Siege of Constantinople (1204)

The Sack of Constantinople or Siege of Constantinople (also called the Fourth Crusade) occurred in 1204; it destroyed parts of the capital of the Byzantine Empire as the city was captured by Western European and Venetian Crusaders.

After the capture the Latin Empire was founded and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia.

On 12 April 1204 the weather conditions finally favored the Crusaders. A strong northern wind aided the Venetian ships to come close to the wall. After a short battle, approximately seventy crusaders managed to enter the city. Some Crusaders were eventually able to knock holes in the walls, small enough for a few knights at a time to crawl through; the Venetians were also successful at scaling the walls from the sea, though there was extremely bloody fighting with the Varangians. The crusaders captured the Blachernae section of the city in the northwest and used it as a base to attack the rest of the city, but while attempting to defend themselves with a wall of fire, they ended up burning down even more of the city. This second fire left 15,000 people homeless. The Crusaders took the city on April 12. The crusaders inflicted a horrible and savage sacking on Constantinople for three days, during which many ancient and medieval Roman and Greek works were either stolen or destroyed. The magnificent Library of Constantinople was destroyed. Despite their oaths and the threat of excommunication, the Crusaders ruthlessly and systematically violated the city's holy sanctuaries, destroying, defiling, or stealing all they could lay hands on; nothing was spared. It was said that the total amount looted from Constantinople was about 900,000 silver marks. The Venetians received 150,000 silver marks that was their due, while the Crusaders received 50,000 silver marks. A further 100,000 silver marks were divided evenly up between the Crusaders and Venetians. The remaining 500,000 silver marks were secretly kept back by many Crusader knights.