October 10 marks the anniversary of the Battle of Tours (October 10, 732) when Charles Martel defeated Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi. Many historians believe this is one of the most important battles in history. Arab histories do not mention the names of Tours, Poitiers, or Charles Martel. They refer to the battle as Balat Al Shuhada (معركة بلاط الشهداء), the Highway of Martyrs, and is treated as a minor engagement.
English historian Edward Gibbon wrote of the Battle of Tours:
A victorious line of march had been prolonged above a thousand miles from the rock of Gibraltar to the banks of the Loire; the repetition of an equal space would have carried the Saracens to the confines of Poland and the Highlands of Scotland; the Rhine is not more impassable than the Nile or Euphrates, and the Arabian fleet might have sailed without a naval combat into the mouth of the Thames. Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Muhammed.
Leopold von Ranke believed “Poitiers was the turning point of one of the most important epochs in the history of the world.”
From Christian History:
In 610 Mohammed received his call. He began to preach and after many hardships developed a significant following. Within a hundred years Islam had grown into a mighty empire. It conquered much of the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and Southern Italy. The Mediterranean became an Islamic lake. This had tremendous implications for Christianity, because those areas had formerly been Christian.
That Islam did not capture all of Europe and wipe out Christianity is owing in part to the Franks’ Mayor of the Palace, Charles Martel, his sturdy Merovingian knights and a courageous infantry. On this day, October 10, 732* Charles met the Islamic invaders between Poiters and Tours in a battle that lasted either two days (Arab sources) or seven (French sources). The Muslims were mounted and their cavalry employed an innovation–the stirrup. The Franks were on foot. Yet the Franks stood like a wall and the Muslims withdrew defeated. Their leader, Abd-ar-Rahman was killed. In their rout, the Arabs suffered heavy losses of men. Europe would remain Christian territory.
At that time, Europe was not wholly Christian. The great mission work which brought it into the Christian fold was still in process. The church appreciated Charles Martel because he supported Christian expansion among the German races, protecting the notable missionaries Boniface and Willibrord. The church also appreciated his willingness to challenge the Islamic invaders. The church gladly loaned the Carolignian leader church lands to help defray the costs of the resistance against the Muslims.
After his victory, however, Charles incurred ecclesiastical wrath. He required his knights to provide themselves with horses, saddles and spurs; in order that they might pay for these costly innovations, Charles presented them with church lands. Even more exasperating to the church, he awarded its positions to ungodly, untrained laymen. Church discipline declined as is the recurring pattern when it is made into a branch of the civil service.
At one time it seemed unlikely Charles would ever amount to anything. He was an illegitimate son, not entitled to authority. When his father died he was even imprisoned, but managed to escape and build his power base in four short years. He solidified his holdings with unceasing effort, battling the Frisians, Saxons, Alamanni, Bavarians and Aquitanians until the most of modern France was brought under his control. After beating the Muslims at Poiters, Charles also conquered Burgundy. Later the title “Martel” was added to his name. Martellus means “hammer.” Charles’ prowess won him that name. Charles’ descendants had great influence on European history. Pepin the Short, his son, aided the popes at crucial moments. His grandson was the famous emperor Charlemagne.
As for Islam, for centuries it continued its assaults on Europe through the East.