Oct. 14 lecture to cover 13th-century Children’s Crusade

BEMIDJI, Minn. — Dr. Mary Jo Hrenchir will present the facts and discuss the fiction of the Children’s Crusade during a Tuesday, Oct. 14 Academy of Lifelong Learning Lecture at 10 a.m. in the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation (CRI), located at 3801 Bemidji Avenue North.

Free and open to the public, the 90-minute program is part of the fall Tuesday morning lecture series sponsored by the Academy of Lifelong Learning (ALL) and coordinated by the CRI.

In 1212, children banded together in two different countries at two different times to march in an attempt to convert Muslims in the Holy Land. One movement originated in Germany, where a shepherd boy named Nicholas led a group across the Alps to seek support for their journey. A second was undertaken separately in France by a young boy, Stephen de Cloyes, who claimed to have received his mission during a divine vision.

While a number of conflicting accounts of these events persisted over the centuries, some facts are known about what was eventually called the Children’s Crusade: the Roman Catholic Church never sanctioned the work of the children; few if any of the crusaders ever reached the Holy Land and most never returned to their homes; and the whole effort was a failure.

“Just like the magnificent cathedrals of Chartres and Notre Dame, the Crusades were a crystallization of medieval faith,” said Hrenchir, an associate professor of history at Bemidji State. “Idealism inspired this monumental attempt to change the world for the good and for God. Things became convoluted when knights and nobles sought to take possession of new principalities and merchants sought new sources of profit.

“But the ideal of the Crusades remained untarnished, and the flame of faith burned as brightly as before,” Hrenchir said. “Only by comprehending the depth of idealistic commitment that engendered the Crusades can we come to terms with the Children’s Crusade. It arose out of the belief that goodness can conquer evil and innocence can obliterate iniquity.”

During the program, Hrenchir will present a broad historical introduction to the crusade movement and discuss both the German and French portions of the Children’s Crusade. She will then raise recent controversies surrounding the relevance of these events and explain how they have been mythologized over time.

A member of the Bemidji State history faculty since 1992, Hrenchir received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California and both a master’s and doctorate from the University of Nebraska. At Bemidji State, she has taught courses ranging from world religions to the Islamic world.

The Academy of Lifelong Learning offers humanities-based programs made possible in part with private donations and support from Bemidji State University. Individuals who wish to be added to the ALL mailing list or have questions about this program should contact the Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation at (218) 755-4900; toll free, (888) 738-3224; email, cri@bemidjistate.edu; or at http://www.cri-bsu.org.

Oct. 14
– 10 a.m. – Bemidji State University Center for Research and Innovation hosts Academy of Lifelong Learning lecture on the 13th-century Children’s Crusades. Presenter: Dr. Mary Jo Hrenchir, associate professor of history at Bemidji State. Location: CRI; 3801 Bemidji Ave. N., Bemidji, Minn. Cost: free. For information: (218) 755-4900; (888) 738-3224; http://www.cri-bsu.org.