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.
There is no single event that caused the breakdown between the Catholic and Orthodox Church. But many factors that contributed to it.
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After 451 AD there were 5 patriarchs in the Byzantine Empire: the Patriarch of Rome, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the Patriarch of Alexandria, the Patriarch of Antioch and the Patriarch of Jerusalem. 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, who established Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire, died in 395, he 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.



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The dominant language of the West was Latin, whilst the most spoken language in the East was Greek. Soon after the fall of the Western Empire, the number of people who spoke both Latin and Greek began fall, and communication between East and West grew much more difficult. When linguistic unity had gone soon cultural unity began to disappear as well.

The main causes of the Schism were disputes over conflicting claims of jurisdiction and over papal authorityàPope 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. For example, celibacy among Western priests (both monastic and parish) was enforced, as opposed to the Eastern discipline where parish priests were allowed to be married men

Therefore by the time of the First Crusade there were serious divisions between the two Churches but they were not necessarily permanent yet.