According to the written sources, the Iconoclast controversy was all about the veneration of icons. It started in the late seventh century, after most iconodule provinces had been lost to Byzantine rule, and lasted until the turn of the millennium or so, when icon veneration became generally established in the remaining parts of the Byzantine Empire. However, as far as material evidence and actual images are concerned, the Iconoclast controversy centred on apse images and other, equally large and monumental representations, none of which were ever venerated. Prior to Iconoclasm, such images had not been customary at Constantinople, where the early Christian tradition had been largely aniconic and focused on the symbol of the cross. Thus, the introduction of monumental Christian imagery to Constantinople appears to have been a major aspect of the Iconoclast controversy. This paper asks why and finds that the images in question, whilst not for veneration and therefore not essential to the theological debate, stood out for imperial propaganda. They led to close visual integration of the emperor and the church that had previously been kept apart, because aniconic traditions used to limit imperial presence inside Constantinopolitan church buildings. It seems, then, that the Iconoclast controversy, although conducted in religious terms, was partly driven by a hidden agenda of imperial appropriation and power play.