aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
aA
History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
« Prev The Fourth Crusade and the Capture of… Next »

§ 55. The Fourth Crusade and the Capture of Constantinople. 1200–1204.


Literature.—Nicetas Acominatus, Byzantine patrician and grand logothete. During the Crusaders’ investment of Constantinople his palace was burnt, and with his wife and daughter he fled to Nicaea: Byzantina Historia, 1118–1206, in Recueil des historiens des Croisades, histor. Grecs, vol. I., and in Migne, Patr. Gr., vols. 139, 140.—Geoffroi de Villehardouin, a prominent participant in the Crusade, d. 1213?: Hist. de la Conquête de Constantinople avec la continuation de Henri de Valenciennes, earliest ed., Paris, 1585, ed. by Du Cange, Paris, 1857, and N. de Wailly, Paris, 1871, 3d ed. 1882, and E. Bouchet, with new trans., Paris, 1891. For other editions, See Potthast, II. 1094. Engl. trans. by T. Smith, London, 1829.—Robert de Clary, d. after 1216, a participant in the Crusade: La Prise de Constant., 1st ed. by P. Riant, Paris, 1868.—Guntherus Alemannus, a Cistercian, d. 1220?: Historia Constantinopolitana, in Migne, Patr. Lat., vol. 212, 221–265, and ed. by Riant, Geneva, 1875, and repeated in his Exuviae Sacrae, a valuable description, based upon the relation of his abbot, Martin, a participant in the Crusade.—Innocent III. Letters, in Migne, vols. 214–217.—Charles Hopf: Chroniques Graeco-Romanes inédites ou peu connues, Berlin, 1873. Contains De Clary, the Devastatio Constantinopolitana, etc.—C. Klimke: D. Quellen zur Gesch. des 4ten Kreuzzuges, Breslau, 1875.—Short extracts from Villehardouin and De Clary are given in Trans. and Reprints, published by University of Pennsylvania, vol. III., Philadelphia, 1896.

Paul De Riant: Exuviae sacrae Constantinopolitanae, Geneva, 1877–1878, 2 vols.—Tessier: Quatrième Croisade, la diversion sur Zara et Constantinople, Paris, 1884.—E. Pears: The Fall of Constantinople, being the Story of the Fourth Crusade, N. Y., 1886.—W. Nordau: Der vierte Kreuzzug, 1898.—A. Charasson: Un curé plébéien au XIIe Siècle, Foulques, Prédicateur de la IVe Croisade, Paris, 1905.—Gibbon, LX., LXI.—Hurter: Life of Innocent III., vol. I.—Ranke: Weltgesch., VIII. 280–298.—C. W. C. Oman: The Byzantine Empire, 1895, pp. 274–306.—F. C. Hodgson: The Early History of Venice, from the Foundation to the Conquest of Constantinople, 1204, 1901. An appendix contains an excursus on the historical sources of the Fourth Crusade.


It would be difficult to find in history a more notable diversion of a scheme from its original purpose than the Fourth Crusade. Inaugurated to strike a blow at the power which held the Holy Land, it destroyed the Christian city of Zara and overthrew the Greek empire of Constantinople. Its goals were determined by the blind doge, Henry Dandolo of Venice. As the First Crusade resulted in the establishment of the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, so the Fourth Crusade resulted in the establishment of the Latin empire of Constantinople.

Innocent III., on ascending the papal throne, threw himself with all the energy of his nature into the effort of reviving the crusading spirit. He issued letter after letter434434    See the ample description of Hurter, I. pp. 221-230, etc.435435    Epp. of Innocent, I. 353, 354, etc., Migne, 214, 329 sqq. resist the Saracens and subject the Greek church to its mother, Rome.436436    Ep. I. 353, Migne, 214, 325 sqq.oss would have disappeared like smoke or melting wax.

For the expense of a new expedition the pope set apart one-tenth of his revenue, and he directed the cardinals to do the same. The clergy and all Christians were urged to give liberally. The goods and lands of Crusaders were to enjoy the special protection of the Holy See. Princes were instructed to compel Jewish money-lenders to remit interest due from those going on the expedition. Legates were despatched to Genoa, Pisa, and Venice to stir up zeal for the project; and these cities were forbidden to furnish to the Saracens supplies of arms, food, or other material. A cardinal was appointed to make special prayers for the Crusade, as Moses had prayed for Israel against the Amalekites.

