What is the Great Schism?

The Great Schism was the split between the Eastern and Western Christian Churches. In 1054, relations between the Greek speaking Eastern of the Byzantine empire and the Latin speaking Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis. This led to the separation between the Eastern and Western churches and is referred to as the Great Schism of 1054.  The Christian Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political and geographic lines.  The split, led to the development of the modern Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Holy Roman Empire

Ironically, about the only unifying force in Europe over the next half a century was the Church itself. The Church, with its seat of Government resting firmly with the Pope, maintained a very Roman order while ever it could.  But the real powerhouse behind this new European order were the Germanic peoples. For almost a millennium ranging from roughly 963 AD to 1806 AD, the Roman head of State was also King of the Romans.  This began with Charlemagne, the King of the Franks, who conquered Italy and was given the title “Romanorum Imperator Augustus,” which meant, August Emperor of the Romans, partly because he had just taken over Italy and they wanted to stay on his good side, and partly because they considered whoever controlled western Europe should rightly inherit the title once held by the true Roman Emperor.This made Charlemagne a direct rival of the creaking Byzantium Empire, but within a decade it too would acknowledge him as Emperor .After a century of uneasiness, the German Otto I took control of Europe in 962AD, was  crowned Emperor by the Pope and became the first German Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.This continued until 1806 when the invading Napoleon forced the Emperor, Francis II, to abdicate and dissolve the Empire which meant freeing all inhabitants from its laws.So, midway between the fall of Rome and the fall of Constantinople came the biggest upheaval the Church had known until that point. It marked the split of the Western Church from the Eastern Church in Europe. It is a split, which has never been repaired.

Cause of the Great Schism

            The Great Schism (meaning split) took place in the year 1054 AD. The primary causes of the Schism were disputes over the Pope's claims of authority or supremacy over the whole church and over the insertion of the 'Filioque' clause in 1014 AD. The Eastern Orthodox Church stated that the 28th Canon of the Council of Chalcedon clearly proclaimed the equality of the Bishops of Rome and Constantinople, so there would not be one ruler over the whole church, but self-governing Patriarchs in Old Rome and New Rome, which was Constantinople.There is some confusion over the term "Great Schism". In many volumes of Roman Catholic history, the Great Schism refers to the schism of the west when the papacy moved to Avignon, and there were two claimants, at one point, three to the papal throne. Others use the Great Schism to refer to the Schism of the East, when the Orthodox Church broke away from the Catholic Church. The Great Schism, otherwise know as the Schism of the West was not strictly a schism at all but a conflict between the two parties within the Church each claiming to support the true pope. Three months after the election of Urban VI, in 1378, the fifteen electing cardinals declared that they had appointed him only as a temporary vicar and that in any case the election was invalid as made under fear of violence from the Roman mob. Urban retorted by naming twenty-eight new cardinals, and the others at once proceeded to elect Cardinal Robert of Geneva as Pope Clement VII, who went to reside at Avignon. The quarrel was in its origin not a theological or religious one, but was caused by the ambition and jealousy of French influence, which was supported to some extent for political reasons by Spain, Naples, Provence, and Scotland; England, Germany, Scandinavia, Wales, Ireland, Portugal, Flanders and Hungary stood by what they believe to be the true pope at Rome. The Church was torn from top to bottom by the schism, both sides in good faith, which lasted with its two lines of popes till the election of Martin V in 1417. It is now regarded as practically certain that the Urbanist popes were the true ones and their names are included in semi-official lists.

East vs. West

Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox Church is the second largest single Christian communion in the world with an estimated 300 million members worldwide. It is considered by its adherents to be the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ and his Apostles nearly 2000 years ago. The Church is composed of numerous self-governing bodies, each geographically and nationally distinct but all unified by one religion. Each self-governing body is shepherded by a Synod of independent bishops whose duty is, among other things, to preserve and teach the Apostolic and patristic traditions and related Church practices. All Orthodox bishops trace their lineage back to one of the twelve Apostles through the process of Apostolic Succession.

Eastern Orthodoxy traces its history back to the Hellenized eastern portion of the Roman Empire, especially Constantinople or New Rome, which is now Instanbul. It shares the first councils that represent a number of Christian churches, concerning the Trinity and the Nicene Creed, with nearly all other Christians. After the Western Roman Empire fell, East and West slowly grew more separate. Meanwhile, internal schisms and the advance of Islam reduced Eastern Orthodox territory, but the faith spread to the Slavs to the north. Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism split in 1054 over theological issues concerning Western additions to the creed as well as the issue of Roman primacy. Later in 1204 Constantinople was sacked by crusaders enlarging the rift between the two. Reunification was attempted during two councils but they were rejected by the Eastern Orthodox people, being considered "robber councils". After Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the Russian Orthodox Church became more powerful.

            East and West

           Western Church

          After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes spread out into western Europe. They settled in three major regions, such as Italy, France and Britannia. As a result the western Church became Germanic although the Latin language and literature remained the accepted tool of communication. The Germanizing of the Church marks a major turn in the Church’s history. For in a Church so made up of different elements, a process of fermentation was sure to set in. That fermentation in the centuries to come was going to produce great results.

Eastern Church

Between the fall of Rome and the turn of the first millennium, the Arabs nations had successfully seized Egypt, Palestine and Syria for Islam, but the remainder of the Eastern Church survived, albeit weakened, in the prevailing Greek language and culture. The Church therefore became known as the Greek Orthodox Church.  Despite its circumstances, the Eastern Church had produced some theological heavyweights. Clement of Alexandria, Athanasius and Origen would be the most notable examples, however they were few. 

But Who’s in Charge?

By the time of the first millennium, the Eastern and Western Churches of Europe were estranged. They eventually split in terms of fellowship the way they had split in administration years before. The issue was brought to a head when the Papacy flexed its muscles in Rome and Constantinople simply ignored.  In 910 AD William the Pious established a monastery at Cluny, France which was partly in response to and then facilitated a genuine European Christian revival. Despite its monastic setting, the followers of this new movement were genuine believers determined to purify the Church.  This stood in stark contrast to the Papacy which, by this time was already corrupt. The situation had become so bad, at one time there were no less than three Popes all claiming legitimacy. The tower became so tall it toppled over.

Differences Between Eastern and Western Christianity

Differences Between Eastern And Western Christianity

There isn't much of a difference between the Western Christianity and Eastern or Orthodox Christianity. Both churches come directly from the apostles and their successors, so their basic beliefs and practices are very closely related. However, certain minor doctrines appeared in the west, starting in the 5th century, which were never initially accepted by the apostolic Church. But as the centuries went by these dogmas eventually became so popular in the west that in the 9th century the bishops of Rome began to accept them as divine doctrines, which then led to great differences between the west and the east. Then in 1054, an emissary of the pope arbitrarily excommunicated the bishop of Constantinople, which involved all the other eastern bishops. Thus, the Catholic church initiated changes to the Faith and then broke away from the original apostolic Church and its beliefs. For the next 1000 years new and/or previously disputed doctrines became more and more established as divine truths in the Catholic church.    

Similarities between Eastern and Western Christianity

Similiarities between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Christianity

The Eastern and Western Christianity were both originally under one church for over 1,000 years, so there are many similarities among them. Common to these Christians are most of the points of the Nicene Creed, which is the belief in the Holy Trinity- The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and the future return of Christ and his everlasting kingdom. Other similarities are that baptisms are in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, Sunday is observed as the worship day of Christians, Liturgical worship, the seven major sacraments and other sacramental, the change of communion bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the male clergy consisting of bishops, priests, and deacons. 


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