W HEN Pepin died, his son Charles cleverly escaped from the prison in which his stepmother was vainly trying to keep him so that her son might be mayor of the palace in his stead. Charles then placed himself at the head of an army, conquered the rebellious German tribes, and had barely put state affairs in some order when he heard that a new danger was threatening France. This was the coming of the Saracens, an Eastern nation, who wished to force every one to give up the Christian religion and to adopt that taught by their prophet Mohammed.
Instead of merely preaching to people, and thus trying to persuade them to do as they wished, the Saracens set out from Arabia to convert the world, sword in hand. As they were very brave, they soon conquered all the northern part of Africa; then, crossing the Strait of Gilbraltar, they swept all over Spain, and even ravaged Provence, robbing houses and churches, and killing and burning wherever they went.
Now they had sworn to conquer all France and had begun by defeating the Duke of Aquitania. The Church of St. Martin at Tours (toor) being one of the oldest an richest in the country, Charles felt sure that the Saracens would soon come to sack that. He therefore crossed the Loire River with a large army, determined to check their advance and protect the shrine.
The two forces met between the cities of Tours and Poiters, so the battle fought there (732) is sometimes called by one name and sometimes by the other. Both armies were so large and so strong, it is said, that they stood opposite each other seven days before daring to begin the famous battle which was to decide the fate of France and of all Europe.
Throughout this encounter, Chrles fought with such courage, and struck such mighty blows, that he earned the nickname of "Martel'," or "The Hammer." We are even told that Charles Martel killed the king of the Caracens with his own hand and that his example inspired his men to wonderful deeds of valor.
At dark, both armies retreated into their camps to rest, fully expecting to renew the struggle on the morrow. But when the Saracens found out how many thousands of men they had already lost, they decided to slip away quietly during the night, leaving their booty behind them and taking with them nothing but their arms and horses.
When morning dawned, Charles and his men waited in vain for the enemy to come out of their tents and renew the fight. Finally the Franks advanced with great care, for they feared a trick on the part of the Saracens. But they were amazed to find the camp empty, with untold treasures scattered all over the ground, and it is said that they collected in a few minutes more wealth than they could carry away!
The Saracens were so discouraged by this terrible defeat that they gave up all hope of conquering France.