The main driving force behind all the crusades was to seize control of the Holy lands and in particular Jerusalem from Islamic control.
The Peoples crusade started in April 1096 and lasted around six months until October of the same year.
In the year 1095 an urgent appeal was sent to Pope Urban from Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos asking for assistance in repelling Islamic forces who had almost completely conquered Anatolia.
This area was previously under the Christian Byzantine empire’s control, this was also during a period when Islamic forces were becoming more hostile toward Christian pilgrims visiting the holy lands.
During a Sermon at the Council of Clermont made at Clermont-Ferrand in 1095, Pope Urban II called on all Christians to join together in a Holy Crusade to conquer the Holy lands and form the new Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem!
The people’s crusade also known as the Peasants, Paupers, and Popular Crusade, would be the first Christian military effort toward this goal and was inspired by this appeal.
The Peoples Crusade was not an official crusade and as such was not organized by the Church, it would take place just before the First Crusade in the same year 1096. Various groups would make their own way to Jerusalem.
The expedition was led by a monk called ‘Peter the Hermit’, also known as little Peter, experienced knights such as ‘Walter Sans-Avoir’ also known as ‘Walter the Penniless’ and ‘Emicho of Flonheim’ joined him.
People who joined the peoples’ crusade were not of the knightly class and were mainly uneducated peasants without any military training.
Legend has it that around 100,000 people gathered including women and children ready to follow their spiritual leader and charismatic monk ‘Peter the Hermit of Amiens’ who was ready to lead them on his donkey toward Jerusalem.
The reason so many people of the lower classes decided to join the peoples crusade was because of many hardships at home during this time such as drought, famine and disease.
There were also other strange events occuring at the time such as meteor showers, lunar eclipse’s and a feeling amongst many that they were in end times and had nothing to lose.
The massive convoy of people had hardly any provisions for the long perilous journey to Jerusalem, therefore the looting of villages and towns along the way became inevitable.
Jewish people who were known to be wealthy at the time were killed throughout Europe and had their valuables stolen from them.
A trail of devastation was left in their wake, thousands of Jews were massacred in the Rhineland, as the journey progressed the groups became more violent, by the time they had reached Byzantine lands, they were described as being ‘like a pack of wild animals’.
Despite this the Christian Byzantine Emperor Comena allowed them to travel through Byzantine lands and territories as he thought that they would terrify and weaken their mutual enemy, the Seljuk Turkish forces.
The mainly untrained and disorganized forces of “Peter the hermit” were eventually confronted by the better equipped and organized forces of the Seljuk Turks under the command of Kilij Arslan and were quickly decimated in the Battle of Civetot, northwestern Anatolia.
Most of the people who were part of the People’s Crusade were killed and others who survived were sold into slavery.
The Peoples Crusade ended in failure, however this was not an organised and well planned expedition and was not authorized by the Catholic Church, the following 1st Crusade would be another story altogether with the well organised and trained knights and soldiers of Europe re-claiming Jerusalem.