Sack of Constantinople (1204)  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Sack of Constantinople or Siege of Constantinople occurred in 1204 and marked the culmination of the Fourth Crusade. Mutinous Crusader armies captured, looted, and destroyed parts of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. After the capture, the Latin Empire was created and Baldwin of Flanders was crowned Emperor Baldwin I of Constantinople in the Hagia Sophia.

After the city's sacking, most of the Byzantine Empire's territories were divided up and controlled by the Crusaders. Byzantine aristocrats also established a number of small independent splinter states, one of them being the Empire of Nicaea, which recaptured Constantinople in 1261 and proclaimed the reinstatement of the Empire. However, the restored Empire would never return to its former territorial or economic status, and eventually fell to the rising Ottoman Sultanate in the 1453 Siege of Constantinople.

The sack of Constantinople is a major turning point in medieval history and Christianity more generally. The Crusaders' decision to attack a major Christian capital was unprecedented and immediately controversial, even among the Crusaders themselves. Relations between the western and eastern Christian worlds were severely wounded and would not fully recover for hundreds of years afterwards, and the Byzantine Empire became poorer, smaller, and less able to defend itself against the Turkish conquests that followed. The Fourth Crusade therefore left Christendom more divided and weakened than before.

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