Other differences became more pronounced after the

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Other differences became more pronounced after the fall of Rome. Byzantine culture was largely shaped by its Greek heritage. The west was influenced by Frankish and Germanic cultures. In the city of Constantinople, people spoke Greek. In the west, Latin was the language of scholars, diplomats, and the Church. Perhaps most important was the conflict that developed between the churches of east and west. After the fall of Rome, popes gradually emerged as powerful figures in Western Europe. The popes claimed supreme religious authority over all Christians. The emperors and patriarchs of the east did not claim that power. Other differences added to the conflict. Let’s look at three major disagreements and how they led to a split in the Christian Church. Iconoclasm The first major disagreement concerned religious icons. Many Christians in medieval times used images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints in worship and prayer. Some Christians in the east, however, believed that people were wrongly worshipping the icons as if they were divine. In 730 C.E., Byzantine emperor Leo III banned the use of religious images in all Christian churches and homes.
This policy of iconoclasm (“icon smashing”) led to the destruction of much religious art. Throughout Christian lands, people cried out in protest. In Rome, Roman Church leaders were angry because Leo’s order applied to parts of Italy that were under Byzantine control. Pope Gregory III even excommunicated the emperor. The Byzantine Empire lifted its ban on icons in 843. But the dispute over iconoclasm had caused a major split between the east and west. It also helped drive popes in Rome to look for support and protection against enemies. The Crowning of a Holy Roman Emperor Another major disagreement occurred in 800 C.E. At the time, Empress Irene was the ruler of the Byzantine Empire. Because she was a woman, Pope Leo III did not view her as true or strong enough to govern. He wanted the protection of a strong leader to help defend the Church in the west. Instead, Leo decided to crown Charlemagne, the king of the Franks, as Holy Roman emperor. The pope’s action outraged the Byzantines, who felt that their empress was the rightful ruler of the remains of the Roman Empire. The Final Break Matters between east and west came to a head in 1054. The patriarch of Constantinople, Cerularius, wanted to reassert Byzantine control of the Church. He closed all churches that worshipped with western rites. Pope Leo IX was furious. He sent Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople. The cardinal marched up to the altar of Hagia Sophia. In front of everyone, he laid down a bull (a proclamation by the pope) excommunicating Cerularius. Cerularius responded by excommunicating the cardinal. This was only a symbolic act, for the patriarch did not have that power. But it showed that the split, or schism, between east and west was complete. Despite future attempts to heal the division, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church were now separate churches.

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