THE DECREE OF THE HOLY, GREAT, ECUMENICAL SYNOD* (7th Ecumenical Council
This is not the complete text of the Council, which dealt with many issues. These page contains excerpts that
pertain specifically to icons.
We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired
authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as
we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and
accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also
the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit
materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred
vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and
by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of
our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints
and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in
artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory
of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given
due salutation and honourable reverence (aspasmon
proskunh-sin), not indeed that true worship of
faith (latreian>) which pertains alone to the divine nature;
but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the
Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be
offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honour which is paid to the
image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image
reveres in it the subject represented. For thus the teaching of our holy
Fathers, that is the tradition of the Catholic Church, which from one end of the
earth to the other hath received the Gospel, is strengthened. Thus we follow
Paul, who spake in Christ, and the whole divine Apostolic company and the holy
Fathers, holding fast the traditions which we have received. So we sing
prophetically the triumphal hymns of the Church, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of
Sion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Rejoice and be glad with all thy heart.
The Lord hath taken away from thee the oppression of thy adversaries; thou art
redeemed from the hand of thine enemies. The Lord is a King in the midst of
thee; thou shalt not see evil any more, and peace be unto thee forever."
Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or as wicked heretics
to spurn the traditions of the Church and to invent some novelty, or else to
reject some of those things which the Church hath received (e.g., the Book of
the Gospels, or the image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy
reliques of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive of
the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to common uses the
sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries, if they be Bishops or Clerics,
we command that they be deposed; if religious or laics, that they be cut off
The holy Synod cried out: So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all
give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the
faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which hath made firm the whole world.
Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable
images ! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus
think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most
ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers.
anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians.
We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do
this. Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things
said in Holy Scripture about. idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the
holy and venerable images. Anathema to those who call the sacred images idols.
Anathema to those who say that Christians resort to the sacred images as to
gods. Anathema to those who say that any other delivered us from idols except
Christ our God. Anathema to those who dare to say that at any time the Catholic
Church received idols.
Excerpt #2 dealing with the traditional practices associated with veneration.
...but because the honour which is shown unto them is referred to the prototypes
which they represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before
which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ, and
Saints, whose similitude they bear.
* The term Catholic Church represents the one Holy Catholic Church founded by the Apostles which was united, east and west, at this time.