Franks Stop Muslim Advance into Europe

This week, in AD 732, Charles Martel, ruler of the Franks, stopped the Muslim advance in western Europe. Francia consisted of subkingdoms over which Martel had gained nominal control. The historian Isidore said he was “a mighty warrior from his youth and trained in all the occasions of arms.” In 732, Muslim armies occupying Spain entered Francia under the leadership of Caliph Abdul Rahman, who “promised to stable their horses in St. Peter’s at Rome” (Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet, p. 96). As they made their way north, the Muslims “burned churches and slaughtered the population” (Susan Bauer, The History of the Medieval World). Martel joined forces with Odo of Aquitaine and with 30,000 men they defeated an invading army of 80,000 or more Muslims at the Battle of Tours. The Muslims underestimated their enemy. Sixteen years earlier, Musa, the first caliph, said the Franks are “brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in the event of defeat; never has a company from my army been beaten” (Raymond Ibrahim, “The Battle of Tours,” National Review, Oct. 12, 2013). But when the Muslims assaulted in “wild headlong charges,” the Franks did not panic but held their phalanx position. “Staying as motionless as a wall, they were like a belt of ice frozen together, and not to be dissolved, as they slew the Arab with the sword.” The Franks used their shields and heavy armor to form a wall of protection. This discipline in battle is why the Roman legions had been successful on the same terrain centuries earlier. After Caliph Rahman was killed, his army retreated back over the Pyrenees mountains, destroying and looting as they went. This was a major turning point in history, halting the advance of Islam into western Europe. Fourteen years earlier, the Muslims had been defeated in their attempt to destroy Constantinople, thus being stopped from conquering Europe from the east. It was the Battle of Tours that earned Charles his nickname Martel or Hammer. In 736, Charles defeated a large Muslim invasion force that came by sea and landed in Narbonne. This was probably the first time that heavy armored cavalry with stirrups were used in Europe. It was the dawn of the age of the knights.

(Friday Church News Notes, October 15, 2021,, 866-295-4143)