The Iconoclastic Controversy occurred between the mid-8th century and the mid-9th century in the Byzantine Christian Church over the question of whether or not Christians should continue to revere icons. Most unsophsticated believers tended to revere icons (thus they were called iconodules), but many political and religious leaders wanted to have them smashed because they believed that venerating icons was a form of idolatry (they were called iconoclasts).
The controversy was inaugurated in 726 when Byzantine Emporer Leo III commanded that the iamge of Christ be taken down from the Chalke gate of the imperial palace. After much debate and controversy, the veneration of icons was official restored and sanctioned during a council meeting in Nicaea in 787. However, conditions were put on their use - they had to be painted flat with no features which stood out. Down through today icons play an important role in the Eastern Orthodox Church, serving as "windows" to heaven.
One result of this conflict was that theologians developed the distinction between veneration and reverence (proskynesis) which was paid to icons and other religious figures, and adoration (latreia), which was owed to God alone. Another was brining the term iconoclasm into currency, now used for any attempt to attack popular figures or icons (outside of the strict religious sense of the word).
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