With the race for souls came the building of grand places of worship; the lavishness of the interior decoration being somehow equated with demonstrations of the supremacy of particular idea-less. The builders of the Byzantium church of St Sophia in Constantinople are said to have used 300,000 pounds (136,000 kilograms) of gold on its walls, furnishings and trappings, setting the standard for church building in the rest of the Christian world. Priests, bishops and popes would weigh themselves down under vestments that were heavily embroidered in gold thread. Though poor by comparison, monks were busy in their monasteries reviving the art of writing by copying the Holy Scriptures, using gold suspended in egg white for their illustrations. Some of these books have survived to this day.
Eventually trade, too, was re-established between the European centers. The French king Charlemagne, who was crowned the Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III in 800 AD, had so great a need for gold with which to cast coins for his realm that he had to take his armies all the way to western China, where he plundered fifteen wagons of gold from the emergent Mongol Empire.
African Gold of Europe under the influence of Christianity by the beginning of the second millennium, it is not surprising that popes and kings turned their attention to the stranglehold Islam had in the east. While the Crusades were ostensibly about returning Jerusalem to Christendom, Muslim gold and trading contacts with China and India were a powerful attraction.
Gold and the New World
An obsession with the treasures of China heralded an age of exploration beginning at the end of the fifteenth century, when the design of ships and sails made ocean journeys possible for the first time. At first the target was the fabled gold of Africa, which remained elusive but opened the possibility of a much more sinister trade in human cargo; one that would be exploited to the full