The Great Schism, also known as the East-West Schism, was a significant event in Christian history that occurred in 1054 A.D. The event marked the formal split between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, which had been developing over centuries of theological and political differences.
The roots of the Great Schism can be traced back to the early days of Christianity. In the early centuries of Christianity, there was one unified Church with five patriarchates (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem). However, over time, theological and political differences emerged between the Eastern and Western parts of the Church.
One of the most significant disputes was over the use of icons in worship. The Eastern Church allowed for icons to be used in worship while the Western Church believed that it violated God’s commandment against graven images.
Another major issue was over papal authority. The Bishop of Rome (the Pope) claimed to have supreme authority over all other bishops while the Eastern bishops believed that they should have equal authority.
Events Leading up to the Schism
In 1054 A., tensions between East and West came to a head. Pope Leo IX sent a delegation led by Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople to negotiate with Patriarch Michael I Cerularius on issues such as papal authority and liturgical practices.
However, things quickly turned sour when Cardinal Humbert placed a bull of excommunication on the altar during a liturgy at Hagia Sophia Cathedral. The Patriarch responded by excommunicating Cardinal Humbert and his delegation.
This exchange effectively marked a formal split between East and West. While there were attempts at reconciliation over subsequent years, none were successful in reuniting the two Churches.
The Great Schism had far-reaching consequences for both Eastern and Western Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Church would go on to become the dominant form of Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean and Russia, while the Roman Catholic Church would become the dominant form of Christianity in Western Europe and much of Latin America.
The split also had significant political consequences. The Byzantine Empire, which was ruled from Constantinople, was left vulnerable to attacks from the Islamic Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, which ultimately led to its downfall.
In conclusion, the Great Schism was a significant event in Christian history that marked a formal split between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The split was caused by centuries of theological and political differences, culminating in a fateful exchange between representatives of both Churches in 1054 A. The consequences of this split were far-reaching and continue to shape Christianity today.