John VII Grammaticus, Patriarch of Constantinople

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A leading iconoclastic theologian during the second phase of iconoclasm (815843) ; b. Constantinople, c. end of 8th century; d. near Constantinople, between 843 and 863. He was of Armenian origin, and his literary talents earned him the name of Grammaticus, although he was often called by other epithets based on his supposed knowledge of magic. He was ordained about 806. His first open attack on the veneration of images came in 813 when the iconoclast Byzantine Emperor leo v attained the throne. At his request John compiled a handbook of Biblical and patristic texts against the cult of images; it was used in the iconoclastic council of 815, but is no longer extant. Too young to be named patriarch, he was appointed to the palace clergy and took charge of the education of the future Byzantine Emperor theophilus. Upon the accession of his pupil (829), John was promoted to syncellus and was also sent on embassies to Bagdad. On Jan. 21, 837, he was named patriarch and he immediately began a violent persecution of the orthodox, especially among the bishops and well-known monks. The death of Theophilus in January of 842 signaled the end of iconoclasm, and the Empress theodora (2) had John deposed. Excommunicated in March 843, he died in prison sometime before 863.

Bibliography: p. j. alexander, The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople (Oxford 1958). v. laurent, Catholicisme 6: 513515, with complete bibliography.

[g. t. dennis]

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John VII Grammaticus, Patriarch of Constantinople

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