By schism (separation, split), we understand the situation of canonical separation and interruption of liturgical communion between two Churches. Heresy means the erroneous teaching or particular conceptions on dogmatic matters of persons who have organized their specific creed, distinct from the Church they have left. Such clarification of notions is necessary because they will often be used in disputes between the See of Constantinople and Rome.
The Great Schism of 1054 was the event that split Christianity into two main branches, Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox). It happened in 1054, despite longstanding tensions between Latin and Greek Christianity. The main reasons are disputes over papal authority and the Filioque clause contained in the Nicene Creed. However, there are also minor reasons, such as disputes over jurisdiction over particular territories or other ceremonial practices.
Seen from the East, the schism manifested as a break in official relations between the two leading autocephalous Churches, Roman and Constantinopolitan. The break-in in formal relations was preceded by a long series of causes whose effect was a mutual alienation and growing hostility between the Christian East and West represented by their ecclesiastical heads, the Patriarchs of Constantinople, and the Popes.
How did the Great Schism begin?
Beginning in the 4th century, the Church granted special status to bishops (later called patriarchs): Bishop of Rome, Bishop of Alexandria, and Bishop of Antioch. They were later joined by the bishops of Constantinople and Jerusalem and confirmed at the Fourth Council of Chalcedon in 451. These five primate bishops make up the quintet.
The split and the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity began de facto with the division of the Roman Empire. The administrative division of the empire, formed by Diocletian in the 3rd century AD, was completed by Theodosius in 395 AD, resulting in two distinct political and cultural entities, the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. The West was eminently Latin, preserving ancient Roman traditions. At the same time, the East was Hellenised, with the overwhelming influence of Greek language and culture, to which were added other Eastern elements or traditions.
Rome and Alexandria viewed the canon skeptically, and both churches feared a power game in Constantinople. While Constantinople justified its claim to a higher office by arguing that it was “the new Rome,” the bishop of Rome believed that he should take precedence as the successor to the first apostle, Peter.
How did the Great Schism weaken the church?
On 16 July 1054, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, was excommunicated by the papal legate, Cardinal Humbert. In turn, the patriarch excommunicated Humbert and all papal delegates, which means this gesture was excluded from the bosom of the Christian community, including the pope of Rome. In effect, the most influential leaders of Christendom excommunicated each other.
Christianity and the church at the moment of the Great Schism. They also suffered a significant fracture with the total cultural and political division of the Empire. Five patriarchs spiritually controlled different regions. These were the patriarchs of Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Constantinople. The most influential were those of Rome and Constantinople, the capitals of the two divisions of the Empire.
Of these, the Patriarch of Rome held the honorary title of ‘first among equals, without legal authority, however, over the other patriarchs. Eventually, Christianity naturally divided and grouped around the two great centers of Rome and Constantinople. Rome controlled the Latin West and Constantinople, the Greek East and East.
What was the Great Schism and why did it happen?
In addition to differences in language in the practice of religious worship or differences of expression in the sacred art and architecture of the two areas, dogmatic differences began to appear. Some scholars have called them “little schisms,” the dogmatic ruptures that contributed to the Great Schism of 1054. The dogmatic frictions lasted for about six centuries.
The Great Schism resulted from the gradual estrangement between Rome and Constantinople. We can speak, on the one hand, of political-religious causes and, on the other, of dogmatic reasons. Firstly, Christian Europe became politically bicephalous from the year 800, with the coronation of Charles the Great as the Roman Emperor. He and the Emperor of Constantinople claimed to be the successors of the old Roman emperors. And thus entitled to the Roman (territorial) inheritance.
The reasons for the schism were multifaceted and spanned an extended period. And originating from the speakers of the two churches (Eastern and Western) during the Great Schism. Bishop Michael Serulian of Constantinople and Pope Leo IX. Yes. The first signs of a split occurred as early as the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople in 381 AD. A controversial aspect of this council was the then-passed Canon III, which listed Constantinople as the second bishopric below traditional bishops.
What were 3 main reasons for the Great Schism?
Both camps had nothing in common with the true Christianity left by Jesus and his apostles. This is obvious to any man who is honest with himself. Who has taken the trouble to read at least the NT without prejudice?
According to historical sources, the Great Schism took place for three reasons:
Both churches abandoned the mission and mission entrusted to them. They have lost touch with God if they ever had one. By breaking His moral law and adopting symbols and rituals not conforming with Scripture. Which later became Holy Traditions, nothing but absurd iniquities.
Key Verse related to The Great Schism
“There is nothing more serious than the sacrilege of schism because there is no just cause for severing the unity of the Church.”Saint Augustine
What was the Great Schism in simple terms?
In 1024, the Papacy was willing to compromise, ready to recognize the Eastern Church as “universal in its sphere,” but the Byzantine Emperor did not accept the proposal. At the same time, however, the increasingly complicated situation in Italy called for a rapprochement with Rome. The Normans began to attack the Byzantine provinces on the Italian peninsula, so in 1052-1053 Byzantium concluded an alliance with the Papacy directed against the Normans.
