It was May 1212. French King Philippe was meeting with his courtiers in Saint Denise. A shepherd named Stephane of Orleans enters the court. The kid says that he has brought a letter from Jesus Christ. Moreover, he also says that Jesus Christ, who approached him while he was herding his sheep, gave him the mission to advise the Crusaders.
This story is related by Runciman, who has conducted one of the most prominent research studies about the history of the Crusades. So, it is no ordinary story.
There is even room for provoking children against “the other” in the tradition of the West, which promoted itself as the only source of civilization in modern times. One of the most widely known and still remembered examples of this is the Crusades. The most tragic of the many Crusades, which was initiated towards the end of the 11th century by European Christians to “save Jerusalem” and “Remove Turks from Anatolia,” is the Children’s Crusade that was started with the story mentioned above.
The Crusaders were not able to get what they wanted with the four previous crusades against the Muslim world. The preachers, who thought that failure may been have caused because the soldiers were very sinful, disseminated all over Europe and spread propaganda against Muslims. The main theme in their lectures was saving Jerusalem from the Muslims, whom they regarded as heretics. Shepherd Stephane too met one of these preachers while he was herding his sheep and was fascinated by him. He was so fascinated that, he believed he could achieve what his sinful elders couldn’t. More precisely, he was convinced that he could.
Stephane too starts spreading propaganda and declares that he is going to save Christianity with a group comprised of children. The children, mesmerized by the preachers, were ready for such an invitation. They set off in June believing that seas will dry and become a road for them as a miracle of Jesus Christ. This not an ordinary story. Contemporary sources all over France say that about 30,000 girls and boys under the age of 12 gathered in Vendome. Among them were also some villagers, as well as pilgrims going to Jerusalem, and of course preachers.
All the Children Crusaders then head south on foot. It was an extremely hot summer and the conditions for the journey were grave. The children, who made do with the food given to them in the places they passed through, were not able to find enough food because of the ongoing drought and famine in the country. Many of them died on the way, and a significant number of them finally arrived in Marseille one evening. The people of Marseille were very generous toward the children and opened up their homes to them. The following morning, the children rushed to the coast to see the miracle: the seas opening up and becoming a road for them; however, when this didn’t happen, they were utterly disappointed. Some kids thought that they were deceived and left the group blaming Stephane. The believers, on the other hand, waited for days for a miracle to happen and see seas dry.
Two merchants from Marseille called Iron Hugh and Pig William then declared that they would bring the children to Palestine for God’s sake. Stephane and the others cheerfully accept this offer and embark on the ships. However, after that day they never hear from the children again. Interestingly, Stephane’s story also becomes very influential in Germany. After Stephane, German youths also took initiative. This time a youth named Nicholas assembles a child army with the same message in Cologne and head towards Italy. The average age of this group was much higher than the French one, and the number of the girls were also higher. Unfortunately, about 20,000 children who set off from Germany also shared the same fate. These deceived children could neither reach Jerusalem nor return home. Some priests who were able to return brought news from the children 18 years later. According to the news, the ships that sailed from Marseille sank on the way and thousands of children drowned. A few ships which survived the storm did not head to Palestine, but to Africa. The ones who died were actually the lucky ones. Because those who did reach Africa were sold as slaves by their co-religionists.
The most brutal and meaningless wars of the world’s history which continued for centuries, the crusades, did not only harm the Turks and the Muslim world. It also greatly harmed Europe and Christianity. If more than fifty thousand children who were brutally sent for crusades could have survived, who knows, maybe the world would be a more peaceful and happier place today.
So, why have I related this story?
The life of the terrorist who killed 50 Muslims in New Zealand and wounded as many was analyzed. The most striking thing was the visits he made to Turkey. Even though we don’t have all the details, it is claimed that the terrorist also visited the dungeon in Tokat where it was believed that Dracula was kept. In fact, this is a typical attitude for such a villain.
Well, who was Dracula? Dracula, who has been the subject of many novels and movies, was a person who ascended to the throne as Vlad III in 15th Wallachia region of Romania. In fact, he owes his fame to his brutality. Vlad, who is also known as Vlad the Impaler lived in the time of Mehmed II (the Conqueror), and rumor has it that he was thrown into the dungeon in Tokat on the order of Mehmed II himself.
Who knows where the legendary story of Dracula, who has the character that became an idol for a terrorist, is being told in some circles?