Peter the Hermit and the First Crusade

Peter Hermit preached on crusade, engraving from painting by Francesco Hayez, from Exhibition of Fine Arts in Brera, 1830
De Agostini / Biblioteca Ambrosiana / Getty Images

Peter the Hermit was known for preaching Crusade throughout France and Germany and instigating the movement of common folk that became known as the Crusade of the Poor People. He was also known as Cucu Peter, Little Peter or Peter of Amiens.

Occupations

Crusader
Monastic

Places of Residence and Influence

Important Dates

Born: c. 1050
Disaster at Civetot: Oct. 21, 1096
Died: July 8, 1115

About Peter the Hermit

Peter the Hermit may have visited the Holy Land in 1093, but it wasn't until after Pope Urban II made his speech in 1095 that he began a tour of France and Germany, preaching the merits of the crusade as he went. Peter's speeches appealed not only to trained knights, who usually followed their princes and kings on a crusade, but to laborers, tradesmen, and peasants. It was these untrained and disorganized folk who followed Peter the Hermit most eagerly to Constantinople in what became known as "The People's Crusade" or "The Crusade of the Poor People."

In spring of 1096, Peter the Hermit and his followers left Europe for Constantinople, then moved on to Nicomedia in August. But, as an inexperienced leader, Peter had trouble maintaining discipline among his unruly troops, and he returned to Constantinople to seek assistance from Byzantine Emperor Alexius. While he was gone the bulk of Peter's forces was slaughtered by the Turks at Civetot.

Disheartened, Peter almost returned home. Eventually, however, he made his way to Jerusalem, and just before the city was stormed he preached a sermon on the Mount of Olives. A few years after the capture of Jerusalem, Peter the Hermit returned to France, where he established an Augustinian monastery at Neufmoustier.

Resources

Catholic Encyclopedia: Peter the Hermit - Concise biography by Louis Brehier.

Peter the Hermit and the Popular Crusade: Collected Accounts - Collection of documents taken from August. C. Krey's 1921 publication, The First Crusade: The Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Participants.