Sainted Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, came of illustrious lineage. He was born and raised in Constantinople, where he received a fine education. He was rapidly promoted at the court of the emperor Constantine VI Porphyrigenitos (780-797) and Constantine’s mother, the holy Empress Irene (797-802), and the saint reached the rank of senator.
During these times the Church was agitated by the turmoil of the Iconoclast disturbances. The holy Patriarch Paul (780-784), although not sympathetic in soul with Iconoclasm, through his weakness of character was not able to decisively contend with the heresy and he therefore withdrew to a monastery, where he took the schema. When the holy Empress Irene together with her son the emperor came to him, Saint Paul declared to them that the most worthy successor to him would be Saint Tarasius (who at this time was still a layman).
Tarasius for a long time refused, not considering himself worthy of so very high a dignity, but he then gave in to the common accord, on the condition that an Ecumenical Council be convened for rendering judgement on the Iconoclast heresy. Proceeding in a short while through all the degrees of clerical dignity, Saint Tarasius was elevated to the Patriarchal throne in the year 784. In the year 787 in the city of Nicea, with holy Patriarch Tarasias presiding, the Seventh Ecumenical Council was convened, at which were present 367 bishops. The affirmation of holy icons was confirmed at the Council. The bishops who repented of Iconoclasm were again received by the Church.
Saint Tarasius wisely governed the Church for 22 years. He led a strict ascetic life. He used up all his money on God-pleasing ends, feeding and giving comfort to the old, to the impoverished, to widows and orphans, and on Holy Pascha he set out for them the meal at which he himself served. The holy Patriarch fearlessly denounced the emperor Constantine Porphyrigenitos when that one slandered his spouse, the empress Maria – the grand-daughter of Righteous Philaretos the Merciful (+792), so that he could be rid of Maria to a monastery, thus freeing him to marry his own kinswoman. Saint Tarasius resolutely refused to dissolve the marriage of the emperor, for which the saint fell into disgrace. Soon, however, Constantine was deposed by his own mother, the Empress Irene.
Saint Tarasius died in the year 806. Before his death, devils reminded him of his life from the time of his youth, and they tried to get the saint to admit to sins that he had not even committed. “I am innocent in that of which ye speak,” replied the saint, “and ye do falsely slander me, yet mustneeds it be ye have no power over me.” Mourned by the Church, the saint was buried in a monastery built by him on the Bosphorus. From his grave was worked many a miracle.