On the Church page there is a figures that shows many of the divisions in the Christian Church we have today. Probably the biggest division that has happened in the Church happened in the Middle Ages. The East–West Schism of 1054 is sometimes known as the Great Schism (especially in Orthodox circles). This is the point in time when Eastern and Western Christianity formally split (with mutual excommunications) into Eastern (Greek) and Western (Latin) branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively. As with many points in history this is actually a smear rather than a point which makes for an interesting discussion here but would be rather awkward on a figure. Here we are going to look at the issues that split the Church East and West. But first we should consider the following figure:

Church History Time Line

This figure appears on many Orthodox web sites so I do not know who to credit or even where I got this copy. However, it shows Church history from the Orthodox rather than the Roman perspective that is more familiar to those of us in the West. Both Churches claim to be The Apostolic Church in a way the is somehow unique and nearly exclusionary of the others.

Schisms During Period of the Single Church
Dates  Name
362 - 414 Antiochian Schism.
431 - 544 Nestorian Schism
484 - 519 Acacian Schism.
c. 451 Oriental Orthodox Schism
553 - 698 Schism of the Three Chapters.
863-867 Photian Schism.
1054 Great Schism between East and West, generally regarded as having been completed by the act of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
 https://orthodoxwiki.org/Timeline_of_Schisms 8/29/16

During the time of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church in the figure there were controversies. That was, at least in part, the purpose of the ecumenical councils. The councils did not produce the sort of unity that was desired which led to the schisms as shown in the table at the right. The details of most of them are not necessary for the current discussion, but sufice it to say that Christian unity has always been a bit strained. 

In 476 the Western Roman Empire fell, with the exile of Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor. The following turmoil in the West was abated some 300 years later with the rise of Charlemagne in 768, at that time he becomes king of the Franks. In 800 he was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III. The Holy Roman Empire looks to Charlemagne as its founder, but it was largely a German thing. The Eastern Roman Empire continued on calling itself Roman although it spoke primarily Greek. Charlemagne called the folks in what had been the Eastern empire Greeks and most in the west refer to them as Byzantine.

With all this political and religious intrigue continuing, the Western Church was losing its facility in Greek even before the political division of the empire. The Arian controversy which began around 320 continued especially in the East through the fifth century. In 523 Pope John I was the first pope to visit Constantinople. Not so much on a pastoral visit as much as a political one. He was basically sent sent by the Arian King Theodoric the Great of the Ostrogoths to secure a moderation of Emperor Justin's (emperor of the East) decree of 523 against the Arians. Theodoric threatened that if John should fail in his mission, there would be reprisals against the orthodox Catholics in the West. Things did not go well for John and on his return and he died in the King's prison. This actually begs the question as to whether this was a political or religious dispute or even whether one could make such a distinction at this point in history. Today, we have theological issues with "Arians" but they do not go by that name. Christianity of nearly all stripes teaches that Christ is eternal.

In 589 a local council in Toledo added the "filioque" to the Nicene creed. Many say that this was a response to Arianism and intended to support the orthodox notion of the divinity of Christ. This made the Eastern Bishops grumpy as they were not consulted. We also need to note that the Creed we now accept was hammered out in the face of other controversies; notably in 431 the Nestorian controversy and 451 the Monophysite Christology.

In all of this Pope Agatho (ruled 678-681) was a Greek born in Sicily. According to the catholic encyclopedia, he restored relations between Rome and Constantinople. It is not clear how well that worked as it also tells us that Pope Constantine (ruled 708-715) spent one full year in Constantinople (the journey lasted from 709-711) to improve relations between Rome and the East.

Pope Nicholas I (ruled 858-867) objected to the appointment of the lay scholar Photius to the position of patriarch of Constantinople. This led to what is known as the Photian Schism (863-867). As it turns out this was a trial separation as many of the issues were the same as those that caused the final schism in 1054.

By the 1054 relations between East and West, which had long been embittered by political rivalries, ecclesiastical differences and theological disputes, came to a head when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius essentially outlawed Greek and Latin in their respective domains. In 1054, Roman representatives traveled to Cerularius to deny Cerularius the title of Ecumenical Patriarch and to insist that he recognize the Church of Rome's claim to be the head and mother of the churches. Cerularius refused. The leader of the Latin contingent excommunicated Cerularius, not to be outdone Cerularius excommunicated the representatives.

The Western representatives' acts are of doubtful validity because Pope Leo IX had died by the time they pronounced the anathema, while Cerularius's excommunication applied only to the representatives personally and not the Pope and the whole of the Christian West. Still, this was a firm recognition of the depth of the dispute that had existed for some time and gives a convenient date to put on figures. The Church split along doctrinal, theological, linguistic, political, and geographical lines, and the fundamental breach has never been healed. Western cruelty during the Crusades, the capture and sack of Constantinople in 1204, and the imposition of Latin Patriarchs in the East made reconciliation more difficult. This included the taking of many precious religious artifacts and the destruction of the Library of Constantinople. On paper, the two churches actually reunited in 1274 (by the Second Council of Lyon) and in 1439 (by the Council of Florence), but in each case the councils were repudiated by the Orthodox as a whole, on the grounds that the hierarchs had overstepped their authority in consenting to reunification. In 1484, 31 years after the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, a Synod of Constantinople repudiated the Union of Florence, making the breach between the Patriarchate of the West and the Patriarchate of Constantinople final. In 1965, the Pope of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople nullified the anathemas of 1054.

So, what is this all about? Prominent among the issues were the "filioque", the Pope's claim to universal jurisdiction over the Church, and the place of Constantinople in relation to the Pentarchy. From a Protestant perspective this is interesting history. It shows that Christianity has always had its doctrinal disputes and mixing it with politics serves to make the divisions more stark.

The filioque (Latin for and the Son) was inserted into the Nicene Creed by the Western Church at the Third Council of Toledo in 589, nearly 500 years before the final break. The Orthodox admit that thefilioque is not totally a western invention as a local council in Persia also introduced similar language in 410. There is also similar language in the Athanasian Creed which is accepted by the both the Eastern and Western Churches although it is not in common use even in the West. The problem is not is the phrase so much as in its interpretation. The language is sometimes interpreted that the Spirit proceeds form the Father through the Son. It all gets a bit sticky but some doctrinal objections to the filioque from the Orthodox Wiki are as follows:

  • It is contrary to Scripture, particularly in John 15:26: "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me." Thus, Christ never describes the Holy Spirit as proceeding from himself, but only mentions the Spirit's procession in terms of the Father.
  • The justifications for including the filioque in the Creed—bolstering the divinity of the Son and emphasizing the unity of the Trinity—are redundant, given the original wording of the Creed. That is, the Son already is described as "light of light, very God of very God," and so forth. The Spirit also "with the Father and Son together is worshiped and glorified." Additionally, the Creed itself begins with a statement of belief in "one God."
  • The filioque distorts Orthodox Triadology by making the Spirit a subordinate member of the Trinity. Traditional Triadology consists in the notion that for any given trait, it must be either common to all Persons of the Trinity or unique to one of them. Thus, Fatherhood is unique to the Father, while begottenness is unique to the Son, and procession unique to the Spirit. Godhood, however, is common to all, as is eternality, uncreatedness, and so forth. Positing that something can be shared by two Persons (i.e., being the source of the Spirit's procession) but not the other is to elevate those two Persons at the expense of the other. Thus, the balance of unity and diversity is destroyed.
  • Given the previous objection, the repercussions to the acceptance of the filioque into church life are potentially massive. Because how we relate to God is significantly affected by what we believe about him, false beliefs lead to damaging spirituality. One objection often raised about Filioquist theology is that it undermines the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Thus, with his role being denigrated, his traditional ministries are effaced or replaced. The Church's unity becomes dependent on an office, spirituality becomes adherence to the letter of the law rather than its spirit, sacraments come to be understood in terms of validity, and a spirit of legalism prevails.


 The Pentarchy (from Greek (πέντε) pente, five, and (ἄρχειν) archein, rule) is a term that refers to main centers of Christianity that had jurisdiction of the Church in their respective areas. These corresponded to the administrative structure of the Roman Empire. There were five major Episcopal sees, or patriarchates, of the Roman Empire: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. The fact that this organization mimics the organization of the Roman Empire makes it a development in the growth and spread of Christianity more secular than something that is original to Apostolic tradition. In the beginning, and especially in the days of persecution, the Christian Church was more a loose confederation of more or less independent centers looking first to Jerusalem and the Apostles for leadership. The idea of thepentarchy was first tangibly expressed in the laws of Emperor Justinian I (527-565). The Quinisext Council of 692 gave it formal recognition and ranked the sees in order of preeminence. Especially following Quinisext concil of 692, the pentarchy was at least philosophically accepted in Eastern Christianity, but generally not in the West, which rejected the Council and the preeminence of all four of the other sees.




All of the Apostles at Pentecost - James seems to be the head at the first council in Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 14.


Traditionally said to have been founded by the Apostle Mark around AD 42.


Founded by Peter and Paul, the first Gentile Church founded in Acts 11. Antiochan Orthodox tradition says that the See of Antioch was founded by Peter in AD 34.  It was from Antioch the Paul set out on his missionary journeys (Acts 13.1). It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians (Acts 11.26).


Traditionally said to have been founded by Peter and Paul.

The Epistle to the Romans is traditionally dated 55-56. Some sort of Christian Church was present there at that point.

The Bishop of Rome is now known as the Pope and is said by Roman Catholics to rule the Church in direct succession to the apostle Peter. But if you look at the Popes table you see that Pius I (ruled 140-155) was the first Pope to function as Bishop of Rome.


The founding is attributed to the Apostle Andrew.

The city was founded when Constantine moved his residence from Rome to in 330 followed by the Imperial capital.

Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople "Greek Orthodox Patriarchate" is part of the wider Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity. It is headed by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, who has the status of "first among equals" among the world's Orthodox bishops.




 Photian Schism (863-867), a 9th-century-ad controversy between Eastern and Western Christianity that was precipitated by the opposition of Nicholas I, the Roman pope to the appointment by the Byzantine emperor Michael III of the lay scholar Photius to the patriarchate of Constantinople. The controversy also involved Eastern and Western ecclesiastical jurisdictional rights in the Bulgarian church, as well as a doctrinal dispute over the Filioque ("and from the Son") clause that had been added to the Nicene Creed by the Latin church.