Why the crusade of children turned into a tragedy

Why the crusade of children turned into a tragedy

The history of the campaign was fully compiled on the basis of approximately 50 existing sources only in 1977 by the Dutch medievalist Peter Redts of Nijmegen University. Until now, it is often transmitted in the wildest variants, but we will stick to the scientific.

Holy fools

The history of the campaign was fully compiled on the basis of approximately 50 existing sources only in 1977 by the Dutch medievalist Peter Redts of Nijmegen University. Until now, it is often transmitted in the wildest variants, but we will stick to the scientific.

So, approximately in 1220 a shepherd appeared almost simultaneously in Germany and France. Each of them had a vision of Jesus Christ, who said that only children would be able to go and occupy Jerusalem without arms, while the Saracens would convert to Christianity.

One boy, Nicholas from Colony, preached in Germany.He was endowed with an unprecedented gift of eloquence. In just a few weeks, 20 thousand followers gathered in Colony (then in Germany) - children, teenagers and young men who were ready to follow Nicholas to the Holy Land.

The second shepherd, Stephen of Cluis, preached about the same in France. In his version, he drew this information from the letter of Jesus to the king of France - he allegedly had to hand it over. 30 thousand followers gathered around Stefan. Many of them also carried some material gift of God.

The whole demonstration went to King Philip II at the Abbey of Saint-Denis, but he, asking for his honor, advice at the University of Paris, ordered everyone to return to their homes. Stephen did not obey, he prayed in different cities, attracting new followers, children and adults. By the time of the campaign, in the group of Stephen it was most likely around 15 thousand people.

Hike to the sea

The German shepherd boy led his followers across the Alps to Italy, where, according to Nicholas, the sea must part in front of the children so that they can easily reach the Holy Land. Only a third of the children reached the sea through the Alps, the rest froze or died for some other reason, and also returned home, discouraged.

A total of 7 thousand children came to Genoa at the end of the summer.

Seeing that the sea does not part, many were disappointed and also began to disperse, but most of the village was waiting by the sea. They were more fortunate than the French.

After a few days, the good Genoese agreed to provide them with shelter. Most of the “walkers” took advantage of this, and Nicholas went with the rest of the group first to Pisa, and from there to the Papal States, where the pontiff ordered the children to return home and behave well. On the way home of Nicholas hung the evil parents of his dead adepts.

The French group was easier on the way - they did not need to travel in the mountains.

Surviving on charity, the kids got to Marcel. And only there they understood that there was a small discrepancy in their plan - there was not a single idea how to cross the sea with such a crowd. Many turned back.

In a particularly wild, but truthful statement of history, it is written that a significant part of the girls were taken to port brothels, the boys were taken to ships and port works, and a significant group of children were “good” Sicilian merchants loaded onto several ships and sent to the Middle East, where immediately upon arrival fell into slavery.

How could this happen?

The crusade of children, for all its insane nature, cannot but be called an amazing phenomenon. Historians have always been interested in not only how it happened, but why.

American medievalist Dana Munro and Norman Zakur believe that the Crusade of Children is one of a series of social explosions through which people found liberation in the dark ages. The Frenchman Paul Alfandri in his book Christianity and the Idea of ​​the Crusades considers the Crusade of children as an expression of the medieval cult of the Innocents — a kind of sacrificial ritual when the Innocents give themselves up for the benefit of the Christian world.

Adolf Vaas, a German scholar of Catholicism, believes that the Crusade of Children was an expression of knightly piety against the glorification of holy war. But the Italian historian Giovanni Miccoli expressed an original view that, in fact, the sources did not describe the participants of the crusade as children. These were not necessarily children in our understanding. For example, the word, which the sources call the participants of the campaign, is translated rather as “guys”, and not children.This view partially coincided only with the theory of Norman Cohn, who in that phenomenon saw the chiliastic movement of the poor. But even if this is so, it should be borne in mind that the participation of children in wars in those days was not unusual. Adolescents aged 13–14 were often not nominally married and were already considered young men — warriors.

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