Chalice of the Emperor Romanos II, 959-963, possibly from #HagiaSophia and looted in 1204.
In 1204 CE the unthinkable happened and Constantinople, after nine centuries of withstanding all comers, was brutally sacked. Even more startling was the fact that the perpetrators were not any of the traditional enemies of the Byzantine Empire: the armies of Islam, the Bulgars, Hungarians, or Serbs, but the western Christian army of the Fourth Crusade. Finally, the mutual suspicion and distrust that had existed for centuries between the western and eastern states and churches had blown up into full-scale warfare. With the fall of the city, many of its religious icons, relics, and artworks were spirited away and the ByzantineEmpire was divided up between Venice and its allies. The empire would rise again from the ashes but never again could Constantinople claim to be the greatest, richest, and most artistically vibrant city in the world.