The Great Schism split the main faction of Christianity into two divisions, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. Today, they remain the two largest denominations of Christianity.
Map from Atlas of the Historical Geography of the Holy Land

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  • On July 16, 1054, Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius was excommunicated from the Christian church based in Rome, Italy. This excommunication severed the largest faction of Christianity, called Chalcedonian Christianity. The split is known as the Great Schism
    The Great Schism divided Chalcedonian Christianity into what are now known as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths.
    The Great Schism was both a spiritual and practical conflict. For instance, one of the spiritual differences between the western (Roman) and eastern branches of the church was whether it was acceptable to use unleavened bread for the ceremony of communion. (The west supported the practice, while the east did not.) A more practical conflict that led to the Great Schism was whether the pope, the spiritual leader in Rome, had authority over the patriarchs, religious leaders in the east.
    The Great Schism was long-lasting; the two branches of Christianity are still split. Catholicism is the single largest Christian denomination, with more than a billion followers around the world. Eastern Orthodoxy is the second-largest Christian denomination, with more than 200 million followers. Eastern Orthodoxy includes national churches such as Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    authority Noun

    person or organization responsible for making decisions.

    Catholic Adjective

    having to do with the Christian denomination with the Pope as its leader.

    ceremony Noun

    activities to celebrate or commemorate an event.

    Christianity Noun

    religion based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    communion Noun

    Christian sacrament commemorating the death of Jesus Christ with bread and wine.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    denomination Noun

    branch of a church or larger spiritual faith.

    Eastern Orthodox Noun

    loose affiliation of several Christian denominations (including Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, etc.) which follow early church hierarchy.

    excommunicate Verb

    to cut off or expel from a church.

    faction Noun

    group within a larger group.

    patriarch Noun

    highest-ranking bishop in Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, the Catholic Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East.

    pope Noun

    leader of the Catholic Church.

    practical Adjective

    useful or easy to use.

    schism Noun

    split or separation.

    sever Verb

    to separate or cut away.

    spiritual Adjective

    having to do with religion or faith.

    unleavened Adjective

    having to do with baked goods lacking a substance that causes them to expand or rise.