The Powerful Prince Who Beat Jihad

Why was Charles Martel called ‘the Hammer’? What did he do to the Arabs that halted the Islamisation of Western Europe? And why wasn’t the King involved?

Charles’s lust for power

Gallia (Gaul) had come a long way since surrendering before Roman might, depicted here by Lionel Royer.
Gallia (Gaul) had come a long way since surrendering before Roman might, depicted here by Lionel Royer.
Gallia (Gaul) had come a long way since surrendering before Roman might, depicted here by Lionel Royer. When Charles Martel was born, it was in Frankish hands.
Francia in 714 CE, roughly around the time Charles became majordomo and prince.
Francia in 714 CE, roughly around the time Charles became majordomo and prince.
Francia in 714 CE, roughly around the time Charles became majordomo and prince.

The gargantuan threat rushing in

Charles Martel, Duke and Prince of the Franks.
Charles Martel, Duke and Prince of the Franks.
Charles Martel, Duke and Prince of the Franks.

Hammer time

Excerpt from Charles de Steuben’s depiction of the Battle of Tours, called Bataille de Poitiers, en octobre 732.
Excerpt from Charles de Steuben’s depiction of the Battle of Tours, called Bataille de Poitiers, en octobre 732.
Excerpt from Charles de Steuben’s depiction of the Battle of Tours, called Bataille de Poitiers, en octobre 732: to the right we see a bearded al-Ghafiqi in action; to the left, wielding an axe, Charles Martel.

Martel marches south

The Provence and Avignon: the southeastern corner of Francia where the interests of Charles Martel and the caliph clashed.
The Provence and Avignon: the southeastern corner of Francia where the interests of Charles Martel and the caliph clashed.
The Provence and Avignon: the southeastern corner of Francia where the interests of Charles Martel and the caliph clashed.
A medieval depiction of the Siege of Avignon, from the Grandes Chroniques de France.
A medieval depiction of the Siege of Avignon, from the Grandes Chroniques de France.
A medieval depiction of the Siege of Avignon, from the Grandes Chroniques de France.

Relief: the staggering final battle

The historical region of Septimania in 537 CE, before the Muslim advance. Narbonne traditionally was the area’s capital city.
The historical region of Septimania in 537 CE, before the Muslim advance. Narbonne traditionally was the area’s capital city.
The historical region of Septimania in 537 CE, before the Muslim advance. Narbonne traditionally was the area’s capital city.

The Hammer’s last act

A medieval image depicting the death of the Hammer.
A medieval image depicting the death of the Hammer.
A medieval image depicting the death of the Hammer.
Another image from the Grandes Chroniques de France: Charles Martel dividing the Frankish kingdom between his two sons.
Another image from the Grandes Chroniques de France: Charles Martel dividing the Frankish kingdom between his two sons.
Another image from the Grandes Chroniques de France: Charles Martel dividing the Frankish kingdom between his two sons.

Tales from our past are seeds for our future. Master’s Degree in history. Editor at MedievalReporter.com.

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