Arnaud de Cervole

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Arnaud de Cervole, also de Cervolles, de Cervolle, Arnaut de Cervole or Arnold of Cervoles (c. 1300 - 25 May 1366), known as l'Archiprêtre (The Archpriest), was a French mercenary soldier during the Hundred Years' War.

Early career[edit]

He was born in Lot-et-Garonne in the Périgord somehere around the year 1300. Even though a layman, he possessed the ecclesiastical fief of Velines in Dordogne; because of it he was called the Archpriest of Vélines (Archiprêtre de Velines).[1]

In the early 1350s, he commanded a band of 80 men in South-West France. In 1356, he was wounded and captured after fighting in the forces of the Count of Alençon at the Battle of Poitiers.[2]

In 1358, Arnaud and his troops laid siege to Avignon and forced Pope Innocent VI to pay him a thousand gold florins. After the Pope paid the ransom, Arnaud discharged his troops on the spot, pocketed the money and left, leaving his men ever more furious and dangerous.

Battle of Brignais[edit]

In 1362, he was hired by the French king John II to deal with English brigands, dispatching him with a small royal army led by the Comte de Tancarville and the Comte de la Marche. [1] This army was defeated at the Battle of Brignais, where Arnaud was captured.[3]

A failed crusade[edit]

In 1365, he was approached by Pope Urban V to lead a new Crusade to the Holy Land. The purpose was to clear the Pope's domains of mercenary bands with the added benefit of striking a blow against the Turks. Although the Archpriest did set about collecting mercenaries together, the project progressed slowly and many had dispersed again by the end of the year. A fresh attempt was made in 1366 but supply problems caused discontent. On 25 May 1366, Arnaud de Cervole was murdered by his own men.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Arnaud (as 'L'archprestre et ses Bretons') is mentioned repeatedly in Guillaume de Machaut's Le livre dou voir dit.

Arnaud (as Arnaut) appears as a character in Michael Crichton's novel Timeline and its film adaptation, where he is played by Lambert Wilson.


  1. ^ Sumption, Jonathon (1999). Trial by Fire. London: Faber and Faber. p. 359. ISBN 0-571-13896-9. 
  2. ^ Sumption (1999), p.360
  3. ^ Fowler, Kenneth (2001). Medieval Mercenaries: Vol. I The Great Companies. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 61–4. ISBN 0-631-15886-3. 
  4. ^ Sumption (1999), pp523-4,532-3