Charles Martel, 714‑741 A.D.
Charles Martel at Tours
Both Christians and Mohammedans fought with terrible earnestness. The fight went on all day, and the field was covered with the bodies of the slain. But towards evening, during a resolute charge made by the Franks, Abd-er-Rahman was killed. Then the Saracens gradually retired to their camp.
It was not yet known, however, which side had won; and the Franks expected that the fight would be renewed in the morning.
But when Charles Martel, with his Christian warriors, appeared on the field at sunrise there was no enemy to fight. The Mohammedans had fled in the silence and darkness of the night and had left behind them all their valuable spoils. There was now no doubt which side had won.
The battle of Tours, or Poitiers, as it should be called, is regarded as one of the decisive battles of the world. It decided that Christians, and not Moslems, should be the ruling power in Europe.
Charles Martel is especially celebrated as the hero of this battle. It is said that the name Martel was given to him because of his bravery during the fight. Marteau is the French word for hammer, and one of the old French historians says that as a hammer breaks and crushes iron and steel, so Charles broke and crushed the power of his enemies in the battle of Tours.
But though the Saracens fled from the battlefield of Tours, they did not leave the land of the Franks; and Charles had to fight other battles with them, before they were finally defeated. At last, however, he drove them across the Pyrenees, and they never again attempted to invade Frankland.
After his defeat of the Saracens Charles Martel was looked upon as the great champion of Christianity; and to the day of his death, in 741, he was in reality, though not in name, the king of the Franks.
C HARLES MARTEL had two sons, Pepin and Carloman. For a time they ruled together, but Carloman wished to lead a religious life, so he went to a monastery and became a monk. Then Pepin was sole ruler.
Pepin was quite low in stature, and therefore was called Pepin the Short. But he had great strength and courage. A story is told of him, which shows how fearless he was.
One day he went with a few of his nobles to a circus to see a fight between a lion and a bull. Soon after the fight began, it looked as though the bull were getting the worst of it. Pepin cried out to his companions:
"Will one of you separate the beasts?"
But there was no answer. None of them had the courage to make the attempt. Then Pepin jumped from his seat, rushed into the arena, and with a thrust of his sword killed the lion.
In the early years of Pepin's rule as mayor of the palace the throne was occupied by a king named Childeric III. Like his father and the other "do-nothing" kings, Childeric cared more for pleasures and amusements than for affairs of government. Pepin was the real ruler, and after a while he began to think that he ought to have the title of king, as he had all the power and did all the work of governing and defending the kingdom.
So he sent some friends to Rome to consult the Pope. They said to His Holiness:
"Holy father, who ought to be the king of France—the man who has the title, or the man who has the power and does all the duties of king?"
"Certainly," replied the Pope, "the man who has the power and does the duties."
"Then, surely," said they, "Pepin ought to be the king of the Franks; for he has all the power."
The Pope gave his consent, and Pepin was crowned king of the Franks; and thus the reign of Childeric ended and that of Pepin began.
During nearly his whole reign Pepin was engaged in war. Several times he went to Italy to defend the Pope against the Lombards. These people occupied certain parts of Italy, including the province still called Lombardy.
Pepin conquered them and gave as a present to the Pope that part of their possessions which extended for some distance around Rome. This was called "Pepin's Donation." It was the beginning of what is known as the "temporal power" of the Popes, that is, their power as rulers of part of Italy.
Pepin died in 768.