That was just an example. The council says, "the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God..." and put more generally, "as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes..." which is, of course, the point.
I have never seen any support for the idea that "other fit materials" included the act of "carving" an image, and of course an action
is not the same thing as a "fit material." A "fit material" concerns what you make a thing out of, while not dealing with the method used to produce the thing in question. That said, everything I have read on the subject of iconography indicates that graven images (i.e., statues) were rejected by the Seventh Ecumenical Council. After all, the only explicit mention of statues (eidōlon) by the Council contrasts them with icons (eikons), referring to the former as "diabolical," while referencing the latter as "holy." Moreover, St. Germanus is referenced in several scholarly texts as calling the use of statues (not icons of course, because he was an Iconodule) a heathenish practice condemned by Holy Tradition. So even if I were to concede that there were statues in some Byzantine Churches at different times in history, it does not necessarily establish the idea that statues were accorded veneration in the same way Nicaea II commanded the honoring of two-dimensional icons.
That the one of the first holy images created was a statue, that statuary was found in and around Hagia Sophia, that they were present in ancient Orthodox France and Scotland, etc., is at least evidence that three-dimensional devotional objects were certainly not unheard of and are perfectly consistent with being "fit material" and "artistic representation."
I have never heard of this before, that is, I have never heard of statues being described as "holy objects" worthy of veneration according to the Byzantine tradition. What is the scholarly source that asserts this notion?
Now that there may have been statues at times in Churches in the East prior to the Iconoclastic period is asserted in many texts, but those texts also state that there is no longer extant evidence to prove the assertion. Nevertheless, I admit that it does not necessarily follow from the fact that there is no longer existing evidence of statues in Byzantine Churches from the pre-Iconoclastic period that there were no statues in those Churches, but it does at least add support to the idea that the canons and decrees of Nicaea II were held by the Byzantines themselves to involve condemnation of sculpture in the round. This idea is also supported by the scholarly articles that I have read on the topic. For example this paragraph from a book on the Iconoclastic period states: "Pope Gregory the Great coined the main argument for Christian pictorial art by calling the biblical scenes on mosaics and frescoes in the Churches the 'books of the illiterate' or biblia pauperum
. In Eastern Christianity those who wanted to venerate icons — the iconodouloi
— won the battle after much struggle from those who were opposed to it — the iconoclasts — at the Second Council of Nicea in 787 C.E. This council accepted a rather materialist explanation of Exodus 20:4, carved idols and statues of stone, wood, metal or clay were forbidden as from old, two-dimensional representations like mosaics, frescoes and icons on wood were allowed and even propagated for catechetical instruction and devotional praxis, on the understanding that they were not adored (latreia
), but only venerated (proskunesis
)" [W. J. van Asselt, Paul Van Geest, Daniela Müller, and Theo Salemink, editors, Iconoclasm and Iconoclash: Struggle for Religious Identity
, pages 52-53].
Three-dimensional worship objects were found in the Temple as well, as St. John Damascene, in his Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images, points out: "But Solomon receiving the gift of wisdom, imaging heaven, made the cherubim, and the likenesses of bulls and lions, which the law forbade." He goes on to mention statues as being among the holy images he's trying to defend: "Now if we make a statue of Christ, and likenesses of the saints, does not their being filled with the Holy Ghost increase the piety of our homage? As then the people and the temple were purified in blood and in burnt offerings, so now the Blood of Christ giving testimony under Pontius Pilate, and being Himself the first fruits of the martyrs, the Church is built up on the blood of the saints. Then the signs and forms of lifeless animals figured forth the human tabernacle, the martyrs themselves whom they were preparing for God's abode."
St. John Damascene does speak about graven images in the Old Testament, but he nowhere encourages the manufacture of them in the Church, nor does he assert that the Church's tradition supports veneration of statues (i.e., sculpture in the round). That statues basically where non existent in the Byzantine Church after the Seventh Ecumenical Council seems again to support the idea that the Council Fathers were held to have condemned the use of graven images (eidōlon
), while they simultaneously supported the manufacture and veneration of two-dimensional icons (eikons
). A notion that is supported by Gertrud Schiller in her scholarly work on the topic, for as she said in connection with the production of sculptured crucifixes, "No fully three-dimensional work of art of the Eastern Church has survived from the period following the Iconoclastic Controversy, for sculpture in the round had been condemned at the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 as sensual
" [Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art: The Passion of Christ
," page 140].
Postscript: I looked up the quotation you provided from St. John Damascene in both the Greek and Latin versions and neither of them use the word "statue" when speaking of the icons of our Lord and the saints. In fact, the Latin text specifically states that Christians "paint" (pingimus
) the likenesses of Christ and the saints.