The article deals with the theory of sacred images in the lives of two saints of iconoclastic time written by Sabas, who was a monk and a byzantine writer lived in the 9th century AD. The paper presents a brief sketch of Sabas’ life. On his own evidence, Sabas was acquainted with main characters of his works: St. Joannicius the Great and St. Peter of Atroa. He worked as a simple monk in monasteries of Asia Minor during their lives. The vitas were written by him later in the fifties or sixties of the 9th century, probably in the monastery of Antidion; besides, St. Peter’s vita was edited by the author himself.

Following the information about the hagiographer the careful analysis of his passages concerning sacred images is made. The first redaction of St. Peter’s life includes only a brief declaration of the veneration of icons, but the second version is added with a rather more detailed excursus of the holy images theory, and the text of St. Joannicius’ life contains three creeds of icons. The general topics brought up in both lives are: the doctrine of Christ as an image of God the Father and a man as an image of God, which the hagiographer takes as a basis of the veneration of images, the Christological basis of iconodules’ teaching, and the understanding of iconoclasm as a kind of docetism.

Although the hagiographer was not one of the main disputants of iconoclastic controversy as well as he did not aim at writing a treatise refuting iconoclastic doctrine, reading his works carefully we can see that he use quite complicated terminology of pro-icon writers elaborated at the end of the iconoclastic debates, such as notion of «circumscription» (περιγραφή). Sabas not only confirms dogmas of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (relative adoration proper to icons, and moving of honor from the image to its prototype), but also emphatically uses in his texts such concepts as an image of God the Father in Christ and an image of God in a man as a basis of subsistence for pictorial images. This condition enables to conclude that this theme was of particular importance during the second iconoclastic period.

Key words: icon, iconoclasm, hagiography, monk Sabas, St. Joannicius the Great, St. Peter of Atroa

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About the author


Olga N. Izotova – Lecturer at the Department of History of Church and the Russian Orthodox Church and Canonical Law, St. Tikhon Orthodox University;

23-5A Novokuznetskaya St., Moscow, Russia, 115184; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.