In 570 the woman Amina bore a son who, according to eastern storytellers, cried out immediately at birth, “There is no god but Allah, and I am his prophet!” He was Mohammed, the “Promised One,” and it was he who gave the Arabs their religion. The ensuing years saw Mohammed’s followers leap from conquest to conquest until the Middle East and North Africa were under their feet. Then they moved like a swarm of locusts across Spain before climbing the southern slopes of the Pyrenees and gazing lustfully into France.

Europe had fallen into its Dark Ages just as the Arabs were coming into their Golden Age; and in the early 700s the Muslims were threatening to pounce on the remnants of the old Roman Empire. Across Europe echoed the cry: “The Arabs are coming!” They were coming, and they seemed unstoppable. In the streets of Paris men and women trembled; and from their midst came a strong, young, long-haired Frank—Charles, son of Pepin. Charles Martel, he was called. Charles the Hammer.

Charles gathered his Franks and a few allies on the plain between Tours and Poitiers. It wasn’t much of an army—just a motley crew of miscellaneous, frightened barbarians. Charles told them just to stand firm, to hold their ground, to die if necessary, to do anything but break lines.

On October 11, 732 the two forces met—two cultures, two languages, two creeds, two civilizations battling for the fate of western civilization. The Muslims charged toward the amassed Franks, the thundering roar of their hoofbeats and shouts heard miles away. The defenders held firm. A second charge came, but Charles’s soldiers stood spread-eagled over their dead. A third charge failed, then a fourth. Charles galloped among his men, shouting orders, closing gaps. For five days the attacks came in waves. On the sixth day the Arabs cut through the lines only to find themselves surrounded and trapped. Their morale was spent and the surviving invaders fled.

The battlefield was carpeted with the dead—but Europe was saved for Christianity.

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Oct.7.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

1531 – Swiss Reformer,Ulrich Zwingli, dies in the Battle of Kappel.

1718 – The New Jerusalem Church in Tranquebar, India was dedicated.

1962 – The first session of the Second Vatican Council opens. It transformed the way the Catholic church related to other Christian denominations.

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