Sack of Constantinople: Historical Review


The movie’s portrayal of the dark sides of Christian history mostly does not go beyond showing the inquisition and all the horrible acts associated with it. In that regard, the history of the crusades is a rich material that historically documents many controversial aspects of that time. Among such historical material, the fourth crusade can be specifically outlined and distinguished among others, in terms of its destruction of the religious purposes in favor of political intrigues and betrayals. This paper represents a proposal for developing a film with the working title “The Sack of Constantinople”, which will be based on the historical events accompanying the fourth crusade.

Historical background

The documented facts of the fourth crusade started with Pope Innocent III calling for a fourth crusade, where “He issued his crusading letter in August of 1198, sending it to all the archbishops of the West.” (Knox 2009) An army of Crusaders was gathered, mostly from France, with the destination being Egypt, an important center of the Muslim world at the time. The control of the crusade was lost by the Pope in favor of Venice, the chosen provider of transportation for the crusading army. Making a deal between Venice and the Crusade army, the city agreed to provide ships for 4,500 knights and their horses, 9,000 Squires, and 20,000-foot soldiers” (Knox 2009), for a price of 85,000 marks. With the crusaders not being able to repay the city by the time the ships were ready, “The Duke of Venice, the blind Enrico Dandoelo, used the indebtedness to use the crusaders to his own political ends.” (The Fourth Crusade – Sack of Constantinople, 2009). One of the political arrangements was delaying the payment for help from the crusaders to recover Zara, a Dalmatian Christian town that was previously ruled by Venetians, and which they were trying to recover for fifteen years.

The next move was changing the destination of the crusade from Egypt to Constantinople, where Constantinople was in hostile positions with Venice, and at the same time, Alexius IV requested help from the crusaders to restore the throne of Constantinople and dethroning the usurper Alexius III for a great reward. Successfully restoring the throne for Alexius IV, but he did not pay the crusaders, so they took the city by assault; “Untold treasures of gold, silver, and holy relics were plundered during the subsequent pillage and rape.” (The Fourth Crusade – Sack of Constantinople, 2009).


The filming will take place in two main locations for outdoor shootings, i.e. Venice in Italy, and Istanbul in Turkey. The indoor shootings will be independent of the geographical locations and mostly decorated with Venetian interiors and the Vatican. Venice and Istanbul are characteristic in terms of their tourist direction, where many of the historical locations are still present, and thus expenditures could be reduced due to the lack of need for building many decorations. In that sense, most of the running time will be devoted to the events surrounding the siege of Constantinople.


The film will imply the usage of many extra players for crowd shootings, with several main characters. The main protagonist in the film will be a French crusader faithful to the ideas of Christianity. The main antagonist in the film will be portrayed by the role of Enrico Dandoelo, the Duke of Venice. Other characters include the Pope, Alexius IV, and Boniface of Montferrat. Extra players will represent two groups, the Crusaders and citizens of Constantinople and their army.


Although the historical events of the fourth crusade are rather dramatic, the film will have an additional plot represented through the story of a single French crusade. Driven by the desire to serve the Church in the first half of the film, the feelings of the soldier will be changed as soon as he will be involved in the intrigue of going to Constantinople. Knowing about the disapproval of the Pope, the turning point in the film will be his meeting with a Greek woman from Constantinople, whom he met during the siege and fell in love with. Being on different sides of the wall, and acknowledging the wrongful of his action as part of a greedy political intrigue, the crusader will defect to the other side after knowing that the woman he liked was killed during the assault. The end of the film represents a dialogue between the soldier, who managed to escape, and the Pope, who tries to restore the crusader’s faith in God stating his regrets for what happened in Constantinople.


The costumes used in the film will mostly represent four groups, i.e. lords, crusaders, merchants, and peasants. Both Venice and Constantinople being trade centers the crowd will mostly belong to the third and fourth category with respective costumes. The crusaders’ costumes will be the most expensive due to the large numbers needed comprising of tunics, surcoats, and capes (Medieval Knight’s Clothing, 2009). Additionally, the crusaders wore a helmet, and a cross on their tunics, shields, and flags.

Potential Market

The main idea of the movie is that the events of the fourth crusade do not represent religious context, rather human greed, and political and economical interests. Taking the position of a single crusader, the movie states that even with high motives, the crusaders were merely pawns in a large game. Thus, the movie will appeal to the Christian world to both the Roman Catholic and the eastern orthodox population, showing the absence of a religious context. The film also might be interesting to the Arab world, with a film about the crusade not showing a clash between Muslims and Christians.


  1. The Fourth Crusade – Sack of Constantinople. 2009. The latter Rain 2009. Web.
  2. Knox, E. L. Skip. 2009. Fourth Crusade. Boise State University.
  3. Medieval Knight’s Clothing. 2009. Medieval Life and Times. Web.
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