The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Sacred Plunder

Sacred Plunder

Venice and the Aftermath of the Fourth Crusade David M. Perry
  • Copyright: 2015
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 248 pages
  • Illustrations: 6 b&w illustrations/
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-06507-6
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-06508-3
“This insightful work is the first to explore the effects that waves of displaced relics from Constantinople had on Venice and, more broadly, Latin Christianity. Peeling back layers of narrative in the translation accounts, David Perry reveals evolving attitudes and anxieties about crusading, sanctity, and power. His expertise with these scattered sources illuminates his analysis, and his evocative prose makes it a real pleasure to read.”
“David Perry has made an important contribution to medieval crusade and relic-cult scholarship with this carefully researched and convincingly argued book.”
“[Sacred Plunder] is a perceptive addition to the debate over the outcome of the Fourth Crusade.”
“Lucidly and insightfully argued throughout. . . . [Sacred Plunder] makes a significant contribution to our understanding of attitudes towards the Fourth Crusade, of medieval hagiographical texts and of the evolution of Venetian identity.”

In Sacred Plunder, David Perry argues that plundered relics, and narratives about them, played a central role in shaping the memorial legacy of the Fourth Crusade and the development of Venice’s civic identity in the thirteenth century. After the Fourth Crusade ended in 1204, the disputes over the memory and meaning of the conquest began. Many crusaders faced accusations of impiety, sacrilege, violence, and theft. In their own defense, they produced hagiographical narratives about the movement of relics—a medieval genre called translatiothat restated their own versions of events and shaped the memory of the crusade. The recipients of relics commissioned these unique texts in order to exempt both the objects and the people involved with their theft from broader scrutiny or criticism. Perry further demonstrates how these narratives became a focal point for cultural transformation and an argument for the creation of the new Venetian empire as the city moved from an era of mercantile expansion to one of imperial conquest in the thirteenth century.

David M. Perry is Associate Professor of History at Dominican University. He is a frequent contributor to, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Atlantic, and Al Jazeera America.


List of Illustrations



Part I: Contexts

1. Constantinople’s Relics, 1204–1261

2. Pope Innocent III and Sacrilege, 1204–1215

Part II: Texts

3. The Translatio Narratives of the Fourth Crusade

4. Interpretations

Part III: Outcomes

5. Translatio and Venice Before and After 1204

6. Translatio and the Myth of Venice





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Strange Beauty

Issues in the Making and Meaning of Reliquaries, 400–circa 1204