Children's Crusade

The Children's Crusade is the name given to a variety of fictional and factual events which happened in 1212.

Legend has it that a boy began preaching in either France or Germany claiming that he had been visited by Jesus and told to lead a Crusade to peacefully convert Muslims to Christianity. Through a series of miracles he gained a considerable following. He led his followers towards the Mediterranean Sea, in the belief that the sea would part on their arrival, allowing him and his followers to march to Jerusalem, but this did not happen.

Two merchants gave "free" passage on boats to many of the crusading poor. They were then either taken to Tunisia and sold into slavery, or died in a shipwreck.

According to modern research there seem to have actually been two movements of people (of all ages) in 1212 in Germany and France.

In the first movement Nicholas, a shepherd from Germany, led a group across the Alps and into Italy in 1212. However, their plans did not bear fruit when the waters failed to part as promised, and the band broke up. Some left for home, and some may have travelled along the coast to Marseilles, where they were probably sold into slavery. Few returned home and none reached the Holy Land.

The second movement was led by a 12 year old French shepherd boy named Stephen of Cloyes, who claimed that he bore a letter for the king of France from Jesus. Attracting a crowd of over 30,000 he went to Saint-Denis, where he was seen to work miracles. On the orders of king Philip II the crowd was sent home.

None of the contemporary sources mention plans to go to Jerusalem.

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The Children's Crusade