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Pastoureaux (“Shepherds”) was the name given to the participants in two popular Crusades in France called against the Muslims in Spain. The first movement emerged in Picardy in 1251, inspired by a leader who called himself the “ruler of Hungary.” Claiming to have had a vision in which the Virgin Mary ordered him to take up the cross, he rapidly gathered 30,000 adherents, mainly young men and women, who marched toward the south. This group of Pastoureaux did not attack the Jews until they arrived in Bourges: there they broke into synagogues, destroyed books, and robbed the Jews. At Bordeaux they were turned back by the seneschal of Gascony and dispersed.

A similar movement arose in the southwest in 1320. Jewish chroniclers (Solomon Ibn Verga, Joseph ha-Kohen, and Samuel Usque) telescoped these two movements by attributing to the second the beginnings of the first. This time the religious aim of waging war against the Muslims in Spain was accompanied by a social revolt against the rich and the higher clergy. Thus, the civil and religious authorities swiftly intervened against the crusaders, and Philip V the Tall and Pope John XXII called on them to protect the Jews. In fact, the Pastoureaux turned first against the Jews, intending to use their riches to purchase weapons; they also put to death those Jews who refused to accept baptism.

The anti-Jewish persecutions first began in Agen or Agenais, Bordeaux or Bourdeilles, Gascony and Bigorre, Mont-de-Marsan and Condom, Auch, Rabastens, Gaillac, Albi, Lezat, and especially Verdun-sur-Garonne and Castelsarrasin, where several hundreds of Jews were killed or committed suicide. The events at Toulouse were reported by an eyewitness, the German Jew Baruch, who was employed as a teacher by the local Jewish community. The viscount of Toulouse, who had been informed of the massacre perpetrated by the Pastoureaux in Castelsarrasin and the neighboring localities between June 10 and 12, set out at the head of an armed detachment in order to check their advance. He returned with 24 cartloads of Pastoureaux, intending to imprison them in a castle of the town, but the populace came to their assistance and released them. At once they invaded the Jewish quarter, looting the houses and putting to death anyone who refused baptism. When they marched toward Carcassone, extremely severe repressive measures were taken against them. A number succeeded in reaching Aragon, where they persecuted the Jews anew, particularly in Montclus. King James II of Aragon ordered the suppression of the Pastoureaux, and on this occasion many of them were slaughtered.

According to Jewish chroniclers, 120 communities suffered at the hands of the Pastoureaux, and this appears to be an accurate estimate. Baruch also relates that although the pope called upon the authorities to protect the Jews, the Inquisition would not allow those who had been forcibly baptized to return to Judaism.


C. de Vic and J.J. Vaissete, Histoire générale de Languedoc… (1730), passim; S. Grayzel, in: HJ, 17 (1955), 89–120; J. Duvernoy (ed.), Registre d’inquisition de Jacques Fournier, évêque de Pamiers (1965).

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.