In November 1095, Pope Urban II called for Christians to go to Jerusalem and free it from Muslim rule. The Crusades began in August the following year. But, did you know that there was a Crusade before the First Crusade? This venture did not garner the status of the real thing and was largely a failure, but it was an honest effort nonetheless. So, what was it? The People’s Crusade was the prelude to the official thing and lasted about six months, from April–October, 1096. It is also called the Popular Crusade and by other less flattering names, such as the Peasants’ Crusades and the Paupers’ Crusades.
The People’s Crusade was a popular movement comprising commoners who thought it best to go and win back the Holy Land without the help of the official forces. Unprepared and inexperienced, the quest ended predictably. Still, unlike popular opinion, the Crusaders were not exclusively peasants. There were noblemen among their ranks, and groups were led by trained, experienced knights. At the same time, to call them armies would be an overstatement. They were largely collection of pilgrims, most of them of foot and armed with crude weapons and religious zeal.
The person in charge of invoking the passion of this motley crew was one Peter the Hermit, a monk who was known to dress in simple clothes and use the donkey as a means of conveyance. He claimed he had been chosen to preach by Christ himself and apparently had a divine letter to prove so! He may have had his failings but there is no doubt that Peter the Hermit possessed oodles of charisma, so much so that his followers believed that is was he and not Urban who had originated the Crusades.
How did this venture end? When the People’s Crusade reached Constantinople, they were advised to wait for a proper Crusader army. They predictably ignored the orders and headed to Jerusalem. They never reached the Holy Land and were soundly defeated by the Turks. Peter remained in Constantinople and joined the real Crusade.
Costumes and Collectibles from The Knights Templar and the Crusades