Great Schism

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The Great Schism of 1054 caused a split between the See of Rome (now the Roman Catholic Church) and the other Christian Patriarchates. This division is the subject of many talks between Western and Eastern Christians.

The Name of the Event

The Great Schism was a gradual estrangement to which no specific date can be assigned but which has been conventionally dated to 1054. This date is misleading since it seems to imply that there was peace and unity before 1054, animosity and division afterward. The schism actually took several centuries to crystalize. Some would place the split earlier -- in the time of Saint Photios, for example, or even earlier -- or as late as 1204, the year of the Fourth Crusade.

"The Great Ecumenical Schism" is the preferred term to succinctly explain what happened and to capture the complexity of the event itself. This is especially so because the term "The Great Schism" is often used to refer to a 14th century schism involving the Avignon Papacy (an event also sometimes called the "Babylonian Captivity").

The Dogmatic Matters: The Filioque

While there were many other factors at work in the split, the central idea that caused a separation in the place was dogmatic. As soon as the See of Rome endorsed the idea of the Filioque, there is a split between the true faith and a schismatic faith. Also, as long as the See of Rome continues to make it official dogma, there is still a schism.

To summarize an already extensive article on the matter, the Filioque is a word that changes the Nicene Creed into "[Spiritus Sanctus] ex Patre Filioque procedit" or "[Holy Spirit] proceeds from the Father and the Son." The first appearance into the Creed happened in Spain when Latin theologians were trying to refute a brand of the Arian heresy. The theologians had better access to the writings of Latin theologians, particularly of St. Augustine of Hippo. Augustine had the notion that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son but that neither were subordinate to each other. So the Creed was changed by a local synod of bishops and the justification was that it both asserts the divinity of Christ (refuting Arianism) and the unity of the Trinity.

The Ecclesiological Matters: The Bishop of Rome

The Doctrinal Matters

The Extra-Church Factors

The Split: So When Did It Occur?

After the Split: Attempts to Reconcile and Continuing Divergence

The Current Situation

Related Articles


  • Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
  • Philip Sherard, Church, Papacy and Schism
  • Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church