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Showing one's true colours: Patriarch Methodios on the morally improving effect of sacred images

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2016

Dirk Krausmüller*
Mardin Artuklu Ü


This brief article makes the case that Patriarch Methodios developed a distinctive icon theology. He argued that the saints had infused the colours of their faces with their holy essence and that these colours when separated from the bodies and transferred to images could thus lead to the moral improvement of the onlookers.

Short Notes
Copyright © Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham, 2016 

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1 There exists a Speech about the Holy Icons, which in the manuscripts is attributed to Methodios. See Pitra, J., Juris Ecclesiastici Graecorum historia et monumenta, II (Rome 1868) 355–61;Google Scholar and Arsenij, ‘Μεθοδίου λόγος περὶ τῶν ἁγίων εἰκόνων’, Čtenija v Obšč. Ljub. Dukhovnago Prosvěščenija (Moscow 1893), Nov.-Dec. Section. III, 1–23. However, this text is undoubtedly a pseudepigraphon because it is not written in Methodios’ characteristic style. See Hinterberger, M., ‘Wortschöpfung und literarischer Stil bei Methodios I.’, in Trapp, E. and Schönauer, S. (eds.), Lexicologica Byzantina. Beiträge zum Kolloquium zur byzantinischen Lexikographie, Bonn, 13.–15. Juli 2007 (Bonn 2008) 119–50.Google Scholar

2 For a discussion of the two florilegia see Alexander, P. J., ‘The Iconoclastic Council of St. Sophia (815) and its definition (Horos)’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 7 (1953) 3566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar See also Anastos, M. V., ‘The ethical theory of images formulated by the Iconoclasts of 754 and 815’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 8 (1954) 151160 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who argues that the Iconoclast stance of 815 was not different from that of 754; and Gouillard, J., ‘Fragments inédits d'un antirrhétique de Jean le Grammairien’, Revue des études byzantines 24 (1966) 171–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 176–77.

3 Nikephoros, Refutation 93, ed. Featherstone, J., Nicephori Patriarchae Constantinopolitani Refutatio et Eversio Definitionis Synodalis Anni 815, Corpus Christianorum. Series Graeca, 33 (Turnhout 1997)Google Scholar 89.4–14: Τὰς τῶν ἁγίων ἰδέας οὐκ ἐν εἰκόσιν ἐξ ὑλικῶν χρωμάτων διαμορφοῦν παρειλήφαμεν, ἀλλὰ τὰς τούτων ἀρετὰς διὰ τῶν ἐν γραφαῖς περὶ αὐτῶν δηλουμένων οἷόν τινας ἐμψύχους εἰκόνας ἀναμάττεσθαι δεδιδάγμεθα, ἐκ τούτου πρὸς τὸν ὅμοιον αὐτοῖς διεγειρόμενοι ζῆλον. ἐπεὶ εἰπάτωσαν οἱ τὰς τοιάσδε ἀναστηλοῦντες μορφὰς ποίας ἄρα ἐκ τούτων καταπολαύοιεν ὠφελείας; ἢ ἐν ποίᾳ διὰ τῆς τούτων ἀναμνήσεως ἀνάγωνται πνευματικῇ θεωρίᾳ; ἀλλ’ εὔδηλον ὡς ματαία ἡ τοιαύτη ἐπίνοια καὶ διαβολικῆς μεθοδείας εὕρημα. Cf. Alexander, ‘Iconoclastic Council’, 61.

4 Ignatios the Deacon, Life of Patriarch Tarasius, 49, ed. S. Efthymiadis, The Life of Patriarch Tarasios by Ignatios the Deacon (Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Monographs, 4; Aldershot 1998), 135–136: Κατ’ ὀφθαλμοὺς πάντων ἑτοίμην γραφὴν καὶ βίβλον αὐτόματον ἐν τοῖς ἱεροῖς ναοῖς τοὺς ἀγῶνας τούτων ἐγγράψας σεπτῶς ἀνεστήλωσεν, ὡς ἂν τοῖς ὁρῶσι κατανύξεως ἀνοίξῃ προπύλαια καὶ τοὺς ἐναθλοῦντας εἰσοικίσῃ καὶ ζήλῳ τῷ πρὸς αὐτοὺς πυρουμένους τῆς ὁμοίας, εἰ καιρὸς καλοίη, ἐπιλαβέσθαι ἀθλήσεως; with translation on p. 149.

5 Nikephoros, Refutation 107, ed. Featherstone, 89.20–33: Εἰ γὰρ αἱ ἀρεταὶ τῶν ἁγίων οἱονεὶ εἰκόνες ἔμψυχοι διὰ τῶν γεγραμμένων δείκνυνται, τὰ κατορθοῦντα τὰς ἀρετὰς σώματα πόσῳ δικαιότερον κατὰ τὰς ἰδέας αὐτῶν εἰκονίζεσθαι; ὅσῳ καὶ σῶμα πράξεως ἀναγκαιότερόν τε καὶ τιμιώτερον ὡς τὰ μὲν ἐνεργοῦντα τὰ δὲ ἐνεργούμενα, καὶ τὰ μὲν ἀποτελοῦντα τὰ δὲ ἀποτελούμενα, καὶ αἴτια καὶ πρῶτα αἰτιατῶν καὶ δευτέρων τῶν ἔργων ὄντων. εἰ γοῦν μὴ ταῦτα οὕτως ἔχοι, καὶ οἶκος καὶ ναῦς καὶ κλίνη τοῦ κατασκευάσαντος οἰκοδόμου καὶ τέκτονος τιμιώτερα. καὶ αἱ μὲν ἀρεταὶ οἷα πράξεις τυγχάνουσαι περὶ τὰ σώματα τὸ ἐπιεικὲς καὶ πρακτικὸν αὐτῶν παραδηλοῦσιν, αἱ ἰδέαι δὲ αὐτὰ τὰ σώματα ἤγουν αὐτοὺς τοὺς ἁγίους ἡμῖν ἐμφανίζουσιν ὁποῖοί τε ὄντες ἐτύγχανον καὶ ὅπως εὐανδρίας εἶχον καὶ γενναιότητος. Cf. Alexander, ‘Iconoclastic Council’, 56.

6 On the use of Aristotelian concepts by Nikephoros and other Iconophile authors see most recently Th. Anagnostopoulos, ‘Aristotle and Byzantine Iconoclasm’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 53 (2013) 763–90, esp. 781–87. See also Alexander, ‘Iconoclastic Council’, 49; and Brubaker, L. and Haldon, J., Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680–850: A History (Cambridge 2010) 374–75.Google Scholar

7 See Featherstone, Refutatio et Eversio, xx–xxi.

8 On Michael see Krausmüller, D., ‘ Vitae B, C and A of Theodore the Stoudite: their Interrelation, Dates, Authors and Significance for the History of the Stoudios Monastery in the Tenth Century’, Analecta Bollandiana 131 (2013) 280–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Michael, Encomium of Nicholas 49, ed. Anrich, G., Hagios Nikolaos I. Der Heilige Nikolaos in der griechischen Kirche. Texte und Untersuchungen, I, Die Texte (Leipzig, Berlin 1913) 113–39Google Scholar, esp. 138.3–8: Οἱ τὴν ἱερωτάτην αὐτοῦ ἐμφέρειαν μετὰ τῆς δεούσης πίστεως ἀναστηλοῦντές τε καὶ ἀσπαζόμενοι, ὡς αὐτὸν ἐκεῖνον τὸν στεργόμενον σύνοικον ἔχοντες ἀδιάσπαστον, ταῖς αὐτοῦ πρὸς θεὸν μεσιτείαις τῶν πολυτρόπων τοῦ ταραχώδους καὶ πολυθλίπτου βίου βρόχων τε καὶ σκανδάλων ἀριδήλως ἀπολυτροῦνται καὶ ζωὴν ἤρεμον καὶ ἀπήμαντον σταδιεύειν καταξιοῦνται.

10 Michael, Encomium of Nicholas 40, ed. Anrich, 133.19–22: Τοιοῦτος ἦν ὁ ἅγιος Νικόλαος, ἱεροπρεπὴς καὶ ἀγγελικὸς τῷ εἴδει καὶ ἁγιασμοῦ πλήρεις ἀποπέμπων τὰς εὐωδίας, ὡς καὶ ἐκ μόνης ὁράσεως αὐτοῦ τοὺς παρατυγχάνοντας αὐτῷ βελτιοῦν καὶ πρὸς τὸ κρεῖττον καὶ σωτηρίας ἐχόμενον ὠθεῖν καὶ μεταφέρειν.

11 On Methodios see Zielke, B., ‘Methodios I.’, in Lilie, R.-J. (ed.), Die Patriarchen der ikonoklastischen Zeit: Germanos I.-Methodios I. (717–847), Berliner Byzantinische Studien, 5 (Frankfurt am Main 1999) 183260.Google Scholar In the title of the text Methodios is referred to not as patriarch but as priest and abbot, see Methodios, Encomium of Nicholas tit., ed. Anrich, 140.1–2. For the relationship between the texts of Michael and of Methodios, see Krausmüller, D., ‘Patriarch Methodius, the first hagiographer of Theodore of Stoudios’, Symbolae Osloenses 81 (2007) 144–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Methodios, Encomium of Nicholas 2, ed. Anrich, 141.1–15: Ὁ τοῦ θεοῦ θεράπων Νικόλαος, τὸ σκεῦος τὸ μυριδόχον τοῦ παναγίου καὶ ζωοποιοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ ἄνθος καὶ <κλά>δος καὶ ῥίζα τῶν Μυρέων καὶ μύρισμα, ὁ κρίνου δίκην λελευκασμένος τῇ προεδρίᾳ καὶ ὡς ἴον ἐστολισμένος τῇ πολιτείᾳ, ὁ ῥόδον οἷα κατερεύθων τῇ ἀληθείᾳ καὶ κάλυξί πως ἐμπρασινίζων τῇ ἐγκρατείᾳ, ὁ πολιᾷ τὴν κάραν κατεστεμμένος καὶ εἰς ἀκμὴν τοὺς πόνους ἐνησκημένος, ὁ χαλασθεὶς τὸ σῶμα καὶ τονωθεὶς τὸ πνεῦμα, ὁ δροσισθεὶς ἁγνείᾳ καὶ προθυμίᾳ ζέσας, ὁ Μύρα ναίων καὶ τὸν ἐκκαλούμενον φθάνων, ὁ οὐρανίοις ἐνδιαιτώμενος χώροις καὶ ἐπιγείοις εὐκταῖα συλλαμβανόμενος δήμοις, ὁ τάφῳ ἐνσοριαζόμενος ὡριμώτατος σῖτος καὶ θείᾳ συναγελιζόμενος τὴν ψυχὴν παραστάσει, ὁ μιᾷ <πλα>κὶ σωματικῶς καλυπτόμενος λύχνος καὶ πολλῶν πινάκων ἐγχρώμως τὴν θείαν χάριν ἐξαναπτόμενος ἄνθραξ, τὸ πλείσταις καρδίαις ἐντεθαμμένον ἐμπύρευμα καὶ πλειοτέροις κατ’ ὄνομα μεταληφθὲν θρυαλλίδιον· ὅσοι γὰρ μετ’ ἐκεῖνον καλοῦνται Νικόλαος, πάντες δι’ αὐτὸν εἰς ἁγιασμοῦ μέθεξιν.

13 On the relationship between light and colour see James, L., ‘Color and meaning in Byzantium’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 11 (2003) 223233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar There James refutes the notion that what counted for Byzantines was not the colours but the drawing of the outlines.

14 Methodios, Life of Theophanes, ed. V. V. Latyšev. Methodii Patriarchae Constantinopolitani Vita S. Theophanis Confessoris, Zapiski rossijkoj akademii nauk, viii. ser. po istoriko-filologičeskomu otdeleniju, 13.4 (Petrograd 1918), chapter 8, p. 6.3–18.

15 Cf. e.g. Libanius, Progymnasmata, 12.30.15, ed. R. Foerster, Libanii opera, 8 (Leipzig 1915) 126.

16 Cf. e.g. Niketas Stethatos, Life of Symeon the New Theologian 124, ed. Hausherr, I., Un grand mystique byzantin. Vie de Syméon le Nouveau Théologien (949–1022) par Nicétas Stéthatos. Text grec inédit, Orientalia Christiana, 12 (Rome 1928) 176–78Google Scholar.

17 On black as a symbol of humility see e.g. John Chrysostom, Expositiones in Psalmos, Migne, PG 55, 280D.

18 There we have the phrase κρίνου δίκην, where the latter word in its more common meaning ‘justice’ suggests a wordplay based on the similarity between κρίνον and κρίνειν.

19 Methodios, Encomium of Agatha 3, ed. Mioni, E., ‘L'encomio di S. Agata di Metodio patriarcha di Costantinopoli,’ Analecta Bollandiana 68 (1950) 5893 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 78.6–7: Συνειδήσεως στύψει καὶ αἵματος ἀληθινοῦ καὶ θείου ἀμνοῦ, τὰ χείλη καὶ παρειὰς καὶ τὴν γλῶτταν ἐξερυθραίνουσα καὶ λαμπρύνουσα.

20 Methodios, Encomium of Agatha 4, ed. Mioni, 78.12–26: Ἀγάθη, ἡ ἀγαθὴ τῷ ὀνόματι καὶ τῷ πράγματι, Ἀγάθη, ἡ φαινομένη ἐν πράγματι ὄνομα καὶ δεικνυμένη ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι πρᾶγμα· Ἀγάθη, ἡ τὸ πρὸς αὐτὴν πάνυ τρέχειν ἐκ τοῦ ὀνόματος πάντας πείθουσα, καὶ τὸ δι’ αὐτῆς ἐπὶ τὸ κυρίως ἀγαθόν, ὅπερ ἐστὶν ὁ Θεός, ἄγαν θέειν μεθ’ ἑαυτῆς τοὺς ὅλους διδάσκουσα· Ἀγάθη, ἡ σημανθεῖσα ὃ γενέσθαι προώριστο, καὶ γενομένη ὃ προώριστο χάριτι· Ἀγάθη, τὸ τῶν γονέων προφήτευμα καὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸ προγνώρισμα· Ἀγάθη, τὸ τῶν ὀνομασάντων ἀψευδόρρημον πρόσωπον, καὶ τῶν καλούντων εὐεπάκουστον πρόσρημα.

21 Methodios emphasises the equivalence of word and image also in his Life of Euthymios of Sardes 35, ed. J. Gouillard, ‘La vie d'Euthyme de Sardes († 831), une oeuvre du patriarche Méthode’, Travaux et Mémoires 10 (1987) 1–101, esp. 73. There he claims that the Son of God is not only the Word but also the image of the Father. For an interpretation of this passage see Dagron, G., ‘L'ombre d'un doute: L'hagiographie en question, VIe–XIe siècle’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 46 (1992) 5968 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, esp. 67–8.

22 George Eleusios, Life of Theodore of Sykeon 2, ed. Festugière, A.-J., Vie de Théodore de Sykéôn, Subsidia hagiographica 48 (Brussels 1970)Google Scholar 2.15: τὸν ὄντως Θεόδωρον καὶ τῷ ὀνόματι καὶ τῷ πράγματι. Cf. also Methodios, Life of Theophanes the Confessor 16, ed. Latyšev, 11.11, 16–17: Γρηγορίῳ . . . ὡς γρηγορῶν τὸ ὄμμα τῆς διανοίας καὶ φερωνυμῶν τὴν κλῆσιν ταῖς εὐπραγίαις.

23 Canon XXI, Ode 9.1, ed. Nikas, C., Analecta Hymnographica Graeca, 9: Canones Maii, (Rome 1973) 217Google Scholar18.179–186: οὐκ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἡ κλῆσις ὀνοματογραφήθη ἀλλ’ ἄνωθεν θεοῦ σοι ἐκ χειρὸς τοῦ πρὸ νηδύος ὁρῶντός σε τὸ φιλέταιρον ἔχειν καὶ φρόνιμον, καὶ πράξει καὶ βουλῇ τῶν ἑταίρων ἡγήσω διὸ πρὸς τὸ μαρτύριον. Theodore of Stoudios, Letter 7 ed. G. Fatouros, Theodori Studitae Epistulae, I, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae. Series Berolinensis, 31 (Berlin 1992),26.83, calls Empress Irene θεονόμαστος. Methodios himself makes use of the same motif when he praises Irene in his Life of Theophanes 19, ed. Latyšev, 13.27–14.33.

24 See e.g. Sturz, F. W., Etymologicum Graecae linguae Gudianum (Leipzig 1818) 611 Google Scholar.1: ἀγαθὸν, παρὰ τὸ ἄγαν θέειν ἡμᾶς ἐπ’ αὐτό. For another such etymology, see Methodios, Life of Nicholas 23, ed. Anrich, 150.16–17: Κἀντεῦθεν ἐπαξίως τῆς διαθέσεως συγκληρωθείης τὴν νίκην ἐν μἑσῳ τῷ λαῷ σου.

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