At this time there were a group of heretics called the Iconoclasts. The Iconoclasts fought against the use of holy images. The emperor was one of these heretics and he fought mostly against the monks. The emperor sent a patrician to try and persuade Stephen to sign a decree passed by the Iconoclast bishops at a council of 754. St. Stephen refused. He was arrested but having nothing against him the emperor had to let Stephen go.
The emperor who wanted to find something against Stephen sent one of his courtiers to get a habit from St. Stephen. (It was forbidden by law to invest a novice.) The saint knew that the man was a courtier, because the man's head was shaved, (The emperor had forbid anyone in the court to have a beard.) The courtier kept on saying he needed the habit for safety from persecutors and also he needed it for his eternal salvation. Finally Stephen gave in, so then he was arrested. He was taken before the emperor. He asked him whether he believed that men trampled on Christ by trampling on His image. "God forbid", said Stephen; but then, taking a piece of money, he asked what treatment was deserved by one who should stamp upon that image of the emperor. The suggestion was received with indignation. "It is then", asked St. Stephen, "so great a crime to insult the image of the king of the earth, and none to cast into the fire that of the King of Heaven?"
St. Stephen was ordered to be hanged but the emperor decided that the saint should be scourged in the cell. St. Stephen almost died. He was taken out of his cell and was finished off by people throwing stones at him. He died in the year 764.
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