Political intrigue within the Church in the mid-14th century caused the Western Schism. During this forty-year period, two popes—one in Avignon and one in Rome—claimed rulership over the Church. Although the schism was eventually healed in 1417, the papacy’s spiritual authority had suffered greatly. In the 15th century, Europe started to extend itself beyond its geographic frontiers.
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Spain and Portugal, the greatest naval powers of the time, took the lead in exploring the world. Exploration reached the Southern Hemisphere in the Atlantic and the Southern tip of Africa. Christopher Columbus reached the New World in 1492, and Vasco da Gama opened the ocean route to the East linking the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in 1498.
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