Peter the Hermit was an important figure during the First Crusade in the late 11th and early 12th century. He was a French monk and preacher. He was a strong supporter and preacher of the First Crusade.
Peter the Hermit and his partner Walter Sans Avior where able to gather a sizeable army of men, women, and children to march east during the People’s Crusade.
Peter the Hermit is believed to have been born in France during 1050 C.E. His exact date of birth and birth place is unknown to historians. Some believe his father was Renauld L’Ermite from Auvergne and his mother was Alide Montaigu of Picardy. Other historians think Peter the Hermit is from the L’Ermite family that resided in the Netherlands.
Not much of Peter the Hermit is known about his early life. One person of antiquity, Anna Comnena, the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexios I believed Peter the Hermit traveled to the Holy Lands before the First Crusade but was treated harshly by the Seljuk Turks.
Pope Urban II ordered the Council of Clermont to convene in 1095 C.E. Here the pope argued for the First Crusade against Islam and its Muslim followers. At the meeting was Peter the Hermit. After hearing the pleas from Pope Urban II, Peter the Hermit started preaching for the crusade to take place.
Peter the Hermit began giving sermons to help raise support of invading territory that Islam had gained. During his sermons he inspired the poor to take up arms against Islam in the name of Pope Urban II and Christianity. Peter the Hermit preached that whoever went to fight Islam would be protected by the Holy Ghost.
He gathered his followers and proceeded to march east toward the Islamic invaders. Although, many historians believe his group of followers was mainly poor peasant, some historians believe his army of people contained well-armed soldiers and nobles.
When Peter the Hermit started his journey from Cologne in April 1096 C.E. he had some 40,000 followers. Eventually they reached Constantinople in July with a total of 30,000 followers ready to fight against Islam. Their journey was plagued on several fronts including lack of food and many followers starved to death during the journey.
Other problems existed too such as his followers taken as slaves by Slavic robbers who intron sold the individuals in slave markets. When they finally reached Constantinople they camped outside the fortified city.
Peter the Hermit and his followers also found trouble with the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I. The emperor did not want the responsibility of housing and feeding the people that followed Peter the Hermit. Emperor Alexios I was instrumental in transporting the followers into Bosporus, an area in Turkey.
The emperor had pleaded with the followers to wait for his army to guide and protect them into Turkey. Without notice Peter the Hermit and his followers proceeded to enter Turkish territory and were ambushed by Turkish soldiers. Many of the followers were massacred at the Battle of Civetot.
When Peter the Hermit returned to Constantinople he sought help from Emperor Alexios I. The emperor did not want to give any more help to Peter the Hermit and his followers.
Eventually, the main army of nobles, well-armed soldiers, and princesses reached Constantinople and Peter the Hermit joined them. Him and what was left of his followers went with the Crusaders and marched through Asia Minor to Jerusalem.
At this point Peter the Hermit was limited to giving sermons before battles to rile the troops into a fighting frenzy. His biggest sermon came at the Siege of Antioch were the Crusaders won a huge victory over Islam and its Muslim followers.
Peter the Hermit died around 1115 C.E. after he founded the Augustinian Monastery in Flanders. His tomb resides in the Neufmoustier Abbey outside of Flanders.
Council of Clermont
Mainly poor peasants
The Siege of Antioch