If Charles Martel Were Alive Today
Sunday was the 1,276-year anniversary of the death of Charles, King of the Franks. Charles, who won the decisive victory at the Battle of Tours against the Umayyad Caliphate (an Islamic state), gained the nickname “Martel,” meaning “the Hammer.” This battle was the beginning of the expulsion of Islam from, and victory of Christendom over, the European continent.
After Charles Martel died, he was buried in the Basilique royale de Saint-Denis, where all but three of the French kings are buried. Saint-Denis is known as the first Gothic structure, and named after the first Bishop of Paris, known as one of the Seven Apostles to the Gauls sent by Pope Fabian. St. Denis died a martyr after the local pagan priests decapitated him, much like the modern-day Islamic State does to its enemies.
Charles Martel was no saint, having had a mistress and a plethora of vices. But what is important to consider is the countless number of souls who entered the Gates of Heaven after Christianity was saved from eradication. Whether saint or sinner, Charles Martel saved Europe—at least for a while.
The Resurrection of the Dead
“We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
These words are pronounced at every moment of every day, in one language or another, as the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is said throughout the world.
As Catholics, we believe in the literal, physical resurrection of the body at the Last Judgment. This is equally true for the just and unjust, the glorified and the damned (Acts 24:15; CCC 1038). At that moment, Christ will separate those who will endure eternal punishment, and those who will be glorified in body and soul for eternal life.
If the resurrection of the dead happened today, and Charles Martel came out of the Basilica of St. Denis, what he would find would send him back to the grave. Charles Martel, the great warrior-king of Europe, would hardly recognize the France he fought to save.
As Charles would walk out the Basilica doors, he would see a nice restaurant with outdoor seating that allows you to look right at the church and listen to the clock tower bells. At first, it would seem pretty nice being able to enjoy croque-monsieur with a fine glass of vin rouge from Bordeaux, or café au lait and a butter croissant.
The name of the restaurant, however, is “Le Khedive,” which comes from a Turkish word meaning “colony.” It is close to Le Marché du centre-ville, an open-air market. The market is a microcosm of France, itself. It is full of flowers and crepes, baguettes, and fresh fruit. Yet, there is a notably strong undertone. It includes Jordanian spices, Persian rugs, and similar items. The vendors are haggling with people from all over the world, such as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Senegal. Hijabs and burkas, taqiyahs and thawbs are commonplace.
On any given Friday, Muslims come streaming by the Basilica on their way to and from one of the many masjids. They spend time with their families in the market and in the square in front of the Basilica. If Charles did not know any better, he would have thought he was in a bazaar in Marrakesh.
What Charles would see is this: the Islamization of the Frankish realm has advanced from Tours to the heart of Paris and beyond.
La République Islamique de France
Act N°78-17 of 6 January 1978 specifically banned the collection of religious and ethnic statistics in France, making it rather difficult to estimate the number of Muslims in Paris or the rest of the country. However, some estimate the percentage in Paris to be around 15 percent, or 1.7 million. That means that Paris alone has more than half the number of Muslims in the entire United States.
If Charles were to walk around Paris as he did 1,276 years ago, he would find a nation nearly under martial law, which admittedly might appeal to a Warrior-King. As the father of heavy cavalry in Europe, he might be interested in the regular patrols of French troops in the marketplaces and festivals, in front of toy stores and churches. Then again, it might cause him grief, for his efforts would have been in vain.
All of this might actually make Charles wonder if he lost the war against the caliphate. What’s worse is that the largest contingent of overseas fighters for the Islamic State are French citizens. He might gaze at the new projects constructed throughout France, and wonder what triumph the Arc de Triomphe celebrated when the nation he knew has changed so much.
Reflection on the Counter-Revolution in France
The situation in France is dismal, but as always, there is hope. There is a recent resurgence of Catholicism in France, despite years and years to the contrary. In fact, perhaps as the pendulum swings, French Catholics are becoming more than reactionary, they’re becoming fervent. A “traditional Catholic” French cultural organization, Civitas, recently became a political party, seeking the re-Christianization of the nation known as “the Eldest Daughter of the Church.”
Americans may get nervous when seeing attempts to blend the Church and the State, but what has happened in France has shown one thing: the rising tide of secularism pushes religion to the margins, leaving a void to be filled at some point by another and more devout group. Revolution has pushed their country and existence to the brink, and efforts must be made for self-preservation. The New Evangelization is needed in France and the rest of Europe now more than ever.
John Paul II said, “Taking up anew this invitation to hope, I repeat to you again today: Europe, as you stand at the beginning of the third millennium, ‘Open the doors to Christ! Be yourself. Rediscover your origins. Relive your roots’.”
The theme of origins and roots goes back to the Apostle Paul, who said, in Romans 8:15-17,
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Is it too late to save France? Would Charles, if he walked the streets of Paris lose his fighting spirit and become dejected and give up? No, but rebirth depends on whether France will claim its heritage. That heritage lies with Jesus Christ, not by virtue of being French or European, but by presenting the Truth of the Gospel to the ends of the earth, even in the face of peril.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a painting of Charles III (Charles Martel) painted by Georges Rouget (1783-1869).