This article is brought to you by the year 1045 C.E.!

Think what would happen if your school separated into two parts.  It happens over a very long time.  The kids on the east side like studying math and science while the kids on the west side like history and English.  The kids in the east like to eat brown foods while the kids in the west like green foods.  The two halves drift further and further apart until the students on the west side cannot even understand the kids on the east . . . and they don't even want to try to understand them.  This sounds like something young kids would do: fight over small things and grow farther and farther apart because of it.  But how could this sort of thing happen to a whole empire?  Let's watch the slow but big divide between the east and west of Rome.


The church was a very big part of Roman life, before and after Rome fell.  It was also the thing that ended up separating east and west for good.  In the west, people went to church every week.  As babies, they were carried there.  As grown ups, they were married there.  And when they died, they were buried there.  The Roman Catholic Church is and was the major religion in Rome.  At one point, before your school broke in half, it had only one principal.  He came up with all the rules, and everyone in the school had to follow them.  In Rome, what the pope said, the people did.  He spoke Latin and so did they.  He was located all the way in the west though.  Soon, the people in the east stopped listening.


After Rome broke up, the people in the east and west still agreed on one thing: Christianity.  That was the only way they were the same.  The Great Schism is a separation that happened in 1054 after the west voted in a Holy Roman Emperor that would make choices about churches everywhere.  Just think what would happen if the kids in the west half of your separated school voted in their own principal and decided that she would choose what color the markers were in both parts of the school.  This might make the kids in the east half mad.  In Rome, it definitely made the people in the east mad.  So they chose their own leader.


Even though the people in the west still thought of themselves as Romans, they thought the east was kind of a mess.  They also did not like that the people in the east chose a leader of the church that was supposed to rule over everyone.  So why not start their own church?  The Eastern Orthodox Church broke off from the church of the west and only listened to the rulers of Constantinople.  How do you think the church leader in the west felt about that?


Fun Fact!   The name Orthodox means "right belief."  Just in case it was unclear what the people in the west thought of the old church in the east.


The pope in the west did not like this new church.  He did not like it so much that he decided all of the people in the east were no longer in God's favor.  When someone is excommunicated it means they can no longer take communion, and so are no longer a part of the church.  The church had excommunicated many people before, but it had never cut out so many people at one time.  Half of the people that had been in the empire were thrown out! People who were still in the church were not supposed to talk to, help, or feed anyone who had been excommunicated.  Really, the Byzantines in the east were not too mad about this.  The Orthodox Church just decided to excommunicate all of the Roman Catholics too.  This was the beginning of two different empires.


If your school broke into east and west, it might look a lot like the Roman Empire after its fall.  The Roman Catholic Church was the main church in Rome and led the lives of everyone in the west.  When the people there chose a pope to decide how people believed in God all across Rome, the people in the east broke away from Rome in what was called the Great Schism.  They started their own church called the Eastern Orthodox Church and both sides excommunicated each other.  If something like this ever does happen to your school, remember to visit the other side every now and again.  You never know what you might learn.




Education Portal. "The Great Schism Between the East and Western Churches" Education Portal, 2014. <>


Ducksters. "Catholic Church and Cathedrals" Ducksters, 2010. <>


BBC. "Eastern Orthodox Church" BBC, 2011. <>

History for Kids. "What Is Excommunication?", 2013. <>