SENINA T.A. (NUN KASSIA). “Not Flogged for Christ”: Representation of Anti-Iconoclastic Resistance in the Lives of St. Ioannikios the Great and St. Peter of Atroa


Tatyana A. Senina (nun Kassia)

Candidate of Sciences (Philosophy), Editor-in-Chief,

Saint Petersburg State University of Aerospace Instrumentation,

Bolshaya Morskaya St, 67, 190000 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation;

Associate Researcher,

Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Branch of the Federal Center of Theoretical and Applied Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences,

7-ya Krasnoarmeyskaya St, 25/14, 190005 Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Abstract. Introduction. The article examines the representation of anti-iconoclastic resistance in the Lives of St. Ioannikios the Great and St. Peter of Atroa and its relation to the debate between the Bithynian monks and the Studites on the issue of Christian life and opposition to heresy.

Methods. The methods employed in this article are source research, information analysis, comparative historical research. The sources on the subject include two Lives of St. Ioannikios, two versions of the Life of St. Peter of Atroa, the Live and Works of St. Theodore the Studite, and the Life of St. Eustratios of Agauron.

Analysis. During the second iconoclastic period divergent views on Christian life emerged among the Orthodox opposition, namely the Bithynian monks and the Studites. Iconophiles such as Theodore the Studite believed that during periods of prevalence of heresy it was the duty of every Orthodox believer to openly resist it and endure persecutions; no one should stay silent out of fear or enter into agreements with heretics, even out of a desire to preserve monasteries and churches. Many Bithynian monks, however, chose to live quietly in remote monasteries and hermitages avoiding open conflicts with Iconoclasts. For instance, Ioannikios the Great, an influential Bithynian hermit, did not suffer any persecution for the icons, maintained contacts with Iconoclasts and was indulgent towards priest Joseph, who split Orthodox opposition during the persecutions of 815–820. Furthermore, Eustratios of Agauron, Ioannikios’ confidante, would have been stained with the statement given to Iconoclasts, and hermit Theoktistos, an acquaintance of Ioannikios, was accused of heresies and caused embarrassment among believers. All these things aroused doubts among Iconophiles concerning Ioannikios’ Orthodoxy. Theodore the Studite criticized Ioannikios and others like him for avoiding persecution and blamed Eustratios and Theoktistos; this position caused antipathy to the Bithynian monks, including Peter, the author of the first Life of Ioannikios. Hagiographers glorified Ioannikios first of all as a great ascetic, prophet and miracle-worker, but they also tried to describe him as an active participant in the resistance to heresy and to remove all possible doubts about his faith; they told about his antiiconoclastic prophecies and denunciations of heretics, attributed a lengthy confession of faith to him, and depicted him as an adviser to Patriarch-Confessor Methodios. Monk Sabas, the author of the second Life of Ioannikios, removed Peters attacks on the Studites from the narrative. He also wrote two Lives of Peter of Atroa which presented a more nuanced model of Orthodox behaviour. He depicted the saint as a great ascetic and miracle-worker who, like Ioannikios, stayed away from active resistance to heresy, but did on one occasion confront the Iconoclasts directly and suffered beating; moreover, Peter’s miraculous healings were only effective for the Iconophiles, and, like Theodore the Studite, he urged his monks not to communicate with heretics at all. Peter of Atroa had friendly relations with Theodore, consulted with him and called for the Studite’s help when he had been slandered; at the same time Peter is depicted as a close and undisputed friend of Ioannikios.

Results. The analysis of sources shows that monk Peter, the first biographer of Ioannikios, sought to present his life as an alternative model of Orthodox behaviour during persecutions, a model that is equal to the open confession of the Studites and their followers who had been flogged for worshipping the icons. In contrast, hagiographer Sabas tried to reconcile the positions of Bithynian monks and the Studites, making Peter of Atroa an intermediary figure standing between the two groups.

Key words: Byzantine hagiography, Byzantine history, Byzantine iconoclasm, Orthodoxy, Ioannikios the Great, Peter of Atroa, Eustratios of Agauron, Theodore the Studite.

Citation. Senina T.A. (Nun Kassia). “Not Flogged for Christ”: Representation of Anti-Iconoclastic Resistance in the Lives of St. Ioannikios the Great and St. Peter of Atroa. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2020, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 231-242. (in Russian). DOI:

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“Not Flogged for Christ”: Representation of Anti-Iconoclastic Resistance in the Lives of St. Ioannikios the Great and St. Peter of Atroa by Senina T.A. (Nun Kassia). is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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