The Fourth Crusade was one of the most embarrassing moments in Church history. The crusading army, rather than attacking the Muslims in the
The Fourth Crusade was called by Innocent III at the end of the 12th century. The failure of the Third Crusade left the
Then a visitor came to the camp. He was Alexius Angelus, prince of
When they arrived, they were met not with cheers from the city’s inhabitants but with garbage (apparently Alexius didn’t have the fan base he claimed he had). The crusaders took the city, an easy feat considering that Uncle Alexius III had fled with the empire’s treasury. Alexius Angelus promised the crusaders wealth; instead, he gave them almost half of what he promised. The result was the destruction of holy items and relics in a frantic attempt to pay back the crusaders. Then, due to popular unrest, Alexius Angelus (now called Alexius IV) is killed by his sergeant, who takes the name Alexius V. The empire is now in the hands of an enemy of the crusaders’ ally (the now deceased Alexius IV), and the crusaders decide to attack the city. They do so, sacking
But was the Church to blame? It seems not, since the pope and his bishops tried in vain to prevent the atrocities. When the crusaders returned they found themselves excommunicated. Would the Church have carried out such a punishment if she had supported the sack? Of course not. If anything, the Church should receive blame for poor management, since the Fourth Crusade got so out of control.