Another grim passage in the history of Christianity was the sacking of Constantinople, the rich centre of the Eastern Byzantine Empire by the Western armies in 1204 after a two-year siege during the 4th Crusade.
The Crusaders mainly composed of Frankish and Venetian troops, looted, terrorized and vandalized Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were either stolen or destroyed.
The famous bronze horses from the Hippodrome were sent back to adorn the facade of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, where they still remain.
As well as being stolen, works of immeasurable value were destroyed merely for their material value. One of the most precious works to suffer such a fate was a large bronze statue of Hercules, created by the legendary Lysippos, court sculptor of no lesser than Alexander the Great. Like so many other priceless artworks made of bronze, the statue was melted down for its content by the Crusaders whose greed blinded them.
The Library of Constantinople was destroyed.
Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders systematically violated the city’s holy sanctuaries, destroying or stealing all they could lay hands on.
Nothing was spared. The civilian population of Constantinople were subject to the Crusaders’ ruthless lust for spoils and glory.
Thousands of them were killed in cold blood.
Women, even nuns, were raped by the Crusader army, which also sacked churches, monasteries and convents. The very altars of these churches were smashed and torn to pieces for their gold and marble by the warriors who had sworn to fight in service of Christendom without question.
This was the final nail in the Great Schism between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
We can therefore build up a profile of the western Crusader knights.
They were cruel sociopaths whose value for human life was zero, whose belief-system was completely twisted and warped and whose lust and greed knew no limit. They were narrow-minded xenophobes with minimal aesthetic appreciation for Eastern art.
They were the profane destroyers of Temples and places of worship.
Thus was the sacking of the holy city of Byzantium.