The Cistercian abbot, Martin, preached in Germany;437437    Guntherus, Migne, 212, 225.438438    A French translation of Innocent’s letter commissioning Fulke to preach the Crusade is given by Charasson, p. 99.ing, in 1199, Count Thibaut of Champagne,439439    Thibaut, then twenty-two, and Louis, then twenty-seven, were nephews of the king of France, Villehardouin, 3; Wailly’s ed., p. 5. Thibaut died before the Crusaders started from France.st Crusade, the armament was led by nobles, and not by sovereigns.

The leaders, meeting at Soissons in 1200, sent a deputation to Venice to secure transportation for the army. Egypt was chosen as the point of landing and attack, it being held that a movement would be most apt to be successful which cut off the Saracens’ supplies at their base in the land of the Nile.440440    Villehardouin, who was one of the six members of the commission (Wailly’s ed., p. 11), says, "The Turks could be more easily destroyed there than in any other country." Egypt was often called by the Crusaders, "the land of Babylon."

The Venetian Grand Council agreed to provide ships for 9000 esquires, 4500 knights, 20,000 foot-soldiers, and 4500 horses, and to furnish provisions for nine months for the sum of 85,000 marks, or about $1,000,000 in present money.441441    Wailly’s edition of Villehardouin, p. 452, makes the sum 4,420,000 francs. It reckons a mark as the equivalent of 52 francs. The Grand Council added fifty armed galleys "for the love of God," on condition that during the continuance of the alliance Venice should have one-half the spoils of conquest. years, was in spite of his age and blindness full of vigor and decision.442442    Villehardouin describes him as a man de bien grand coeur. He died at ninety-seven, in 1205, and was buried in the Church of St. Sophia. In his reply to the deputation, the doge recognized the high birth of the Crusaders in the words, "we perceive that the lords are in the highest rank of those who do not wear a crown" (Villehardouin, 16; Wailly’s ed., 13).

The crusading forces mustered at Venice. The fleet was ready, but the Crusaders were short of funds, and able to pay only 50,000 marks of the stipulated sum. Dandolo took advantage of these straits to advance the selfish aims of Venice, and proposed, as an equivalent for the balance of the passage money, that the Crusaders aid in capturing Zara.443443    Villehardouin, 56 sqq.; Wailly’s ed., 33 sq.tern coast of the Adriatic, belonged to the Christian king of Hungary. Its predatory attacks upon Venetian vessels formed the pretext for its reduction.444444    Villehardouin mentions only the proposition to go against Zara. Robert of Clary and other writers state that Dandolo made a previous proposition that the fleet should proceed to Mohammedan territory and that the first booty should be used to pay the Crusaders’debt. He then substituted the proposition to go against Zara, and the Crusaders were forced by their circumstances to accept. There is some ground for the charge that in May, 1202, Dandolo made a secret treaty with the sultan of Egypt. See Pears, 271 sqq. and after the solemn celebration of the mass, the fleet set sail, with Dandolo as virtual commander.

The departure of four hundred and eighty gayly rigged vessels is described by several eye-witnesses445445    Villehardouin and Robert de Clary. Clary’s account is very vivacious and much the more detailed of the two. the naval enterprise of the queen of the Adriatic.

Zara was taken Nov. 24, 1202, given over to plunder, and razed to the ground. No wonder Innocent wrote that Satan had been the instigator of this destructive raid upon a Christian people and excommunicated the participants in it.446446    A deputation afterwards visited Innocent and secured his absolution, Villehardouin, 107; Wailly’s ed., 61. The news of the death of Fulke of Neuilly reached the Crusaders on the eve of their breaking away from Venice. Villehardouin, 73; Wailly’s ed., 43, calls him le bon, le saint homme.

Organized to dislodge the Saracens and reduced to a filibustering expedition, the Crusade was now to be directed against Constantinople. The rightful emperor, Isaac Angelus, was languishing in prison with his eyes put out by the hand of the usurper, Alexius III., his own brother. Isaac’s son, Alexius, had visited Innocent III. and Philip of Swabia, appealing for aid in behalf of his father. Philip, claimant to the German throne, had married the prince’s sister. Greek messengers appeared at Zara to appeal to Dandolo and the Crusaders to take up Isaac’s cause. The proposal suited the ambition of Venice, which could not have wished for a more favorable opportunity to confirm her superiority over the Pisans and Genoans, which had been threatened, if not impaired, on the Bosphorus.

