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Peter The Hermit

c.1050-1115. Preacher of the First Crusade. Born near Amiens, he was an ascetic middle-aged hermit when Urban II* announced the crusade, and immediately he began to preach it with evangelical fervor. He gained a remarkable following, mainly among peasants moved by eschatological hopes and economic hardship. In 1096 he set out with some 20,000 people for the Holy Land. Motley and lacking in discipline, they alienated many of the areas through which they passed, and eventually in Asia Minor their lack of military sense led to a horrible massacre at Civitot, at the hands of the Turks. Being absent at the time, Peter survived, and his involvement with the crusade continued and, though he deserted at the siege of Antioch (1098), he was present when Jerusalem was taken (1099). On his return to Europe he founded the monastery of Neufmoutier. As legends proliferated, in less than a century he rather than Urban was popularly regarded as the instigator of the crusade.

See Crusades.