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The Great Schism. The Great Schism is the name given to the split that formed in the Church in the eleventh century A.D. The separation of this led to the "Roman Catholic" Church, known as the Western Church, and the "Greek Catholic" or "Greek Orthodox Church," known as the Eastern Church.

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The Great Schism is the name given to the split that formed in the Church in the eleventh century A.D. The separation of this led to the "Roman Catholic" Church, known as the Western Church, and the "Greek Catholic" or "Greek Orthodox Church," known as the Eastern Church.

“The schism between the two Churches in 1054 had been on points of theology, ritual and church discipline and had gone unnoticed by the mass of laymen. However, it did give rise to a new literary form, the anti – Latin treatise.”

‘The Byzantine Empire’ – Robert Downing


There is no single event that caused the breakdown between the Catholic and Orthodox Church. But many factors that contributed to it.

  • After 451 AD there were 5 patriarchs in the Byzantine Empire. The western church rejected this council in 692, which then later led to the Eastern Church rejecting many Latin customs.
  • Disunity in the Roman Empire further contributed to disunity in the Church.
  • In the early 4th century Emperor Diocletian divided the management of the eastern and western portions of the Empire. Theodosius the Great, became the last Emperor to rule over a united Roman Empire.
  • After his death, the division into western and eastern halves, each under its own Emperor, became permanent.

Starting a fight

-The Norman invasion caused problems between the east and west.

-The Byzantine churches spoke Greek and had different customs than the Roman church.

-The Normans made the churches they conquered use Latin rituals.

-To get even, the Emperor in the east made the Latin churches over there use Eastern customs.

  • There was already tension between the Byzantine and old Roman Empire.
  • The Eastern priests could marry before they became priests. Rome didn’t agree.
  • The Roman church used unleavened bread in their mass. The east thought this was too “Jewish”.
  • The Eastern church had Greek mass. The Roman Church used Latin.
major issues
Major Issues
  • The Eastern churches did not like how the Pope of Rome claimed himself to be the head of the Christian church.
  • The Eastern church believed the patriarch (bishop) of Constantinople should be the head if anyone.
  • In 1054, the final straw came when the Western Church added the filioque to their creed which included the “Holy Spirit” in the Christian Trinity.

‍The dominant language of the West was Latin, whilst the most spoken language in the East was Greek. When the language unity began to change soon cultural unity began to fall as well.

  • ‍The main causes of the Schism were disputes over conflicting claims of jurisdiction and over papal authority. Pope Leo IX claimed he held authority over the four Eastern patriarchs.
  • ‍Other problems:
  • In the West, the decline of imperial authority left the Church a relatively independent political authority. The power of the Papacy significantly grew. Now the only two rival powerful centres of clerical authority that remained were Constantinople and Rome.
  • The Western Church had many different views to the Eastern Church. ‍Therefore by the time of the First Crusade there were serious divisions between the two Churches but they were not necessarily permanent yet.
creation of a new church
Creation of a New Church
  • The result of the 1054 Schism is the division between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church.
  • The word Orthodox means dedication to the traditional faith.
  • The Eastern church believed that they followed traditional Christian beliefs and unlike the Roman church with they viewed as greedy and too close to Judaism.

“Since 1054 not even the Christian Church had been at one. On the surface, the schism was the result of firstly an interpolation of the creed by the West which the Eastern Church was unable to accept and secondly of the liturgical problem of whether leavened or unleavened bread should be used at communion. But just as important as the growing differences in theology and ritual were matters of politics – Church politics like the question of the primacy of Rome and secular politics like the rivalry between the two ‘Roman’ Empires of East and West. The Cultural differences between the two sides were too great for the unity of Christendom to survive for too long.”

‘The Crusades’ – Hans Eberhard Mayer