Shepherds' Crusade

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This article is about the medieval popular movements. For the Belgian boys' choir, see Les Pastoureaux.
Crociata dei Pastori.jpg

The Shepherds' Crusade (a.k.a. Crusade of the Pastoureaux; French: Croisade des pastoureaux) refers to separate events from the 13th and 14th century. The first took place in 1251 during the Seventh Crusade; the second occurred in 1320.

Shepherds' Crusade, 1251[edit]

In 1248, Louis IX of France went on the Seventh Crusade, but after the defeat of the crusaders, he was captured near Damietta in Egypt.

A peasant movement arose in northern France to support Louis, led by "the Master of Hungary", apparently a very old Hungarian monk, who it was said could speak any language "as if by miracle". He claimed to have been instructed by the Virgin Mary to lead the shepherds of France to the Holy Land to rescue Louis and carried this commission in one hand all the while he preached, never letting it go. He led up to 60,000 mostly young peasants to Paris where, because of his very successful opposition to the Church he met with Louis IX's mother, the acting regent.

The group split up after leaving the city and created disturbances in places such as Rouen, Tours and Orléans. In Amiens, and then in Bourges, they also began to attack Jews. The authorities rounded up and excommunicated the crusaders. However, a group led by the Master resisted the authorities outside Bourges, resulting in the Master being killed in the ensuing skirmish.

Shepherds' Crusade, 1320[edit]

A separate movement occurred in May 1320 in Normandy, when a teenage shepherd claimed to have been visited by the Holy Spirit, which instructed him to fight the Moors in Spain. First, they marched to Paris where Philip V refused to meet them. They then marched south attacking castles, royal officials, priests, lepers but most of all Jews. In Avignon John XXII, gave orders to stop them and in Spain James II of Aragon at first prohibited them from entering the kingdom, but when they did enter in July, James warned all his nobles to make sure the Jews were kept safe.

At the fortress of Montclus over 300 Jews were killed and James' son Alfonso was sent out to bring them under control with those responsible for the massacre executed. After this the crusade dispersed. In 1321, King Philip fined those communities in which Jews had been killed. This led to a second revolt, this time among the urban population.




  • Matthew Paris, Chronica Maiora
  • Margaret Wade Labarge, Saint Louis: The Life of Louis IX of France. London, 1968.
  • Ernest Lavisse, Histoire de France, Tome Troisième, II. Paris, 1901.
  • Régine Pernoud, La Reine Blanche. Paris, 1972.