The Gregorian Reform: What Happened, Why It Matters

By Charalampos •  Updated: 02/20/23 •  7 min read

In 1582, the Catholic Church made a change that would have a huge impact on the world. The Gregorian Reform was put into place, and it completely changed how the church operated.

This reform was named after Pope Gregory VII, who spearheaded the changes. In this article, we’ll discuss what happened during the Gregorian Reform, and why it matters even today!

What is The Gregorian Reform?

Gregorian Reform

The Gregorian Reform was a set of changes that were made to the Catholic Church in the 11th century. These changes were designed to improve the church’s morals and to make it more efficient.

One of the most notable changes was the introduction of celibacy for priests and bishops. This meant that they could not marry or have children. Other changes included the elimination of simony (the selling of church offices) and the enforcement of clerical celibacy.

The Roman Catholic Church was the one who made these changes, and they were put into place to try and improve the church’s image. Many people believe that the church needed reform because it had become corrupt over the years.

Gregorian Reform and The Great Schism.

The Great Schism which started in 1054, was one of the key events that led to the Gregorian Reform. The Great Schism was a split between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

This split was caused by several different factors, but the main one was the disagreement over whether the Pope (Pope Leo IX) had authority over the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Great Schism led to the Pope excommunicating the Patriarch of Constantinople, and this ultimately led to the Gregorian Reform.

The Gregorian Reform was a direct response to the Great Schism and was designed to improve the Catholic Church’s image. The reform did this by making the church more efficient and by increasing its moral standards.

Although successful in consolidating power and improving public view, Papal supremacy was still a major issue between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. In a bid to resolve the divide, the Crusades were initiated.

The Crusades were a series of wars that were fought between the Catholic Church and the Muslim world. The Crusades were originally started to try and regain control of the Holy Land, but they eventually turned into a battle for supremacy between the two religions.

The Crusades were a direct result of the Great Schism, and they ultimately ended with the Catholic Church in control of the Holy Land.

The Gregorian Reform was a key event in world history, and it had a lasting impact on the Catholic Church. Today the Pope is still the head of the Catholic Church, and the church continues to operate under the principles set forth by Pope Gregory VII.

Who Was Pope Gregory VII?

Pope Gregory VII was one of the most influential figures in the history of the Catholic Church. He is best known for his role in the Investiture Controversy, which began as a power struggle between him and Emperor Henry IV over who would appoint bishops.

This led to a series of conflicts between the two men, culminating in Henry’s excommunication and Gregory’s deposition in 1076. The controversy continued after Gregory’s death, with several popes adopting his stance against Investiture.

The Investiture Controversy had far-reaching consequences for both the Church and the secular world, helping to bring about the end of lay investiture and paving the way for the development of modern papal power.

The Gregorian Reform is also named after Pope Gregory VII, who was the main driving force behind the changes. He is considered one of the most important figures in Roman Catholic Church history, as his reforms had a lasting impact on both the Church and society.

Other notable contributors to the Gregorian Reforms such as Pope Nicholas II were also integral in further solidifying the changes put forth by Gregory VII. Many of these changes are still in place today within the Catholic Church.

While some may argue that the church has strayed from its original intent, it’s hard to deny that the Gregorian Reforms had a significant impact on both the Catholic Church reform and world history.

Changes That Occurred During the Gregorian Reform.

During the Gregorian Reform movement, several changes occurred within the Catholic Church.

1. Clerical celibacy.

One of the most significant changes was the enforcement of clerical celibacy. This had been a topic of debate for centuries, but it was not until the Gregorian Reform that it was made mandatory for all priests.

Celibacy is the practice of abstaining from sexual activity, and it is a requirement for many religious orders. The rationale behind this change was to make priests more focused on their spiritual duties and less susceptible to corruption.

While this reform was met with some opposition, it eventually became widely accepted by the Catholic Church.

2. Simony.

Another change that occurred during the Gregorian Reform was the crackdown on simony. Simony is the practice of selling ecclesiastical offices or positions within the Church.

This was a major problem during the Middle Ages, as many people would use their positions of power to enrich themselves.

The Gregorian Reform put an end to this practice by making it a crime punishable by ex-communication.

This helped to ensure that only the most qualified individuals were given positions of authority within the Church.

Other changes that occurred during the Gregorian Reform included an increase in papal power, reforms to the liturgy, focus on education, and geopolitics.

What is Papal Primacy?

What is Papal Primacy

Papal primacy, also known as the Petrine doctrine, is the belief that the Pope, as successor to Saint Peter, holds a unique position of authority over the entire Catholic Church. This doctrine was codified in the 11th century, during the Investiture Controversy.

Papal primacy is based on several biblical passages, including Matthew 16:18-19, where Jesus tells Peter that he will be the “rock” upon which the Church is built.

The doctrine also holds that since Saint Peter was the first Pope, his successors have a unique authority over the Church.

This doctrine was hotly contested during the Investiture Controversy, as many people believed that bishops and other church leaders were equal to the Pope.

However, after centuries of debate and conflict, papal primacy was finally codified in the 11th century.

Today, papal primacy is one of the most important aspects of the Catholic Church. The Pope is the highest authority in the Church, and his decisions are binding on all Catholics.

What About The Gregorian Reform Calendar?

The Gregorian Reform calendar, also known as the New Style calendar, was introduced in 1582. It was a modification of the Julian calendar, which had been used since 46 BC.

The main change was the introduction of a leap year every four years, to keep the calendar more accurate. This change was made to bring the calendar back in line with the seasons.

Although the Gregorian Reform calendar is the most widely used calendar today, it was not immediately adopted by all countries.

The Eastern Orthodox Church, for example, continued to use the Julian calendar until 1924.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Gregorian Reform

What Does it Mean to Say That the Pope Has Primacy Over The Whole Church?

The word “primacy” comes from the Latin primus, which means “first.” So, the primacy of the pope means that he is the first among all bishops in the Catholic Church.

Does Eastern Orthodox Have Papal Primacy?

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have papal primacy. They reject the idea that the pope should have any authority over the whole Church.

Are Orthodox Clergy Allowed to Marry?

The Eastern Orthodox Church has a long tradition of allowing ordained clergy to marry before they enter into the priesthood. This differs from the Roman Catholic Church, which requires the celibacy of its priests and other religious orders.

Final Thoughts

The Gregorian Reform was a watershed moment in the history of the Catholic Church. It led to changes that have reverberated through the centuries and continue to impact the Church today.

By understanding what happened during the Gregorian Reform and its aftermath, we can gain a deeper understanding of the history of the Church and the challenges it faces today.


Charalampos is an Orthodox Christian who wants to help others learn about Christianity. His main goal is to help people understand the Bible and how to apply its teachings in their everyday lives. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing sports, and hiking.

Keep Reading