Episode 2 Heaven on Earth


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For more than 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire was the eye of the entire world – the origin of great literature, fine art and modern government. Heir to Greece and Rome, it was the first Christian empire, spanning 11 centuries and three continents. In the end, plundered and sacked by invaders, Byzantium nearly became extinct. Now, after a year of filming on three continents, this documentary series unlocks this ancient region to uncover the great cultures that helped shape the Western world. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, the eye of the world, where East still meets West. Explore the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia. Visit the treasury of St. Mark’s in Venice and see antiquities never before filmed for television. You’ll be transported to a world that history has nearly forgotten. It’s a journey you won’t forget. Hosted by noted historian John Romer. Episode 1 Building the Dream – The procession was led by the great Roman Emperor, Constantine. And he brought with him a bunch of priests, pagan and Christian ones, and they were all holding an incredible collection of relics. There were twelve baskets filled with crumbs, the residue it was said of our Lord’s miracle of the loaves and fishes. There was the very axe that Noah made the Ark with and there was a statue that the Emperor himself had brought secretly from Rome, the statue of the Greek god, Paris. And at the exact moment prescribed by astrologers, they buried their relics just over there, at the foot of the column. And Constantine renamed the city Constantinople and claimed it as the capital of his grand new empire. For forty years, he killed foes and family alike and when he died, people were so frightened of him that no one touched his body for a week.
Episode 2 Heaven on Earth – Look! Here is Jupiter. This is a pagan book illustrating pagan poetry, and it’s a picture of Jupiter the king of the gods, and he’s got a halo just like Christian saints will have in their pictures. And he’s holding a globe just like Christ will in a thousand churches. And he’s sitting under the arc of heaven as Christ does, and he’s king of the stars and the moon and the sun. This is a pose which says to you, KING You can’t have Jesus king of the world unless he looks like a king. That’s where they’re getting their iconography from – straight from the pagan faith. But When Christianity took over the Roman Empire, it attacked and swept away all these signs. Now these signs were as old as man himself, and Christianity was pretty poorly supplied with alternatives. After all, it was a language of books and words. But unless it was to fail, it had to develop and develop quickly a whole new set of images for the world. The trick, the genius, wasn’t just to swap this ancient chaos with ten thousand pagan signs and symbols for a single set of Christian images, but to find a quick way of spreading these Christian images and pictures right through the ancient Mediterranean. Books – books were the answer. Books were invented at the same time that Christianity started.
Episode 3 Envy of the World – The dream that lasted for a thousand years, a dream shattered by the armies of the West, the fame of Byzantium, traveled from Iceland to China, from Ethiopia to Russia, to every kingdom on the earth. And, at its center, Constantinople, the world’s great marketplace its fabled wealth, its gold, its emeralds, its palaces, its glittering churches. A legend so rich it caused its own destruction. In 1204, the Venetians managed to divert a cutthroat army of Crusaders from their sacred vows to capture Palestine for Christendom. Promising them the plunder of Byzantium, they provided lists of the treasures and the holy relics inside Constantinople. On the thirteenth of April, Venetian war galleys sailed up to the city walls and the knights of France and Germany, of Italy and England, jumped from the boats onto the battlements. Over the next fifty years half of Constantinople was boxed up, crated, and shipped out of the city to Venice and the West.
Episode 4 Forever and Ever – On the last day of Byzantium, an eerie quiet fell over the city. Mehmet had told the Turks to rest, for a whole day, before the last assault. He gave the emperor time to walk with all that was left of the armies and nobles of Byzantium, once again into the great church, and there, after all their arguing in Florence, the Greeks and the Latins joined together in a last service, and the emperor went to the altar and was given the last rites. Then, he walked back to the palace, and there he made a speech to his commanders. A speech, you might say that it was the last speech of the ancient world. Byzantium was not a kingdom of this world. It was a belief in the inevitability that the world came, had a beginning, will come to an end. So when the emperor went onto to the walls and took with him the most ancient icons of his faith, and he knew that he would die, he also knew that he was right.