Stephen of Cloyes had a vision: He would travel to Jerusalem to remove the Muslims and reclaim the Holy Land of Jesus for the Catholics with the help of his thousand followers. Their crusade, however, was not even approved by the church. More interestingly, Stephen, at that time, was just 12. What’s more, his followers were also around the same age. This was the beginning of the disastrous Children’s Crusade of 1212.

Not a Crusade

It was in 1095 that Pope Urban called for the first crusades. For the next 300 years, popes would gather and lead their followers to free the Holy Land from Islam in the name of Christiandom. In 1212, Stephen of Cloyes felt compelled to lead his followers into Christianity’s holiest city, Jerusalem, and bring it back to Christianity.  Inspired by a vision he claimed he received from God, He would lead what history would know as the Children’s Crusade of 1212, though it was launched without a decree from the Pope, which it would need to be called a true “Crusade.”

The details of the not-crusade crusade were not clear, but according to accounts, he managed to gather some 30,000 followers who were moved by his sermons, songs of worship, and divine visions. Also, because they were just kids, too. King Philip turned down Stephen’s request, but he and his followers were far from being discouraged— they would march their way and strike out on their own crusade.

Meanwhile, Nicholas of Cologne had his own followers made up of tens of thousands of adults and children. He also had his own divine intervention, claiming that an angel told him to start a crusade. He and his followers went their way to Jerusalem.