image Influential People

Charles Martel

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Key Facts
Other names Karl Martell
Born 686
Location Paris, Frankish Capital
Bloodline Arnulfings/Pippinids
Married Yes.
Children Yes. Carloman, Pepin the Short, Winfred
Position Mayor of Palace,
Died Oct 741 (age 55)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source of Facts and Important Announcement
Status Under Article 64.6 of the Covenant of One-Heaven (Pactum De Singularis Caelum) by Special Qualification shall be known as a Saint, with all sins and evil acts they performed forgiven.
Date of formal Beatification Day of Redemption GAIA E1:Y1:A1:S1:M9:D1 also known as [Fri, 21 Dec 2012].
Source of Facts Self Confession and Revelation of Sainthood by the Deceased Spirit as condition of their confirmation as a true Saint.
Source of Facts Self Confession and Revelation of Sainthood by the Deceased Spirit as condition of their confirmation as a true Saint.

 

Background

Charles (his name was almost certainly Pepin/Pippin) was born into a wealthy devout christian noble family headed by his father Pippin, Mayor of the Palace ("majordomo"-which means superior of the house.") The name Charles comes from the German word Karl, which means "man". Martel means "hammer".

The office of the Mayor of the Palace was the most trusted chief official of the Merovingian Kings. He was both captain of the personal bodyguard of the Kings, prime minister and most senior noble. In 623, King Dagobart I of the Franks (623-639) entrusted this key position to Pepin the Elder (majordomo 623-639) also known as Pippin of Landen (Belgium).

The family moved to Paris as part of the Royal court of Dagobart I in 623 and remained the most trusted family to the Merovingians holding hereditary title of majordomo for three generations before the birth of Charles (Karl) in Paris around 686 under the reign of Dagobart II.

The seat of the family power was St. Denis Palace five miles north from the centre of Paris-- a magnificent palace and the first Gothic construction in History. The site was later claimed to be the originate site of the tomb of St. Denis ("Dionysus"). This misleading historical myth is no earlier than the 14th Century. Nor was it the site of the Royal tombs of the Merovingians before the 8th Century --most having been moved there after the palace was massively renovated to become the 1st church of the Catholic Church from 741.

To hide the fact of the birth of the Frankish Christian Church and the closeness of the royal Merovingian family to their military protectors -- the Pippinids -- a complex and contradictory genealogy and history was created. This includes the absurd claim that Pippin (Charles) was illegitimate. In reality, the devout Christian Pippin "Mayors of the Palace" demonstrated unyielding loyalty to their Kings until the later life of Charles. They were the archetypal "good christian Knights" -- men who valued honor, loyalty and their christian faith above fame, fortune and title.

Upon the death of his father in 714, Charles ("Pepin") inherited the title of "Mayor of the Palace" under the reign of boy King Dagobart III (699-715). A true "Pippin" in honor and loyalty to the Merovingian line, Charles was immediately called to defend the kingdom against King Redbad of the Frisians (Netherlands) in the North and the militia army of Savaric, the Byzantine appointed christian bishop of Auxerre (Burgundy, Eastern France).

In 714, King Redbad's forces advanced as far south as Cologne, where the only recorded military defeat against Charles Martell is said to have happened. Whilst Charles sought to regroup against his foe in the North, news had spread of the weakness of the latest famed and feared "Pippins". Around this time, young King Dagobart III was murdered at just 16.

The news would have almost certainly devastated the honorable Pippin (Charles). Yet, there was no time to grieve as Civil War now erupted across the Frankish kingdoms as nobles and allies sought to establish their own independence. The militia of Bishop Savaric of Auxerre briefly took the cities Orléans, Nevers, Avallon, and Tonnerre until he was killed in battle at Lyon in the same year.

The claim that a "Chilperic" somehow took the throne of the Franks during this interregnum is highly dubious as the whole region was in various stages of Civil War until as late as 719. However, in 717 Charles ensured Chlothar IV, the second son of Childerbert III was crowned king of the Franks (717-721) .

By 719, Charles had also subjugated the Duke of Acquitane and his forces into loyal submission to the crown of Clothar IV. Charles also had his revenge in the same year defeating and killing King Redbad, subjugating the Frisians into the Frankish Empire. He then turned his attention to the Agilolfing dukes of Bavaria who he subjugated to the Frankish crown no later than 720.

By 721, Charles and his army had been in constant battle across the whole Frankish Empire for seven years. Just as he had finally subdued rebellions throughout the Frankish Empire, King Clothar IV died. This left the young son of Dagobart III whose name was Theuderic as rightful king. On account of the young age of the monarch, Charles returned to Paris to ensure his protection at court.

Sensing opportunity, the Muslim forces of the emir of Córdoba used this exact moment to cross the Pyrenees seize Narbonensis, a dependency of the kingdom of the Visigoths, and advance on Gaul. The speed of the advance of the Muslim army caught Charles Martel momentarily off-guard and he sent his best cavalry and generals to confront the Umayyad invaders, while he remained at court to protect the young boy-King.

The forces of Charles arrived just before the city of Toulouse to find that Duke Odo of Aquitaine had fled without much of any fight, leaving his poor city under siege. As a result, the Umayyad forces of general Al-Samh ibn Malik al-Khawlani were caught completely by surprise by the forces loyal to Charles and utterly routed. In an unprecedented show of wisdom, humility and skill, Martel permitted the Duke to claim the battle as his, even though he demonstrated no honor.

