Nicephorus I, Patriarch of Constantinople, St.
NICEPHORUS I, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ST.
Patriarchate April 12, 806 to March 13, 815; Byzantine theologian and historian; b. Constantinople, c. 758; d. in exile near Chalcedon, June 2, 828. Nicephorus stood in the forefront of the battle against iconoclasm. His father, Theodore, of noble lineage and an imperial secretary to Emperor constantine v, had twice suffered torture, degradation, and banishment in defense of the veneration of images and had died in exile. Under tarasius, his predecessor in the patriarchate, Nicephorus became, like his father, an imperial secretary (770–80) and as such took part in the Council of nicaea ii (787). He later retired to a monastery, although he did not become a monk, possibly because he had fallen out of favor at court or wanted leisure for study. He was chosen head of the largest poor-house in Constantinople, perhaps by Emperor Nicephorus I at his accession (802). Four years later, he was made patriarch against the advice of theodore the studite, but he soon joined forces with Theodore against Emperor Leo V in the controversy over iconoclasm. In 815 he was deposed and exiled near Chalcedon. He used his time to produce anti-iconoclastic treatises (see byzantine church, history of).
Two of his principal dogmatic works about the iconoclastic horos and florilegium of patristic texts of 815 are still unedited. His Apologeticus major and minor and three Antirhetikoi or Diatribes (813–820) are important because they preserve excerpts of Emperor Constantine's writings favoring iconoclasm. Nicephorus's works are important for the critique of patristic sources that he introduces into his theological arguments. He also wrote a history, the Breviarium or Historia syntomos, covering the years 602–769. The authenticity of several canonical and poetical works attached to his name is disputed.
After his death his bones were translated to Constantinople by Methodius (847) and interred in the church of the Holy Apostles on March 13.
Feast: March 13 (Latin and Greek Churches); June 2 (Greek Church).
Bibliography: Patrologia Graeca. ed j. p. migne (Paris 1857–66) 100:201–850. c. g. de boor, ed., Nicephorus … opuscula historica (New York 1975). l. orosz, ed., The London Manuscript of Nicephoros "Breviarium" (Budapest 1948). r. p. blake, Byzantion 14 (1939) 1–15. v. grumel, Revue des études byzantines 17 (1959) 127–135. j. b. pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense (Paris 1852–58) 1:371–503; 4:292–380. h. g. beck, Kirche und theologische Literatur im byzantinischen Reich (Munich 1959) 490–491. r. janin, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 1903—50) 11.1:452–455. g. moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, 2 v. (2d ed. Berlin 1958) v.1. p. j. alexander, The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople (Oxford 1958, repr. New York 1980). r. m. mainka, "Zum Brief des Patriarchen Nikephoros I von Konstantinopel an Papst Leo III," Ostkirchliche Studien 13 (1964) 273–281. p. o'connell, The Ecclesiology of St. Nicephorus I (Rome 1972). j. travis, In Defense of the Faith: The Theology of Patriarch Nikephoros of Constantinople (Brookline, Mass. 1984). k. parry, Depicting the Word: Byzantine Iconophile Thought of the Eighth and Ninth Centuries (Leiden 1996).
[m. j. higgins]