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St Theodora the Iconodule

6 March 2009

This month’s synchroblog has been planned to coincide with International Women’s Day, which is on 8 March. There is interesting information on the history of International Women’s day here, which says, inter alia:

International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies….

On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen’s Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.

The suggestion was that we should post something about Christian women, or women of the Bible in a synchroblog to mark the day, and I discovered that Bloggers Unite is also planning to mark the day.

This year International Women’s Day falls on a Sunday, which happens to be the First Sunday of Lent, which in the Orthodox Church is celebrated as the Sunday of Orthodoxy, and commemorates the victory of the iconodules over the iconoclasts. So one of the women who surely deserves mention on this day is St Theodora the Iconodule, though she has her own feast day on 11 February. The web site of the Orthodox Church of America has a brief hagiography:

Holy Empress Theodora was the wife of the Byzantine emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast (829-842), but she did not share in the heresy of her husband and secretly venerated the holy icons. After the death of her husband, St Theodora governed the realm because her son Michael was a minor.

She convened a Council, at which the Iconoclasts were anathematized, and the veneration of icons was reinstated. St Theodora established the annual celebration of this event, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on the first Sunday of the Great Fast. St Theodora did much for Holy Church and fostered a firm devotion to Orthodoxy in her son Michael.

When Michael came of age, she was retired from governing and spent eight years in the monastery of St Euphrosyne, where she devoted herself to ascetic struggles, and reading books that nourished her soul.

St Theodora the Iconodule

St Theodora the Iconodule

While her retirement to a monastery seems to have been forced rather than voluntary, and due to a palace intrigue, St Theodora’s influence on the Orthodox Church has been immense. She upheld the teaching of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Second Council of Nicaea, AD 787), and the celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Lent, which she started, has been continued ever since.

While many males, not only at court, but in the monasteries, fell into iconoclasm, it was women who persisted in venerating the holy ikons.



This post is part of a , in which several others will be posting articles on Christian women in history or women of the Bible to mark International Women’s Day. Links to the other posts in the synchroblog.

You will also find links to more blogs dealing with this theme over at Bloggers Unite. There is also more on the significance of the Sunday of Orthodoxy here.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 8 March 2009 5:55 pm

    Cool to focus on a woman from Church history!

  2. 8 March 2009 9:44 pm

    Steve – Thank you for being respectful and honoring to women.

  3. 8 March 2009 11:04 pm

    Thank you. I had not hear of St. Theodora. Thank you for introducing me to her.

  4. 9 March 2009 11:01 am

    Saint Theodora’s tomb is on Corfu in the church of St Spiridon (I think it’s the same Saint Theodora). Good for her; I think icons are a good thing.

  5. 12 March 2009 7:05 am

    steve, i appreciate this different perspective and reminder of the powerful women from church history who influenced us in ways that are known & unknown. peace, kathy

  6. 12 March 2009 5:19 pm

    Hi Steve–
    This was fascinating. Women rock even when they don’t rule!

    I love your perspective on all issues–I know you do ‘go on’ a bit sometimes, but it’s always worth the ride!

    Would appreciate you adding my late entry to your list for the synchroblog, if possible. Post is named ‘The Whole Megillah, revisited’

    Thanks–and thanks for all the work you do for the synchroblog.


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