The People's Crusade and First Crusade

Peter the Hermit and the People's Crusade

Peter the Hermit was eager to reach the Holy Land and started his own Crusade. Peter was a French monk who had previously tried to get to Jerusalem but had turned back because of the problems caused by the Turks. After hearing Pope Urban's speech he began travelling around France and Germany preaching and gathering an army of ordinary people. His army of followers were eager to go to Jerusalem with promises of absolution for their sins and freedom from a life of hunger and deprivation.

The army's journey across land was not without its problems due to the huge number of people travelling at the same time. The army reached Semlin in Hungary but the inhabitants were not prepared for the large number of extra mouths to feed because the harvests had not yet been brought in. The crusaders started stealing food from the surrounding area and some were killed when the Hungarians took up arms against them.

When the army was nearing Byzantine it was attacked by professional soldiers after a dispute and almost a quarter of Peter's men were killed. At Constantinople the Emperor Alexius welcomed the army but soon ordered them to move on due to their lack of discipline and repeated attacks and thefts from surrounding villages. Alexius warned Peter to wait for better trained troops to arrive before attacking the Turks but was ignored.

The army camped at Cibotos where it was decided to wait for the Turks to attack. But a group led by Geoffrey Burel, tired of waiting spurred the army into action and went in search of the Turks instead. The undisciplined army soon fell into an ambush and turned an ran. The Turks had the advantage and chased the Crusaders back to their camp killing many of them. A couple of thousand managed to escape back to a castle near the sea-shore, where after a brief siege they were rescued by Alexius' warships once he had received news of their disaster. Peter's Crusade was over.

The First Crusade

No kings took part in the First Crusade; it was left to the more important barons of Europe and by August of 1096 they had made their plans and began their journeys to the Holy Land.

Several groups of Crusaders left Europe taking different routes to the Holy Land. If they had all taken one route that route would have run out of supplies to feed the armies. Taking several routes meant that there would hopefully be the supplies needed to feed the Crusaders all the way to the Holy Land.

The groups were led by: -

  • Hugh of Vermandios, the son of Henry I of France.
  • Godfrey of Bouillon, duke of Lorraine and his cousin Baldwin of le Bourg
  • Robert, duke of Normandy, eldest son of William the Conqueror, Robert count of Flanders and Stephen, count of Blois, who was married to Adela, the daughter of William the Conqueror
  • Raymond, count of Toulouse
  • Bohemund, Prince of Taranto and his nephew Tancred

Hugh of Vermandios

Hugh of Vermandios was the son of Henry I, King of France. Hugh was the highest ranking noble to take part in the First Crusade but did not have that much wealth and no reputation for fighting. Taking part in the Crusade may have been a means to improve his wealth and position. Hugh was the first of the nobles to start the Crusade and travelled down Italy to Bari, a coastal town near the heel of the country. His sea crossing to Durres (Albania) ended in disaster when a storm hit the ships and many drowned but Hugh managed to survive. The Greeks kept Hugh virtually a prisoner as he and his surviving Crusaders were escorted to Constantinople.

Godfrey de Bouillon

Godfrey de Bouillon was the second son of Eustace II, the Norman Count of Boulogne. Godfrey was chosen as the ruler of Jerusalem in 1099 after the crusaders of the First Crusade took control of the city. Godfrey refused to wear a golden crown in Jerusalem where his Saviour had only worn a crown of thorns. He wanted to be known as advocate or lay defender of the Holy Sepulchre rather than King. Shortly after the crusaders had taken Jerusalem the separate Muslim armies overcame their differences in order to rid their home of the Christian army. Egypt supplied the largest number of men. The huge Muslim army made its way towards Jeruslem. Godfrey was aware of the threat and managed to put together an army of his own. The two armies met at Ascalon where the Muslim army was defeated by the much smaller Christian force. This was the last battle of the First Crusade. Godfrey died in July 1100 possibly from typhoid. His brother Baldwin became the next King of Jerusalem.

Baldwin of Boulogne

Baldwin of Boulogne was the brother of Godfrey of Bouillon, the first King of Jerusalem. Baldwin took control of the area of Edessa and became the count of Edessa in 1098. When Godfrey died on 18th July 1100 the post of ruler f Jerusalem became vacant. The head of the Church in Jerusalem, Dagobert of Pisa, claimed that the Church itself should rule and as he was its representative he should have the job, but Baldwin disagreed. With a force of a thousand or so men Baldwin travelled to Jerusalem to claim the throne for himself. The people of Jerusalem chose Baldwin as they recognised the need for a strong leader who could defend the city. Baldwin, unlike his brother, was happy to be called King of Jerusalem and to wear a crown.


Bohemund (or Bohemond) of Taranto was a leader of a Norman army from southern Italy and Sicily who joined the First Crusade along with his nephew Tancred. He became Bohemund I, Prince of Antioch in 1099 after Antioch had fallen to the Crusaders. His actions went against an oath he had taken promising to hand over captured lands to Alexius Comnenus of Byzantine. Bohemond was captured by Muslims in 1100 and held for ransom and was freed in 1103 to return to Europe where he married the daughter of Philip I of France.

To be completed....