Similarly, Martel demonstrated his devotion to the Holy Christian Church centered from Constantinople by granting both land, wealth and titles to the Byzantine appointed christian bishops gaining him the deepest of praise from both Holy Roman Emperor Leo III and the Primate Patriarch Germanus I of Constantinople. The claim that Martel supported Popes in Rome is a complete fiction as Rome didn't even have a christian bishop at the time (See: Chronological Lists of Popes).

However, in 726 the relationship between Charles, the Christian Church and the Merovingians changed forever upon the actions of Emperor Leo III in seeking to recruit the services of Charles for himself. As the Umayyad restarted their invasions of Byzantine territory, Leo III sent urgent word to Charles to come to Constantinople to help defend the Holy Roman Empire, offering to make him Consul and commander of Imperial forces.

Charles refused, demonstrating both his honor and loyalty to the Merovingians even above his beloved christian church. The Emperor persisted and demanded by Imperial decree by 729 that if Charles did not come willingly that he be arrested and brought to Constantinople. Again Charles refused to cede to the demands of the Emperor and in 730, Leo III ordered the excommunication of Charles Martel and his entire family, including anyone who provided him safe harbour (ie the Frankish King).

As a clear demonstration of how highly regarded the hero Charles was amongst christians throughout the Empire, Patriarch Germanus I chose to resign rather than issue the extraordinary excommunication decree. Holy Emperor Leo III quickly found a replacement willing to carry out his command and Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople (730-754) issued the decree as the most senior christian cleric in the world at the time.

In practical terms, the edicts of excommunication had little effect in diminishing the power of Charles Martel. He remained at the head of the most professional army in the world at the time and was undefeated in battle. But in personal terms, it would have been earth shattering. Legally, under such a decree Charles Martel could not be crowned a Christian king whilst being under a Christian excommunication. Nor for that matter could any of his family.

History has shown the threat of excommunication and actual excommunication has been used effectively many times to persuade nobles to compromise their morals and bend to the will of the church. But this was not to be the case with Charles. He remained steadfast and loyal to the Merovingians which was his oath of office, in spite of King Theuderic being forced to refuse him entry to court and suspending his title.

Instead, Martel unleashed a massive persecution of the Byzantine bishops throughout the Frankish territories, expelling them and seizing back their lands -- placing his own appointments into their positions. Martel even undertook massive renovations of his own Palace at St. Denis, commissioning the Abbey -- the finest scriptorium in all of Europe -- no later than 730.

The Umayyad observing the dissent between Constantinople and Paris used this moment to unleash their greatest invasion yet to take Europe. In 731, Abdur Rahman with a massive new army crossed the Pyrenees to face the Duke of Aquitaine and his newly trained army again. This time the Umayyad made no mistake and soundly defeated the defenders before moving on to attack and destroy the ciy of Bordeaux.

Charles and his army met the Umayyad at the Battle of Tours in 732--where the fate of nothing less than Western Civilization hung in the balance. Charles was victorious saving not only the Franks and Europe, but the Byzantine Empire from being out flanked. In spite of this unprecedented victory known throughout the Holy Roman Empire and Europe, Holy Roman Emperor Leo refused to yield.

This only hardened the resolve of Charles to cut all ties from the Byzantines that had denied him his faith. By 733, he began plans to create an entirely new brand of christianity, independent from the clutches of Constantinople - the Christian Church of the Franks. He commissioned the finest scholars in Europe to write a new liturgy for the people including history, which wrote Constantinople out of christianity as they had done to him.

The most senior and trusted of his scholars was the Venerable Bede (probably Benedict) in charge of the scriptorium of St. Denis Abbey, to whom he entrusted to continuing education of his three sons Carloman, Pepin the Short and Winfred (later known as St. Boniface).

Yet his most ambitious cultural project was to create a single unifying language to be spoken by all the tribes within the Frankish Empire - again free from the clutches of Latin and Greek of Byzantine. The language was called Anglaise, in recognition of its origins from the tribes of West Germany now known as the Angeln Peninsula. Today we know this language as English.

Charles Martel was instrumental in introducing important changes in the administration of nobles. Under him began the great assemblies of nobles known as the champs de Mars. To attach his leudes Charles had to give them church lands as precarium, and this had a very great influence in the development of the feudal system. It was from the precarium, or ecclesiastical benefice, that the feudal fief originated.

By this stage, the Merovingian king Theuderic had become largely an irrelevance. Yet Charles continued to honor his duty to protect the King, in spite of the dishonor brought upon his family by the weak king following the edicts of Constantinople.

During the government of Charles Martel important changes appear to have been made in the internal administration. Under him began the great assemblies of nobles known as the champs de Mars. Using his second army of scholars and monks, Charles was the first to codify the notion of the precarium, or ecclesiastical benefice, that the feudal fief originated.

When Theuderic died in 737, Charles refused to permit a replacement during his lifetime -- presumably because any king would have to be crowned by an official christian cleric from Constantinople.

Of the many legacies of his life, one of his greatest was that of the education, skill and behaviour of his three sons-- all of whom were sworn to honor his name by supporting one another.

In 741 Charles divided the kingdom between his three sons. To the elder, Carolman, he gave Austrasia, Alemannia and Thuringia; the younger, Pippin, received Neustria, Burgundy and Provence. The youngest Winfred (deliberately and mistakenly called Grifo) was granted Bavaria in honor of his heritage. Shortly after this division of the kingdom Charles died at Quierzy and was buried at his home of St. Denis.

After his death, his sons converted the family Palace into one of the first major Christian shrines in Europe and the first Church of the fledgling Catholic Church --its first "Gothic" Cathedral.

Charles Martel is listed as one of the 10 most evil people of the 8th Century on no account of any action undertaken on his behalf during his life, but what would become of his legacy and name after his death -- the creation of the Roman Catholic Church.