Chronica Regiae Coloniensis, s.a.1213
The "Children's Crusade", 1212
[Adapted from Brundage] Never in the thirteenth century was
there to be a general coalition of Western kings for a Crusade,
as there had been in 1187. This was in part due, no doubt, to
the internal politics of thirteenth century Europe, in part to
the gradual decline of the Crusading movement itself. That the
spirit of the Crusade was not dead is amply proved by the eight
large expeditions from various quarters of Europe during the thirteenth
century. The survival of the Crusading spirit during the century
is further shown by the extraordinary movement in 1212 which is
known as the Children's Crusade. This expedition which, of course,
was not a Crusade at all in the strict sense of the term
attracted thousands of children and young adults from northern
France and western Germany to its banners.
The "Crusade" was preached in France by a peasant
boy named Stephen from a village near Vendome. In Germany, a boy
named Nicholas from Cologne started the movement . The sorry business
was summarized by a chronicler in these terms:
In this year occurred an outstanding thing and one much to be
marveled at, for it is unheard of throughout the ages. About the
time of Easter and Pentecost,4 without anyone having preached
or called for it and prompted by I know not what spirit, many
thousands of boys, ranging in age from six years to full maturity,
left the plows or carts which they were driving, the flocks which
they were pasturing, and anything else which they were doing.
This they did despite the wishes of their parents, relatives,
and friends who sought to make them draw back. Suddenly one ran
after another to take the cross. Thus, by groups of twenty, or
fifty, or a hundred, they put up banners and began to journey
to Jerusalem. They were asked by many people on whose advice or
at whose urging they had set out upon this path. They were asked
especially since only a few years ago many kings, a great many
dukes, and innumerable people in powerful companies had gone there
and had returned with the business unfinished. The present groups,
morever, were stfll of tender years and were neither strong enough
nor powerful enough to do anything. Everyone, therefore, accounted
them foolish and imprudent for trying to do this. They briefly
replied that they were equal to the Divine will in this matter
and that, whatever God might wish to do with them, they would
accept it willingly and with humble spirit. They thus made some
little progress on their journey. Some were turned back at Metz,
others at Piacenza, and others even at Rome. Still others got
to Marseilles, but whether they crossed to the Holy Land or what
their end was is uncertain. One thing is sure: that of the many
thousands who rose up, only very few returned.
Chronica Regiae Coloniensis Continuatio prima, s.a.1213,
MGH SS XXIV 17-18, translated by James Brundage, The Crusades:
A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University
Press, 1962), 213
Copyright note: Professor Brundage informed the Medieval
Sourcebook that copyright was not renewed on this work. Moreover
he gave permission for use of his translations.
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© Paul Halsall December 1997