1095 Mar The Council of Piacenza
   A delegation led by the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus visited Pope Urban II to raise the problems he was having fighting the Muslims in the East. Pope Urban removed the excommunication that had been placed on the Emperor by Pope Gregory and promised to help.
Nov 27 The Council of Clermont
   On the last day of the council Pope Urban II preached about the oppression being inflicted on the Christians in the Middle East by the Muslim Seljuks. Christian churches were being destroyed and Christians attacked. The Pope called for the Christians in the West to help.
1096 Qtr 1 - 1100 Peter the Hermit's (or People's) Crusade
   Following Pope Urban's speech at Clermont Peter the Hermit, a simple man with a powerful ability to move people by his words, started preaching for Christians to help their fellow Christians in the East. He started to gain a large number of followers eager to go to Jerusalem with promises of absolution and freedom from a life of hunger and depravation. His followers were poor, not prepared for the journey and not armed.
Qtr 2 Crusaders cause trouble
   Peter the Hermit's army of ordinary people was large and it needed feeding. One of the more noble members of the army was Walter Sans Avoir, also known as Walter the Penniless. When the army reached Cologne in April Peter decided to halt the army to take advantage of the good supply of food. Walter was impatient and with a small section of the army continued on. They passed through Hungary but at the town of Semlin a dispute broke out when some of his men stole food. When his men were refused food at Belgrade because the harvest had not yet been gathered Walter's army began pillaging the surrounding area. Finally Alexius Comnenus sent supplies and an escort to guard the Crusaders as they marched to Constantinople. The guard ensured that the Crusaders didn't cause any more trouble.
Jul Peter reaches Byzantium
   At Constantinople the Emperor Alexius welcomed Peter's army but there were too many people and no provision had been made for them. There was a general lack of discipline that resulted in repeated attacks and thefts from surrounding villages. Alexius warned Peter to wait for better trained troops to arrive before moving on but the pressure of the army was so great on Constantinople that they were forced to move before help could arrive.
Aug The People's Crusades cross the Bosporus
   The People's Crusaders were shipped across the Bosporus to a disused army base at Civetot. From there they attacked the surrounding areas but they had little affect.
Oct Raymond starts his crusade
   While the People's Crusade led by Peter the Hermit was being crushed in the Holy Land, preparations for the First Crusade carried on in Europe. Those leaders involved were Raymond of Toulouse, Hughes Count of Vermandois, Robert Count of Flanders, Robert Duke of Normandy and Etienne Count of Blois. The leaders arranged to meet at Constantinople and set off taking different routes. Some followed the path across Europe taken by Peter the Hermit, while others took a more southerly routes via the Alps and the Adriatic.
Oct Hugh reaches Constantinople
   Hugh of Vermandios was the first of the barons to reach Constantinople. His army had travelled via Italy and Greece using ships rather than across land like the other barons.
Oct 21 The People's Crusaders massacred
   The Turks attacked the People's Crusades in their base at Civetot and ended their Crusade.
1097 Apr Crusaders reach Constantinople
   When the crusaders arrived at Constantinople they were greeted by Emperor Alexius. The Emperor was happy for the crusaders to capture areas of the Holy Land but he wanted the land to be under his control. Alexius persuaded the Leaders of the crusaders to swear an oath of allegiance to him and to hand over the land they captured. They could however be allowed to live on and rule that land but not own it.
May Siege of Nicaea
   The Crusaders began their campaign with a siege of the city of Nicaea. Before the Crusaders stormed the city, the Turks surrendered. They did not surrender to the Crusaders but to the Emperor instead. This infuriated the Crusaders who were expecting a large haul of treasure from the city. But the city was important for the Crusaders as control of it ensured they could not be attacked as they moved further east.
Jul 1 Battle of Dorylaeum
   The Crusaders defeated an army led by Kilij Arslan, the Seljuk Sultan or Rum., who wanted revenge for the capture of Nicaea.
Oct The Crusaders reach Antioch
   In October of 1097 the Crusaders had reached Antioch. The march had been long and difficult and many had died or deserted due to starvation, diseases and the very wet weather. At once they laid siege to the city. The Turks in the city were prepared and waited to be rescued.
1098 Jun 3 Antioch falls to the Crusaders
   The siege of Antioch was ended not by force but by betrayal. A hand full of Crusaders climbed a ladder into the city and simply opened the gates from the inside. The hoard of the Christian army surged into the city killing anyone or anything in their way. The destruction was brutal and no mercy was shown. As soon as the Crusaders were in the city the situation changed. Outside a Moslem army arrived and in turn besieged the city. Some Crusaders managed to escape over the walls and flee but the majority were trapped without food in the city.
Jun 28 The Crusaders fight back
   Spurred on by the find of the Spear of Longinus, the spear that was supposed to have pierced Jesus on the cross, the Crusaders emerged from the city of Antioch to face the Moslems. The Moslems were defeated, many being killed and many fleeing. After the batlle the ownership of the city was disputed. Bohemund and Raymond of Toulouse argued over its possession and after several months of debate Raymond accepted Bohemund's right to it. In truth, the city should have been handed over to Emporer Alexius.
1099 Jan The march to Jerusalem continues
   After a delay of many months the crusaders under the leadership of Raymond of Toulouse left Antioch and headed south towards Jerusalem.
Jun The Crusaders reach Jerusalem
   A year after their victory at Antioch the remaining Crusaders finally reached Jerusalem, their goal.
Jul 15 Crusaders take Jerusalem
   The Crusaders take Jerusalem and Godfrey of Bouillon becomes King of Jerusalem.
Aug 12 Battle of Ascalon
   The last battle of the First Crusade was fought between the Christians and Muslims at Ascalon. Led by Godfrey of Bouillon, the king of Jerusalem, the heavily out-numbered Christian army used their heavy armour to good affect. The Muslim army consisted mainly of Egyptians intent of driving the Christians out of Jerusalem.

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