Nicephorus I of Constantinople

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Our father among the saints Nicephorus I of Constantinople, also Nikephoros and the Confessor, was the Patriarch of Constantinople from 806 to 815 during the era of iconoclastic disputes during the early ninth century. His feast day is celebrated on June 2, and the translation of his relics from Prokonnis to Constantinople on March 13.


St. Nicephorus was born about 758. He was well educated. His father, Theodore, was secretary to the emperor Constantine V Copronymus, a iconoclast. Theodore, however, was an iconodule and came into conflict with the emperor who removed him from his position and then had him scourged and tortured before banishing him. Thus, Nicephorus grew up with his father's example of defending the veneration of the images before his eyes.

When Constantine VI and Irene came to the imperial throne and restored the use of sacred images in churches, Nicephorus came to their notice and soon obtained their favor and was placed in his father's former position. He distinguished himself greatly by his zeal against the Iconoclasts. He also was secretary to the Seventh Ecumenical Council. After the death of Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople on February 25, 806, no one was found more worthy to succeed him than Nicephorus. To give an authentic testimony of his faith, during the time of his consecration he held in his hand a treatise he had written in defense of holy images, and after the ceremony was concluded, he laid it in back the altar as a pledge that he would always maintain the tradition of the Church.

Over the following years, emperor Constantine was blinded, Irene banished, emperor Nicephorus I, her successor, had fallen before the Bulgarians, emperor Michael I was driven from the throne, and, in 813, Leo the Armenian became emperor. He was an iconoclast. Leo began a campaign to suppress the veneration of the icons and to persuade Patr. Nicephorus to approve their removal. But, the patriarch did not bend. Forseeing the storm gathering, Patr. Nicephorus and several bishops and abbots spent most of their time in prayer.

Soon, emperor Leo, with certain Iconoclastic bishops, sent for Patr. Nicephorus and his fellow-bishops. They obeyed the summons to the palace, but entreated the emperor to leave the government of the Church to her pastors. In a rage Leo drove them from his presence. Later, the iconoclast bishops assembled in the imperial palace and directed Patr. Nicephorus to appear before them, to which he responded, "Who gave you this authority?" Saying he would obey only to one of the other patriarchs.

The iconoclastic bishops proceeded to pronounce against him a sentence of deposition and the holy pastor, after several attempts had been made secretly to take away his life, was sent by the emperor into banishment. Michael the Stammerer, who succeeded Leo the Armenian, in 820, also favored the iconoclastic faction, and continued to harass S. Nicephorus, who died in exile, on June 2, 828, in the monastery of St. Theodore. By order of the empress Theodora, his body was brought to Constantinople with great pomp, on March 13, 846.

His principal works are three writings against iconoclasm.


Troparion (Tone 3) [1]

Your inspired confession gained victory for the Church,
O holy Hierarch Nicephorus.
You suffered unjust exile through reverence for the icon of God the Word.
O righteous Father,
Pray to Christ our God to grant us his great mercy!

Troparion (Tone 4) [2]

Christ the Truth of All has shown you to your flock as a model of faith,
An image of meekness and a teacher of abstinence.
You attained heaven through humility
And acquire riches through poverty.
O holy Father Nicephorus,
Intercede with Christ to save our souls.

Kontakion (Tone 4) [3]

You received from God the victor's crown;
Now save those who faithfully honor you
As a hierarch and teacher of Christ!

Succession box:
Nicephorus I of Constantinople
Preceded by:
Patriarch of Constantinople
806 – 815
Succeeded by:
Theodotus I
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