We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Was the Papal Schism?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Historical Index is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Historical Index, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Papal Schism was a political divide in the Catholic Church which lasted from 1378 to 1417. Ultimately, the situation was resolved with the Council of Constance, but not before all of the parties involved attempted violence, coercion, and of course diplomacy in an attempt to sort the matter out. This event in Western Christianity is sometimes known as the Western Schism, and less commonly as the Great Schism. Referring to the Papal Schism as the Great Schism can cause confusion with the East-West Schism which split the Western and Eastern Christian church in the 11th century.

Unlike the previous Great Schism, which was motivated by fundamental religious differences, the Papal Schism was political in nature. It had to do with the conflict between Rome, Italy and Avignon, France. Rome had been the traditional stronghold of the papacy, but in the 1300s, the papacy moved to Avignon. The French wished to retain their control of the papacy for political and prestige reasons, while the Romans demanded a return of the papacy to Italian soil.

In 1376, Pope Gregory XI moved the papacy back to Rome. Upon his death in 1378, the Romans elected Pope Urban VI. However, a group of renegade Cardinals in France were not satisfied, and they in turn elected Pope Clement VII, who came to be known as the antipope. This sparked a controversy, understandably, as two popes are not supposed to exist at once. The battle between Rome and Avignon was launched, and then confused even further in 1409, when a third pope was elected at a meeting in Pisa, Italy.

In 1417, a supporter of the third rival pope proposed the Council of Constance, a meeting which was intended to resolve the situation, determining the rightful pope and ending the Papal Schism. The Church had realized that the event was troubling for its public relations, in addition to being a bit embarrassing, and most of the parties at the council were eager to see the matter brought to an end, although they might have supported different popes.

In addition to ultimately deposing both antipopes, the Council of Constance also put forward a series of political and religious reforms. A new pope, Martin V, was elected, ending the Papal Schism and confirming Rome as the seat of the papacy. Under Pope Martin V, the authority of the papacy was solidified, cementing the idea that the Pope was the supreme authority in the Church, and that his word was law when it came to religious matters.

Historical Index is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments
By PinkLady4 — On Jun 28, 2011

From reading a book on the history of The Catholic Church, I have certainly learned what a rocky history this church had before the middle ages. One of the first schisms in the 11th century was called the East-West Schism. I believe this was about the time of the end of the Viking age when people were coming back to their countries, to settle down. The Viking invasions were about over.

Pagans were beginning to adopt Christian values and rituals. This schism was about a disagreement about beliefs of the Western and Eastern Christian Churches. The Eastern Orthodox section claimed their beliefs came directly from the apostles and wanted the papal center to be in the east and the Western side claimed supremacy in Rome. This conflict went on for sometime.

By B707 — On Jun 28, 2011

Oh my gosh, three popes claiming control of the Catholic Church - how bizarre. At that time in history, the church must have been pretty loosely organized. I wonder how the church happened to have moved to Avignon, France? I guess it was for political power. Then the French appointed their own pope.

Fortunately, they didn't resort to violence to settle the controversy. They had a civil meeting and decided that there could only be one pope. and he would be the boss. He would always live in Rome.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Historical Index, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.