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Invasion of Constantinople by Crusaders
Boniface elected as leader of the Fourth Crusade, Soissons, 1201 history painting by Henri

Boniface elected as leader of the Fourth Crusade, Soissons, 1201

Constantinople,  had been invaded by the alliance of the fourth crusade and venice in 1204 AD, about 250 years before the invasion of Ottomans. At that time, the city was the greatest and the richest city of the world with a population of 1.000.000, which had a breathtaking effect on  people who see it from a distance as the first time.

When the Crusaders entered victorious in Constantinople on the night of 12th of April, a great social panic triumphed at the streets of the jewel City of that time. The Roman Emperor Alexios V Doukas had already fled to Thrace with his supporters, while the Lascaris brothers (Theodore + Constantine) in Nicea in Asia Minor began to organise the resistance against the invaders from the safer eastern shore. 

The Marquis Boniface marched with his men to the fortified imperial Palace of Boukoleon, where all the prominent ladies of the eastern Roman royalty had sought a safe shelter. The keys of the palace were granted without a fight, under the condition that the life of the dwellers would be spared. 

The Palace of Blachernai, the household of the Komnenian family, was granted to the knight Henry of Flanders, once more under the condition that all the inhabitants shall remain within the world of the living.


The Frankish nobles & the knights were trying to avoid violence and were waiting the distribution of the plunder. But Crusaders were extremely suspicious that their lords were planning to deceive them, thus without wasting time, they seized the opportunity, dragged their swords and took with brutal manner everything they think rightfully as theirs. Therefore  the Great sack of Constantinople started that was destined to last for three -torturous- days, as the medieval tradition determined for the fallen cities. Historians mention that the greedy & savage soldiers slaughtered many civilians, raped women, took the prostitutes on the back of their horses and entered the orthodox sanctuary Hagia Sophia like that, for sexual acts and booze. The Arab chronicler Ali ibn al-Athir affirms that, the supplicant priests were slaughtered following the fate of the hunted archons. As for “the great church which they name Sophia”, it was pillaged!

The Chronicle of Novgorod gives  further details about the savageness inside the Holy wisdom Temple; ''The luxurious gates of the Church were scratched with axes and the Holy Altar, at the centre of the temple, was fragmented and shared between the pillagers. This altar was an extravagant one: it was covered in every inch with gold and was spattered with the colours of 72 pearls that looked like streams uniting to one single pallet. The riches of Hagia Sophia were immense and for this reason the Crusaders dragged some animals inside the Church in order to transport the wealth. The scared tortured creatures had a hard time to carry the heavy bargain and slided in the marble old plaques of the ground. As a result their blood and their excreta covered the holiest floor of the temple''

Varangian Guard at the time of the Fall of Constantinople, 1204


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During the savage acts, the mausoleum of the great Christian Roman Emperors, after an almost 9 centuries survival, it was lost forever. The Crusaders butchered the imperial tombs, threw the remains of the emperors in the streets like filth, while every precious object those Emperors had taken with them in their final journey was removed.

The Venetians, as the ones who having been organising their colony on the coasts of Bosporus for already more than one century, knew clearly that the treasures were all inside Constantinople and were rather selective for the objects they were going to transport homeland. The four bronze horses of Hippodrome still decorate even today the square of Saint Mark’s Basilica in the heart of the Venetian Metropolis, as a constant reminder of the history of the eastern Roman Empire.


The four bronze horses of Hippodrome still decorate even today the square of Saint Mark’s Basilica in the heart of the Venetian Metropolis, as a constant reminder of the history of the eastern Roman Empire.

The Background;

when we are writing about the fall of Constantinopple to Crusaders and the resulting cruelties, we must al so look as a third eye and consider the historical background of the hate between two parts.

Not much, but just about 20 years earlier than 1204, there was another mass cruelty in Constantinople which, that time, targetting just the opposite part.

Since the late 11th century, Western merchants, primarily  city-states of Venice, Genoa and Pisa, had started merchantising in the east and become considerable economic powers.

Emperor Manuel I Komnenos allowed all italian cities to establish their own quarters in the northern part of Constantinople itself, towards the Golden Horn.

The economical dominance of these merchants caused economic and social upheaval in Byzantium.  Domestic merhants lost power and become addicted to the dominant ones.  The reflected arrogance of the Italians fueled popular resentment within the empire. The scene at that time within the empire can be associated with the situation in the time of 3rd reign in Nazi Germany & the massive hate of German people against the Jews who were dominat on merchandising can be remembered.

The religious differences between the two sides, (Catholics & Ortodoxes)  further exacerbated the problem. Later on, these economic powers started to fight each other for the dominance of the whole market and there occured some serious fights between them which coused to crualties. For example, the Pisans together with a few Venetians raided the Genoese quarter in Constantinople, causing much damage. So, Emperor Manuel subsequently expelled most of the Genoese and Pisans from the city, keeping the venetians aside.

In early 1171, however,  the Emperor ordered a mass arrest of all Venetians throughout the Empire and the confiscation of their property. There were also mass rapes and the burning of houses.
Following the death of Manuel I in 1180, his widow, the Latin princess Maria of Antioch, acted as regent to her infant son Alexios II Komnenos and took the power. In her regency there was a considerable favoritism against Latin merchants and aristocratic land-owners.  She was overthrown in April 1182 by Andronikos I Komnenos, who received a popular support of the inhabitants. immediately, as expected, the celebrations spilled over into violence towards the hated Latins, and a massive crowd attacked the inhabitants by entering the Latin quarter of the city.

Many Latins could be survived and escaped by sea. But for the ones who remained, massacre was indiscriminate: men, women, children, old people and even Latin patients in hospital beds were murdered. Houses, churches, and charities were looted. Cardinal John, the papal legate, was beheaded and his head was dragged through the streets at the tail of a dog.

The worsening relationship culminated with the brutal sack of the city of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, which led to the permanent alienation of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics. 

Massacre of Latins in Constantinople 1182
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