Children's Crusades Q&A

Haley Meyer and Drew Wededemeier

What Is It?
  • A disastrous Crusade by European Christians to expel Muslims from the Holy Land that was made by children.

Who was the leader?

  • Stephen of Cloyes, who was a shepherd. He was only 12 years old. He went around preaching about his "letter from God" when he was rejected by King Philip - Stephen had asked him to organize a crusade because it was what Christ wanted, but the king just told him to come back when he was older.
  • Stephan got around 30,000 followers in a short time period, but unlike any other Crusade that wanted to be planned, it was made up of all children.

When did it occur?

  • This started in 1212 after the Fourth Crusade took place.

Where did it happen, and how did they travel?

  • They marched through France, and made their way from Vendome to Marseilles.
  • Stephan had told his followers that the Sea would part for them, and it did not. So, they crossed the Mediterranean Sea by boats.

What happened? Results?

  • Not much is known about the Children's Crusades. Many that knew of the crusade didn't believe it would be successful. They doomed it to failure. The journey that the children had to endure and walk through was too much for most of the younger ones, and those who couldn't handle it dropped out. Some, who didn't want to drop out, died of exhaustion during the journey.
  • Their leader, Stephen, had told them that the Mediterranean Sea would part for them. It didn't, so they had to cross by boat. They filled in all 7 boats and took off in Marseilles, and that was the last time they were ever seen.
  • It is rumored that there was a priest who had been traveling around Northern Africa, and said he had met some of the surviving children who were then grown to be adults. He was told that 2 of the 7 boats had sunk, killing all who were aboard, and the other 5 were captured by pirates. The children who were on these boats were sold into slavery. This priest might have been lying, but back then priests were known for their honesty and it's doubtful he would have been.

Was this the only Children's Crusade?

  • No. There was another one like the first. It's called the "German Children's Crusade." Their leader was Nicholas, whose age is unsure, but he was an older child. He had about 20,000 followers, which included children, religious men, and unmarried women, so it was not all children. This Crusade happened around 1212, similar to Stephen's.
  • Their fate was the same as Stephen's, too. They journeyed South from Germany to Italy. They dangerously crossed the Alps, and that was one of the common causes of death from the freezing cold. The survivors kept pushing on to Rome, and while in Rome they met the pope. Even though the pop was impressed by their bravery, he didn't want them to take such a chance because of his age, so he sent them back.
  • Some, after hearing this news, didn't listen to the pope. Instead, they boarded boats to the Holy Land. No one knows what happened to them. The ones journeying back had a rough time during their travels, and many did not survive.

Are there any differences and similarities in these two Children's Crusades?

  • In Stephen's, his crusade consisted of only children, while in Nicholas's, he had men and women along with the children.
  • Like Stephen, Nicholas dreamed of taking Jerusalem for Christianity and couldn't stand to not help out.

What's the impact of these events?

  • Even though both of the Children's Crusades were disasters, it is still able to be seen from this example of how much Christians (even the young children) cared about Jerusalem, and the lengths they were willing to travel to get to their goal.


The Children's Crusade