What Is the Iconoclastic Controversy?

In Byzantine history, the Iconoclastic controversy involved a debate within the Eastern Orthodox Church over the appropriateness of displaying the images of holy figures, or icons, in places of worship. The Byzantine Empire outlawed these figures, promoting the use of a simple cross in their place.

The Iconoclastic controversy was debated twice, during the years 726 to 787 and 815 to 843. Iconoclasts, those in favor of breaking up the icons, argued that worshippers were in danger of transferring their faith and worship to the icons rather than to God. While the iconoclasts did destroy most of the icons created prior to the Iconoclastic controversy, they were ultimately defeated, and icons became a hallmark of the Eastern Orthodox Church.