As a compensation, Alexius made the tempting offer of 200,000 marks silver, the maintenance for a year of an army of 10,000 against the Mohammedans, and of 500 knights for life as a guard for the Holy Land, and the submission of the Eastern Church to the pope. The doge fell in at once with the proposition, but it was met by strong voices of dissent in the ranks of the Crusaders. Innocent’s threat of continued excommunication, if the expedition was turned against Constantinople, was ignored. A few of the Crusaders, like Simon de Montfort, refused to be used for private ends and withdrew from the expedition.447447    Villehardouin, 109. Pears, p. 268, speaks pathetically of the Crusaders as "about to commit the great crime of the Middle Ages, by the destruction of the citadel against which the hitherto irresistible wave of Moslem invasion had beaten and been broken." Not praiseworthy, it is true, was the motive of the Crusaders, yet there is no occasion for bemoaning the fate of Constantinople and the Greeks. The conquest of the Latins prolonged the successful resistance to the Turks.

Before reaching Corfu, the fleet was joined by Alexius in person. By the end of June, 1203, it had passed through the Dardanelles and was anchored opposite the Golden Horn. After prayers and exhortations by the bishops and clergy, the Galata tower was taken. Alexius III. fled, and Isaac was restored to the throne.

The agreements made with the Venetians, the Greeks found it impossible to fulfil. Confusion reigned among them. Two disastrous conflagrations devoured large portions of the city. One started in a mosque which evoked the wrath of the Crusaders.448448    Arabs were allowed to live in the city and granted the privileges of their religious rites. Gibbon with characteristic irony says. "The Flemish pilgrims were scandalized by the aspect of a mosque or a synagogue in which one God was worshipped without a partner or a son." and the presence of the Occidentals gave Alexius Dukas, surnamed Murzuphlos from his shaggy eyebrows, opportunity to dethrone Isaac and his son and to seize the reins of government. The prince was put to death, and Isaac soon followed him to the grave.

The confusion within the palace and the failure to pay the promised reward were a sufficient excuse for the invaders to assault the city, which fell April 12, 1204.449449    Villehardouin, 233, Wailly’s ed. p. 137, pronounces the capture of Constantinople one of the most difficult feats ever undertaken, une des plus redoutables choses à faire qui jamais fut. A city of such strong fortifications the Franks had not seen before.om the orgies of unbridled lust. Churches and altars were despoiled as well as palaces. Chalices were turned into drinking cups. A prostitute placed in the chair of the patriarchs in St. Sophia, sang ribald songs and danced for the amusement of the soldiery.450450    Hurter (I. p. 685), comparing the conquest of Constantinople with the capture of Jerusalem, exalts the piety of Godfrey and the first Crusaders over against the Venetians and their greed for booty. He forgot the awful massacre in Jerusalem.

Innocent III., writing of the conquest of the city, says: —


"You have spared nothing that is sacred, neither age nor sex. You have given yourselves up to prostitution, to adultery, and to debauchery in the face of all the world. You have glutted your guilty passions, not only on married women, but upon women and virgins dedicated to the Saviour. You have not been content with the imperial treasures and the goods of rich and poor, but you have seized even the wealth of the Church and what belongs to it. You have pillaged the silver tables of the altars, you have broken into the sacristies and stolen the vessels."451451    Reg., VIII. Ep., 133.


To the revolt at these orgies succeeding ages have added regret for the irreparable loss which literature and art suffered in the wild and protracted sack. For the first time in eight hundred years its accumulated treasures were exposed to the ravages of the spoiler, who broke up the altars in its churches, as in St. Sophia, or melted priceless pieces of bronze statuary on the streets and highways.452452    Nicetas gives a list of these losses. See Gibbon, LX., and Hurter.

