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Reviewed by:
  • Exuviae sacrae Constantinopolitanae
  • Leonora Neville
Exuviae sacrae Constantinopolitanae. Edited by Comte Paul Riant. [Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques: Histoire.] (Paris: Éditions du CTHS. 2004. Pp. 44, 12, xiii-ccxxiv, 196. €78.00 paperback.)

This is a facsimile of Paul Riant's two-volume Exuviae sacrae Constan-tinopolitanae, which first appeared in 1878-1879, with a new preface by Jannie Durand. Riant aimed to collect all available sources of information regarding the transfer of religious treasures from Constantinople to Western [End Page 364] Europe in the thirteenth century. The facsimile was published by the Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques in 2004 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sack of Constantinople.

Riant wished to establish a history of the crusades that would transcend the nationalist particularities and dependence on limited narrative sources that he thought characterized previous studies. Since, as he explained in his preface, serious history is based on detailed examination of evidence, he undertook to gather together all manner of information about the transfer of religious objects during and after the Fourth Crusade. The bulk of both volumes is therefore comprised of excerpts of Latin texts. Riant's preface, which runs 224 pages, contains a systematic and detailed exposition of the sources he chose to include. The medieval texts are divided into chapters of hagiography, liturgical documents, letters and records, and 'diverse documents' including inscriptions and extracts from ecclesiastical books such as necrologies; all of which offer testimony to the stunning despoliation of Constantinople's religious treasures.

Although the work of another era, Riant's anthology has not been superceded and will still be consulted by historians. The evidence compiled is foundational to the modern understanding of the Fourth Crusade. Moreover, Riant's efforts at systematization and emphasis on the examination of non-narrative sources were part of the maturation of western historical methodology. These volumes are consequently of as much interest to those studying development of modern historiographical practice as they are to medievalists.

The modern preface by Durand provides a useful biography and assessment of Riant.

Leonora Neville
The Catholic University of America


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