April 12, 1204—Constantinople falls

Constantinople falls to the Venetian and French forces, led by the blind and ancient Doge Enrico Dandolo, who had cunningly promoted this detour from the Fourth Crusade. This is John Julius Nowich from ‘Venice, The Rise to Empire (1977):

“It was Constantinople’s darkest hour – perhaps even darker than that, two and a half centuries later, which saw the city’s final fall to the Ottoman Sultan. But not all its treasures perished. While the Frenchmen and Flemings abandoned themselves in a frenzy of wholesale destruction, the Venetians kept their heads.

They knew beauty when they saw it. They, too, looted and pillaged and plundered – but they did not destroy. Instead, all that they could lay their hands on they sent back to Venice – beginning with the four great bronze horses which had dominated the Hippodrome since the days of Constantine and which, after a short period in the Arsenal, now stand above the main door of the Basilica of St Mark.” And of course there are dispersed fragments of loot still set, sometimes quite anomalously, into palace facades all over the city – we all have our favourites.