Children's Crusade By: jacob, RYAN, JAKE, ETHAN AND JOEY
In France, 1212. A phenomenon is spreading throughout the Christian community. A series of crusades performed by knights and other Christians has inspired a young shepherd boy named Stephen to do the same. This young boy would eventually lead a crusade so large, it would inspire the children of the future. Stephan had claimed to have seen a vision of Jesus dressed as a poverty-stricken pilgrim. In this vision, it is said that Stephen had received bread and a letter from Jesus. Jesus supposedly said that the letter had to be delivered to the king of France. This boy was a very strong believer in Christianity, so strong that he had the will to collect over 30,000 people to follow him in his journey. Now this is where beliefs collide. Some believe that Stephan succeeded in his journey to the king, gave the letter to him, and got mad at what the king had said. And then had decided to march to the holy land in hopes that God would split the sea so that they could cross without getting wet. Others believe that the children just went straight to the sea in hopes of making it to the holy land.
Many may have different beliefs of how the children got to where they were, but there is one thing that is certain. The outcome of the crusade. When traveling the long, long journey to the sea. During their travels, they would pass through villages. These villages would hear of their travels and gladly help the cause by supplying them with food and water. But this was sadly not enough to save the poor children from what would happen next. When arriving at the sea which everyone thought god would part as he did for moses. The sea sadly, did not part. The children were left starving, thirsty, many had gotten heat stroke, and many other gruesome things. These kids had traveled all this way on bare feet, so you can assume that many were also tired and worn down to the point of being crippled. One we were able to catch up with the young crusaders and get a few words. One young girl by the name of alice gave us these words, “me and my young brother are very tired and disappointed, at this point we are just trying to get home safely”. This heartbreaking quote was just a precursor for what would come next. When trying to get home a series of gruesome events occurred to these kids. A couple of boats carrying children sank, killing everybody on board. Other boats posed to be saviors but were just the opposite. The rest of the kids were either raped, killed, or sold to the muslim slave market. Its ironic how these kids went to perform gruesome acts on the muslims, but what happened was just the opposite. We were not able to find any survivors or escapists from this tragedy, but all we can do now is pray for them and their families. and for the courageous act which is, and always will be, known as the Children's Crusade.
Motivation For Crusade
The motivation for the first crusade was from the young Stephen who led a large group of 30,000 peasants, which consists of children and adults, to the King with claims of a letter and bread from Jesus, given to him in person. Jesus had appeared to him as he was tending his sheep. The large group of people walked to St. Denis, where they gave the letter to King Philip. The King was very irritated and was not impressed by the people. He sent the large group of adults and children home and on their way. Stephen was angry and irritated with this, for he saw himself as an inspired leader who would succeed where his elders had failed. He went to preach at the entrance to the abbey of Saint-Denis and to announce that he would lead a band of children to the Holy Land. By doing so he formed another large group of peasant children to march from France to the Holy Land. He believed that the Mediterranean would dry up before them, and they would pass, like Moses through the Red Sea, and go safe to the Holy Land. Wearing the cross, this large mass of children did not have any members over 12. There were an estimated thirty thousand children that went on this journey. Most of the children who went were peasants, whose parents in most cases had willingly let them go on their great mission. There were also boys who had slipped away from home to join Stephen and his following of "minor prophets". There were also girls amongst them, a few young priests, and a few older pilgrims, some drawn by piety, others, from pity, and others, certainly, to share in the gifts that would be given to them all. When asked how Stephen would complete his goal, he responded “That’s easy. We’ll simply walk across. God will split the Mediterranean and protect all of his followers.” He planned to cross the Mediterranean Sea from France to Jerusalem.what ended up happening was that God didn't part a path for them. They sat for many weeks waiting for the waters to clear a path to Jerusalem. They eventually gave up and took the offer of some boaters to bring them to Jerusalem. The weren't heard of for years. The second crusade was held just weeks later, by a boy of the name of Nicolas. The children of Germany were upset to have been outdone. Nicolas led another crusade of older children, but with a smaller group size. More women and noble children were on this crusade than the first one. Vagabonds and prostitutes accompanied Nicolas of this journey, most likely seeking salvation. This crusade followed the same path, to walk to Israel and have God split the water in front of them. This plan unfortunately ended in a similar fate of the first crusade with Stephen. The Mediterranean Sea didn't part a path for the children and unfortunately ended with most of them being murdered, raped, and some became slaves. Needless to say, the crusade was not successful.
