Anno Domini 1204, 600-601 AH

"How shall I begin to tell of the deeds wrought by these nefarious men! Alas, the images, which ought to have been adored, were trodden under foot! Alas, the relics of the holy martyrs were thrown into unclean places! Then was seen what one shudders to hear, namely, the divine body and blood of Christ was spilled upon the ground or thrown about...

"...No one was without a share in the grief. In the alleys, in the streets, in the temples, complaints, weeping, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity, the separation of those most closely united...Oh, immortal God, how great the afflictions of the men, how great the distress!"1

- Nicetas Chroniates, relating the sack of Constantinople

"We have just heard and discovered from your letters that you have absolved from their pilgrimage vows and their crusading obligations all the Crusaders who have remained to defend Constantinople from last March to the present. It is impossible not to be moved against you, for you neither should nor could give any such absolution.

"Whoever suggested such a thing to you and how did they ever lead your mind astray?. . .

"How, indeed, is the Greek church to be brought back into ecclesiastical union and to a devotion for the Apostolic See when she has been beset with so many afflictions and persecutions that she sees in the Latins only an example of perdition and the works of darkness, so that she now, and with reason, detests the Latins more than dogs?"1

-- Pope Innocent III, reprimanding the Legate that went with the Crusaders

Born in 1204:

Died in 1204:

Events of 1204:
  • Chichen Itza is abandoned.
  • French King Philip II uses the previous year's murder of Duke Arthur of Brittany as a pretext to seize Normandy from the English.
  • Pope Innocent III sends a Papal legate to the Languedoc to search for members of the banned Cathar sect.  The Legate is Cistercian abbot Arnaud-Amaury, accompanying him is a Spanish priest, Domingo de Guzmán.
  • Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan, after years of negotiation, puts the Bulgarian church under Innocent's authority, becoming Basil I.  The Pope gives his blessing to Basil's defense of the Bulgarian Empire against (Catholic) Hungarian raids.
  • St. Francis of Assisi, having recovered from his imprisonment, has a vague idea of joining the Fourth Crusade, but gets no further than Apulia.
  • Mongol warlord Temujin defeats the Naiman tribe and bundles the last seven Mongol tribes into his empire.

  • The Fourth Crusade comes to its awful conclusion.  If you visit Venice and happen to notice the four bronze horses over the entrance to St. Mark's Cathedral, think about how they got there.
    • The 'Latin' Crusaders (mostly French and Norman knights) are essentially stranded, encamped around Constantinople.  They demand the money Byzantine Emperor Alexis II promised them for putting him on the throne. He had promised far too much (among other things, the submission of the Eastern Orthodox Church to Rome). He scrapes up 100,000 marks (which Dandolo gets most of).  He refuses to give them any more.

    • Most of the people who thought diverting the Crusade to Constantinople a bad idea have left by now, and so the rest are united in their desire to get the rest of their payment.  They also agree to depose Alexius and put a Latin on the throne.

    • The Byzantines are so furious at Alexius IV that they have him strangled and replaced with Alexius III's son-in-law, Alexius Murzuphlus.  This of course only triggered the final, terrible, result.

    • April 13.  Doge Enrico Dandolo's ships make a hole in the city's seawall, and the Crusaders enter Constantinople for a three-day sack.  The altar at Hagia Sophia is broken up, relics and statuary are stolen.  The Papal Legate absolves the looters for their deeds.

      Constantinople is so thoroughly devastated it will not regain its former glory until the Ottomans rebuild it. The Byzantine Empire is smashed to pieces. The Count of Flanders is crowned Emperor Baldwin I; his Latin Empire includes mainland Greece.  Bulgaria seizes Thrace.  Various Byzantine provinces set themselves up as petty Empires: the Despotate of Epirus, the Despotate of Rhodes, the Empire of Trebizond, and the Empire of Nicaea.

      Venice takes over Cyprus, Crete, part of Albania, Santorini, and the Ionian Islands. Dandolo sails back to Venice with his loot.

1203 - 1204 - 1205

How They Were Made - 13th Century

1Translated by D. C. Munro, Translations and Reprints from the Original Sources of European History, Series 1, Vol 3:1 (rev. ed.) (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1912), 15-16, reproduced at

2Patrologia Latina 215, 669-702, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades: A Documentary History, reproduced at

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