The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople

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Viking, 2004 - History - 374 pages
In 1202, zealous western Christians gathered in Venice determined to liberate Jerusalem from the grip of Islam. But the crusaders never made it to the Holy Land. Steered forward by the shrewd Venetian doge, they descended instead on Constantinople, wreaking devastation so terrible and inflicting scars so deep that as recently as 2001 Pope John Paul II offered an apology to the Greek Orthodox Church.

The crusaders spared no one: They raped and massacred thousands, plundered churches, and torched the lavish city. A prostitute danced on the altar of the ravaged Hagia Sophia. And by 1204, barbarism masquerading as piety had shattered one of the great civilizations of history. Here, on the eight hundredth anniversary of the sack, is the extraordinary story of this epic catastrophe, told for the first time outside of academia by Jonathan Phillips, a leading expert on the crusades.

Knights and commoners, monastic chroniclers, courtly troubadours, survivors of the carnage, and even Pope Innocent III left vivid accounts detailing the events of those two fateful years. Using their remarkable letters, chronicles, and speeches, Phillips traces the way in which any region steeped in religious fanaticism, in this case Christian Europe, might succumb to holy war.

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Well-crafted tale of "brutality and determination, depravity and avarice, political intrigue and religious zeal"—and even worse.Eight hundred years ago, the armies of the Fourth Crusade, mingling ... Read full review

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The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople by Jonathan Phillips tells the story of what went wrong. The crusade began as an attempt to send large numbers of reinforcements to the crusader ... Read full review


The Origins and Preaching of the Fourth Crusade 118799
Abbot Martins Crusade Sermon Basel Cathedral May 1200
The Tournament at Ecry November 1199

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About the author (2004)

Jonathan Phillips, a senior lecturer in medieval history at Royal Holloway, University of London, is the author of a number of books on the crusades, including Defenders of the Holy Land and The Crusades: 1095¬–1197. Phillips¬'s articles have appeared in BBC History, History Today, and the Independent.

Phillips is a frequent guest on Radio 4 and BBC World Service, as well as England¬'s Channel 4, the BBC, The History Channel, and PBS.

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