At this point, Paul IV, the iconoclast Patriarch of Constaninople, repented of his heresy and stepped down as bishop. Before retiring to a monastery, he suggested that Tarasios be his successor (it should be pointed out, Tarasios was a layman at this point). When approached with the possibility, the consul at first refused. Tarasios finally agreed on the condition that he call for an Ecumenical Council to deal with iconoclasm.
In A.D. 787, over three hundred bishops gathered in Constantinople to declare:
Icons are necessary and essential because they protect the full and proper doctrine of the Incarnation. While God cannot be represented in His eternal nature ("...no man has seen God", John 1:18), He can be depicted simply because He "became human and took flesh." Of Him who took a material body, material images can be made. In so taking a material body, God proved that matter can be redeemed. He deified matter, making it spirit-bearing, and so if flesh can be a medium for the Spirit, so can wood or paint, although in a different fashion.St. Tarasios would serve as patriarch for twenty-two years. Although iconoclasm would re-emerge (only to be stamped out again in the ninth century) the Second Council of Constantinople would go on to be ratified as the Seventh Ecumenical (meaning universal) Council.
In regards to RPGs, I see three possible applications of this story to a campaign:
1) For those interested in having a political flavor to their campaigns, doing something along the lines of an Ecumenical Council would be a very intriguing background. There would be four distinct stages:
- The controversy (in which the political/religious sides are drawn).
- The gathering (which could be a source of adventures as intrigues may attempt to slow down or prevent certain key players from showing up).
- The council itself (which could last for months as each side tries to prevail).
- The implementation (which may fail and necessitate another council).
PCs could very easily attach themselves to a patron who could occasionally send them on mission while all of this background noise is going on. Who knows? If the PCs become influential enough, they themselves could be the movers and shakers behind a council.
2) When it comes to religious controversy, the best question to ask is: Who is God? When one looks at the history of the Ecumenical Councils, this question is at the center of every single one of them. Although the Seventh Ecumenical Council is ostensibly about icons, note how the council answers the question above. It all boils down to the Incarnation of Christ — an answer to the question Who is God?
3) Finally, I want to highlight again the fact that when he was elected to be Patriarch, St. Tarasios was a layman. One of the intriguing consequences of level titles from the early editions of the game is that there is an underlying assumption that rulers of various stripes (especially in the religious realm) are all high-level and name-level characters. According to this assumption, the D&D equivalent of the Seventh Ecumenical Council would have gathered over three hundred 9+ level clerics into the same place. Such a gathering would likely bring cries for mass healings and even the raising of the dead as people from around the world would gather in hopes of being healed. Rather than bring calm by settling disputes, such a gathering would likely bring chaos.
The life of St. Tarasios demonstrates the very real possibility that not only can bishops and other high ranking religious figures be low-level, but they might not even be clerics at all. For those who wish to minimize the affect of divine magic upon a campaign world or have a distinction between the cleric class and the religious leadership, this is a clear historical rationale to do so.