"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Acts of Nicaea II

I have for years quoted Joseph Ratzinger's demonstrable claim, in The Spirit of the Liturgy, that part of the explanation for periodic outbreaks of iconoclasm in the West, including after Vatican II, stems from the fact that the West never adequately received the acts of Nicaea II, and has therefore never seriously integrated its insights into the life of the Western Church. This rather messy history of reception is told in Alain Besançon's invaluable The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm; and more recently in T.F.X. Noble's book Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians.

But whatever excuses about inadequate, incomplete, or inaccessible texts the West may have had in the past are gone in the face of a newly published book, translated by Richard Price, who also supplies a commentary to The Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (787) (Liverpool University Press, 2018), 688pp.

Part of Liverpool's ongoing and very important series, Translated Texts for Historians LUP, this hefty book, the publisher tells us, treats
The Second Council of Nicaea (787), which decreed that religious images were to set up in churches and venerated. It thereby established the cult of icons as a central element in the piety of the Orthodox churches, as it has remained ever since. In the West its decrees received a new emphasis in the Counter-Reformation, in the defence of the role of art in religion. It is a text of prime importance for the iconoclast controversy of eighth-century Byzantium, one of the most explored and contested topics in Byzantine history. But it has also a more general significance - in the history of culture and the history of art. This edition offers the first translation that is based on the new critical edition of this text in the Acta Conciliorum Oecumenicorum series, and the first full commentary of this work that has ever been written. It will be of interest to a wide range of readers from a variety of disciplines.

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