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
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"
History for Kids. "What Is
Excommunication?" Historyforkids.org, 2013.