Stephen and boys of the higher nobility were carried on an elevated platform, as the children had no reason to have their messiah walk. The children were poor and with little clothing and food. Many died along the trip, but some stuck to their beliefs. When they arrived at a town close to the holy land many opened their homes and arms to them. Shelter, food, and clothing was supplied to them. They set out to the by in the morning, and sat their for a week or so, waiting for the sea to split. Some were furious with Stephen. Others kept believing God would save them. Eventually they believed this was not going to happen. Some tried to wander back, retracing their steps. A couple generous ships asked the children if they could bring them back to Rome, free of charge. Stephen instantly accepted such a kind offer and 7 vessels set sail with the children. These ships weren't heard from until years later. Many years after, it was discovered that many were raped, murdered, and some became slaves. Needless to say that the crusade was not successful. The second expedition led by Nicolas was a longer journey with more children.Nearly all of them went on foot. But Stephen, as befitted the leader, insisted on having a gaily decorated cart for himself, with a canopy to shade him from the sun. At his side rode boys of noble birth, each rich enough to possess a horse. No one resented the inspired prophet travelling in comfort. On the contrary, he was treated as a saint. The expedition led from Germany through Switzerland and soon split into two parties. The first party (which included Nicolas, the leader.) the group contained upwards of 20,000 children. This first party went through the alps to Geneva, Italy. As the children passed through switzerland, officials were on edge, fearing it might be a German invasion plan. The officials left the children stay only for one night, but if they decided to stay in switzerland, they were allowed to do so. The children then carried on to Marseilles and waited for the same fate that doomed the first group of children. The second party had no more lucky than the first party. They traveled over the saint gotthard mountains and arrived at the sea of Ancona. When the sea failed to part most of the children were sick dead or had given up on the crusade. Few children stuck to their beliefs and traveled to Brindisi. Very few made it back to Rome, who moved the pope with their terrible tale of the children's crusade. The pope was filled with piety and shame. The pope told the children to return home, and that they could fulfill their vows fighting for the cross in their future. Little is known of the return event, and a very small amount of children even made it back to the rhineland.
Results of Crusade
The results of the Children's crusade were very harsh. In the end, the kids were either raped, slaved, lost, sick, or murdered. All of these things came as a result of the children crusaders failing to get over the water and reach the holy Land. When they made it to Genoa, Italy, they believed that God would part the sea for them to cross. When this failed to happen, the crusade fell apart. The children, at this point, barefoot, hungry, suffering from excessive heat and disillusioned.
Not much of anything is known about how, when, and if the children and adults of the crusade got back home. Lots of the children, especially the girls, could not take the difficult march of the road and stayed behind in some Italian towns or villages. A girl by the name of Rebecca was one of the children who couldn't withstand the treacherous march back to her home. She said " the path of our journey was very challenging track. We climbed mountains, walked through valleys and so much more. I could not finish the journey back home so I stayed in a nearby village until I had recollected myself and could finish the walk home." Only a few of the children found their way back the following spring to the Rhineland where Nicholas (one of the leaders) lived.
The breaking apart of the crusade caused the children to scatter. Some went to Brindisi and Marseilles. In Brisindi they weren't aloud by the bishop to board the ships. A few kind merchants ships were offered to them. Seven set sail from marseilles and two sunk, killing everyone on board. The other ships 5 were captured by African slave-owners who had enslaved the children.
The girls of the crusade were raped and some murdered. Many children were sold to Muslim slave markets. One of the few survivors said "I was once sold to a muslim market filled with many other of our fellow crusaders". Those who made it back to Rome were freed from their vows by the pope. The pope said, "These children put us to shame. They rush to recover the holy land while we sleep." Many who did return home were lost, sick, and had lost their religious fervor and absolute faith in God. The church claimed that "the tragic fate of the children crusaders was the work of the devil."
The final result of the Children's Crusade was that when the children tried making it back home, they met a gruesome fate with rape, slavery, and murder. Some were sold in Muslim slave markets and got starved. The parents of the children who passed, insisted on the arrest of Nicholas's father, for he encouraged their children to take part in the crusade. The mother of a boy who had taken part of the march to the holy land but passed on the return said "this is an outrage! How dare one tell my son to take part in a journey this extreme!" He was later taken and hung. There were horrible results of the Children's crusade that were not thought to be possible during the planning of the journey.