Cults and Crusaders
The Cult of the Children's Crusade

The King of France was approached by a twelve-year-old shepherd boy, Stephen of Cloyes. The peasant boy brought a letter which he said had come from Christ himself, instructing him to organize a crusade to march on Jerusalem. Some investigators believe that this idea, and perhaps even the "letter of Christ", had been given to the child by the Albigenses; a heretical cult which had sprung up about 1209, in the south of France and waged a furious civil war against the French king and the Pope in the name of their own religion.
    The king tried to send the boy home, but Stephen was under a cult spell of intense mania. He dared to disobey his king, announcing that, in a vision, Christ had promised that the sea would divide in front of the Children's Crusade and that angels would guide them to Palestine. Stephen led his children through the streets of Paris and headed south, his procession of some 9000 children being joined along the way by priests, prostitutes and vagrants. In Marseilles they were offered passage to the Holy Land by two evil shipowners named Hugh the Iron and William the Pig, who sold the children into slavery to Arabs in North Africa.

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