In 1204 Latin Crusaders from Venice, resentful of their perceived ‘excesses’ of the Byzantine Empire, sacked Constantinople. Professor Robin Cormack writes that the Byzantium art we know today are actually looted treasure after the “Crusader Sack of Constantinople”.
Christian relics from the palaces and churches were the prime target, and the church of S. Marco in Venice and its Treasure acquired chalices, crowns, icons, enamels, rock crystals, vessels, reliquaries, books, and book covers, the four bronze horses from the Hippodrome, imperial porphyry sculpture, reliefs and capitals from the collapsed church of St. Polyeuktos, and ransacked marbles from St. Sophia (Cormack, pg. 187).
He further writes that the paradox of the sacking is that when westerners finally gained full access to the art of Constantinople, their perception of Byzantine art changed to appreciation. The Hagia Sophia was converted to a Latin Catholic cathedral.(Cormack, pg. 187).