In simple terms, the Great Schism of 1054 was not surprising and was an event in which the Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church. Relations between East and West, between the two great religious centers – Constantinople and Rome – had long been complicated. Although the schism’s implications for history are significant, contemporaries did not perceive it as anything out of the ordinary. Contemporary sources say little about the awareness of the effects of the separation of the two churches.
Given that the Church of Rome had regained its authority through internal reforms. But also by attracting lay leaders to its service. And the fact that Patriarch Cerularios was a proud and ambitious character, but the meeting was a disaster.
What did the Great Schism do?
The first minor schism occurred between 343 and 398 and focused on Arianism. A belief that denied the divine character of Jesus Christ. The western church rejected this heresy, which was somewhat overlooked in the East. And even found adherents among the Greek Christian clergy. There followed the Acacian schism of 482-519 on the nature of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and the Photian division of the 9th century.
According to historians, the Great Schism was demonstrated through the two religious centers competing fiercely to evangelize the Slavic world in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. After the Slavs in the area of Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia entered the sphere of Constantinople; the more vital Eastern church no longer accepted the supremacy of Rome. Then, in the 11th century, Basil II, the Macedonian, moved further and further away from Rome.
The political and military games of the secular rulers overrode the egos of the religious leaders, however, and the patriarch was forced to accept papal primacy, for example, under Basil I Macedonian in the 9th century. This was because the Byzantine emperors wanted to support Italy in maintaining its possessions in the Peninsula.
How did the Great Schism end?
The split was not immediately noticed. But one of the immediate effects was that, due to the break with Byzantium, the new Pope, Nicholas II, alone against the Normans, granted Robert Guiscard the dukedom of Calabria and Aculia in 1059.
The end of the Great Schism is reflected in Humbert, who obtains the necessary papal bull and excommunicates Patriarch Cerularios on 16 July 1054. The Patriarch did not hesitate, and at a synod convened on 24 July of the same year, he, in turn, excommunicated Humbert. After this rupture, Pope Nicholas II allied himself with Robert Guiscard’s Normans and gave them a free hand against the Byzantines. The break became definitive after the Latin crusaders conquered Constantinople and desecrated the Orthodox churches.
Thus began the alliance between the Papacy and the Normans: the pope gained the support of a powerful ally and the Normans the recognition of their power in Italy. Later, the organization of the Crusades brought the two worlds into direct contact, making the differences perceived at a high level and among the population. Finally, the year 1204 – the conquest of Constantinople by the Latins – led to a definitive rupture between the West and East and the birth of a general hatred towards the Latins among the Byzantines.
What happened after the Great Schism?
The schism can be better observed and followed since emperor Diocletian (284-305) divided the Empire, in 286, into the Eastern Empire, with its capital at Nicomedia. The Western Empire, with its capital at Rome, understood that there was an Eastern world with concepts and mentality different from the Western one.
After the Great Schism, the Greeks had more and more problems defending their empire, finding themselves in an embarrassing and desperate situation. Western help was always conditioned by the acceptance of importance, which made the rift between the two sides even greater. The desire for the political power of the papacy was the real cause of the schism and proved itself in time.
The absolute and irremediable rupture between the two churches occurred with the conquest of Constantinople on April 13, 1204, by the Crusaders, which led to the severe weakening of the Byzantine Empire, one of the leading causes of its conquest by the Turks on May 29, 1453.
- The Great Schism is the canonical separation and the interruption of liturgical communion between the Church of Rome (now the Roman Catholic Church). And the Churches of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. And Jerusalem (now the Orthodox Church). The definitive break in formal relations took place in 1054.
- From the 4th century onwards, the Church granted special status to bishops. Later named patriarchs: was the bishop of Rome, the bishop of Alexandria, and Antioch. These five primate bishops made up the Pentarchy.
- In the years leading up to the Great Schism, the church in the East was led by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Michael Cerularius (circa 1000-1058), while the church in Rome was ruled by Pope Leo IX (1002-1054).
Despite the Great Schism of 1054, the two branches communicated on amicable terms until the Fourth Crusade. However, in 1204, the Western Crusaders brutally attacked Constantinople and desecrated the Byzantine church Hagia Sophia.
Now that the rift was permanent, the two branches of Christianity became increasingly divided doctrinally, politically, and liturgically. An attempt at reconciliation occurred at the Second Council of Lyons in 1274.
Read also: Who was Vladimir The Great? Why did Vladimir the Great choose Christianity?
- Bernstein, A. E. (1978). Pierre d’Ailly and the Blanchard affair: University and Chancellor of Paris at the beginning of the Great Schism (Vol. 24). Brill.
- Blumenfeld-Kosinski, R. (2010). Poets, saints, and visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417. Penn State Press.
- Morrall, J. B. (1960). Gerson and the Great Schism. Manchester University Press.
- Tierney, B. (1998). Foundations of the conciliar theory: the contribution of the medieval canonists from Gratian to the Great Schism (Vol. 81). Brill.
- Trexler, R. C. (1967). Rome on the Eve of the Great Schism. Speculum, 42(3), 489-509.