The Children's Crusade in 1212 Gustave Doré Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Children's Crusade in 1212 was an engraved drawing by Gustave Doré for his series known as Histoire des Croisades, which was based on the earlier work of Michaud.

The artist would hand over around 100 illustrations to a number of engravers who then produced wood blocks of his work, ready for the publishing processs. This particular series was aimed at the French market and produced in Paris by Hachette and Co.. Michaud's work had chronicled the crusades of past centuries within a long publication and it was deemed suitable for a re-print, with the addition of illustrations by the leading book designer of that era - Gustave Doré. His workload meant that he was unable to complete all of the necessary phases of the development, and so limited himself to creating the original illustrations, with a team of trusted engravers on stand-by. Historians interested in the crusades have examined the work of Michaud for its accuracy in recent years and it remains a highly significant, perhaps landmark publication on these important historical events.

The Children's Crusade is marked as plate 53 within the publication. The entry is also joined by the words, "... Fifty thousand French and German children launch their own crusade, singing, 'Lord Jesus, restore to us your holy cross!'. Typically his illustrations would carry small texts alongside such as this, and be given one full page each, with related copy from the original literature then displayed on the opposing page. The Children's Crusade in 1212 features a plethora of children within this scene who have congregated within the centre of a busy town. They are tightly packed within these narrow streets, with some girls stood within a wooden structure which lifts them up above the masses. Several hold religious instruments to represent the Children's Crusade and the artist also incorporates some traditional architecture across the background, with shadows falling between these tightly knit streets.

Stephen of Cloyes led a large number of children who demanded the right to have a crusade of their own. They headed to Paris in search of permission but this was denied. They wanted to speak with the King of France and then head off to reclaim Jerusalem for Catholics. Clearly the ruling powers would reject their idea, for most were too young to be anywhere near a battle. A similar group appeared in Germany at around the same time, mainly drunk on the charisma of various leaders. Ultimately they set off on their course but would never achieve their ambition and dispersed way before reaching Jerusalem, making this piece quite a unique tale within the collection of Crusades.