Bizansist_touchup (1)

 

ODO OF DEUIL, chaplain of Louis VII, writing of Constantinople during the second crusade – mid 12th century.

“Constantinople, the glory of the Greeks, rich in renown and richer still in possessions, is laid out in a triangle shaped like a ship’s sail.  In its inner angle stands Santa Sophia and Constantine’s palace in which there is a chapel that is revered for its exceedingly holy relics.  Moreover, Constantinople is girt on two sides by the sea; when approaching the city we had the Arm of St George (a body of water teeming with fish and salt and a stream so small that it can safely be crossed seven or eight times in one day) on the right and on the left a certain estuary, which, after branching from the Arm, flows on for about four miles.  In that place the Palace of Blachernae, although having foundations laid on low ground, achieves eminence through excellent construction and elegance and because of its surroundings on three sides, affords its inhabitants the triple pleasure of looking out upon sea, fields and city.  Its exterior is of almost matchless beauty but its interior surpasses anything that I can say about it.  Throughout it is decorated elaborately with gold and a great variety of colours, and the floor is marble, paved with cunning workmanship; and I do not know whether the exquisite art or the exceedingly valuable stuffs endows it with the more beauty or value.  The third side of the city’s triangle includes fields, but it is fortified by towers and a double wall which extends for about two miles from the sea to the palace.  This wall is not very strong, and it possesses no lofty towers; but the city puts its trust, I think, in the size of its population and the long period of peace which it has enjoyed.  Below the walls lies open land, cultivated by plough and hoe, which contains gardens that the furnish the citizens all kinds of vegetables.  From the outside underground conduits flow in, bringing the city an abundance of sweet water.

The city itself is squalid and fetid and in many places harmed by permanent darkness, for the wealthy overshadow the streets with buildings and leave these dirty, dark places to the poor and to travellers; there murders and robberies and other crimes which love the darkness are committed. Moreover, since people live lawlessly in this city, which has as many lords as rich men and almost as many thieves as poor men, a criminal knows neither fear nor shame, because crime is not punished by law and never entirely comes to light. In every respect she exceeds moderation; for, just as she surpasses other cities in wealth, so, too, does she surpass them in vice.
Also she possesses many churches unequal to Santa Sophia in sizxe but equal to it in beauty, which are to be marvelled at for their beauty and their many saintly relics. Those who had opportunity entered those places, some to see the sights, others to worship faithfully.”

Constantinople is arrogant in her wealth , treacherous in her practices, corrupt in her faith; she as she fears everyone on account of her wealth, she is dreaded by everyone  because of her treachery and faithlessness.  If she did not have these vices, however, she would be preferable to all other places because of her temperate climate, rich fertility of soil, and location convenient for propagating  the faith.”

Share this
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Delicious Email