Constantinople proved to be the richest of sacred storehouses, full of relics, which excited the cupidity and satisfied the superstition of the Crusaders, who found nothing inconsistent in joining devout worship and the violation of the eighth commandment in getting possession of the objects of worship.453453    Villehardouin, 191; Wailly’s ed., 111, says des reliques it n’en faut point parler, car en ce jour il y en avait autant dans la ville que dans le reste du monde. The account of Guntherus, Migne, 212, 253 sqq., is the most elaborate. His informant the Abbot Martin, was an insatiable relic hunter.red and eagerly sent to Western Europe, from the stone on which Jacob slept and Moses’ rod which was turned into a serpent, to the true cross and fragments of Mary’s garments.454454    See Riant; Hurter, I. 694-702; Pears, 365-370. A volume would scarce contain the history, real and legendary, of these objects of veneration.e Transvaal have been to its supply of diamonds—that the capture of Constantinople was to the supply of relics for Latin Christendom. Towns and cities welcomed these relics, and convents were made famous by their possession. In 1205 bishop Nivelon of Soissons sent to Soissons the head of St. Stephen, the finger that Thomas thrust into the Saviour’s side, a thorn from the crown of thorns, a portion of the sleeveless shirt of the Virgin Mary and her girdle, a portion of the towel with which the Lord girded himself at the Last Supper, one of John the Baptist’s arms, and other antiquities scarcely less venerable. The city of Halberstadt and its bishop, Konrad, were fortunate enough to secure some of the blood shed on the cross, parts of the sponge and reed and the purple robe, the head of James the Just, and many other trophies. Sens received the crown of thorns. A tear of Christ was conveyed to Seligencourt and led to a change of its name to the Convent of the Sacred Tear.455455    A curious account is given by Dalmatius of Sergy, of his discovery of the head of St. Clement in answer to prayer, and the deception he practised in making away with it. The relic went to Cluny and was greatly prized. See Hurter. The successful stealth of Abbot Martin is told at length by the German Guntherus, Migne, 212, 251 sq.ead; St. Albans, England, two of St. Margaret’s fingers. The true cross was divided by the grace of the bishops among the barons. A piece was sent by Baldwin to Innocent III.

Perhaps no sacred relics were received with more outward demonstrations of honor than the true crown of thorns, which Baldwin II. transferred to the king of France for ten thousand marks of silver.456456    Matthew Paris, in his account, says, "It was precious beyond gold or topaz, and to the credit of the French kingdom, and indeed, of all the Latins, it was solemnly and devoutly received in grand procession amidst the ringing of bells and the devout prayers of the faithful followers of Christ, and was placed in the king’s chapel in Paris." Luard’s ed., IV. 75; Giles’s trans., I. 311.t of the true cross and the swaddling clothes of Bethlehem were additional acquisitions of Paris.

The Latin Empire of Constantinople, which followed the capture of the city, lasted from 1204 to 1261. Six electors representing the Venetians and six representing the Crusaders met in council and elected Baldwin of Flanders, emperors.457457    The mode of election was fixed before the capture of the city, Villehardouin, 234, 256-261; Wailly’s ed., 137,152 sqq. The election took place in a chamber of the palace. The leader of the French forces, Boniface of Montferrat, married the widow of the emperor Isaac and was made king of Salonica. Innocent III. (VIII. 134, Migne, 215, 714) congratulated Isaac’s widow upon her conversion to the Latin Church.

The attitude of Innocent III. to this remarkable transaction of Christian soldiery exhibited at once his righteous indignation and his politic acquiescence in the new responsibility thrust upon the Apostolic see.458458    He wrote to Baldwin that, while it was desirable the Eastern Church should be subdued, he was more concerned that the Holy Land should be rescued. He urged him and the Venetians to eat the bread of repentance that they might fight the battle of the Lord with a pure heart.chate, established with him, has been perpetuated to this day, and is an almost unbearable offence to the Greeks.459459    The Greek patriarch had left the city reduced to a state of apostolic poverty, of which Gibbon, LXI, says that "had it been voluntary it might perhaps have been meritorious."

The last of the Latin emperors, Baldwin III., 1237–1261, spent most of his time in Western Europe making vain appeals for money. After his dethronement, in l261, by Michael Palaeologus he presents a pitiable spectacle, seeking to gain the ear of princes and ecclesiastics. For two hundred years more the Greeks had an uncertain tenure on the Bosphorus. The loss of Constantinople was bound to come sooner or later in the absence of a moral and muscular revival of the Greek people. The Latin conquest of the city was a romantic episode, and not a stage in the progress of civilization in the East; nor did it hasten the coming of the new era of letters in Western Europe. It widened the schism of the Greek and the Latin churches. The only party to reap substantial gain from the Fourth Crusade was the Venetians.460460    Pears concludes his work, The Fall of Constantinople, by the false judgment that the effects of the Fourth Crusade were altogether disastrous for civilization. He surmises that, but for it, the city would never have fallen into the hands of the Turks, and the Sea of Marmora and the Black Sea would now be surrounded by "prosperous and civilized nations," pp. 412 sqq. There was no movement of progress in the Byzantine empire for the Crusaders to check.



« Prev The Fourth Crusade and the Capture of… Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |