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September 16, 2020

Iconoclasm and Saint Euphemia According to Theophanes the Chronicler

In the early 9th century historical text known as the Chronicle of Theophanes, under the year 766 A.D., the following is recorded about the iconoclast Emperor Constantine V Copronymos (741-775), who together with his iconoclastic policies also forbade the veneration of relics and prayers to the saints, and this is most notably reflected in his mistreatment of the relics of Saint Euphemia, which miraculously survived an attempt at their destruction and today rest at the Phanar in the Church of Saint George at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople:

He who was ruling the Christians by the ineffable decision of God (just as the mad Ahab had ruled Israel) did far worse to the orthodox bishops, monks, laymen, rulers, and subjects under his control than did the madness of the Arabs. He totally renounced the intercession of the holy Virgin and Mother of God and that of all the saints, on the grounds that it gave no aid and was unscriptural. But all aid for us springs from this intercession.

If Constantine heard of some notable person making an offering for the health of his body or soul and, as was usual, being honored by the pious, that person was threatened with death, confiscation, exile, or torture on the grounds of impiety. Relics containing a great deal of God's grace were a treasure for their owners, but he took them away so they were never seen again.

The unholy Emperor even did this to the precious remains of the martyr Euphemia, who was acclaimed by everyone. He threw them into the depths of the sea, coffin and all, as he could not bear to see Euphemia showering countless gifts on all the people and reflecting on his stupid opposition to the intercession of the saints. But, according to testimony, God preserved from him the bones of the virtuous; He kept them safe and revealed them once more at the island of Lemnos. In a dream He commanded that what lay there should be lifted up and preserved. During the reign of the pious rulers Constantine [VI] and Irene (in the fourth indiction) the relics returned to their sacred precinct with suitable honors. Because he was an enemy of the Church, Constantine [V] had appropriated this sacred precinct and turned it into an armory and a latrine. But Constantine [VI] and Irene cleansed and resanctified it to condemn his atheism and demonstrate their piety. We observed this amazing and noteworthy marvel in the company of our most pious rulers and the holy Patriarch Tarasios twenty-two years after the death of the lawbreaker. We were taken along, although unworthy of such a great privilege.