continue to do, over the sacramental nature of holy objects—whether they help the faithful to focus their attention or are vain distractions, but it seems that the division arose and sides were taken due in part—at least, to mounting outside pressures: with the rapid expansion of Islam—who were strongly against any human or divine imagery of any kind, the Church began to reassess its position. Did these Muslims, who were making inroads on Byzantine territory and even threatening Constantinople itself, have God’s favour because they had roundly rejected graven images? As above, the debate—and often violently continues—within and without.