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Who's Who in Medieval History and the Renaissance

Charles Martel

c. 688-741

Military Leader



Charles Martel (in Latin, Carolus Martellus; in German, Karl Martell) was the illegitimate son of Pippin II of Herstal and, after an intense power struggle, succeeded him as the "mayor of the palace" of Austrasia, the eastern part of Frankish territory. By this time the Merovingians were rulers in name only and the mayors of the palace ruled both Austrasia and Neustria.

Martel (the name means "hammer") succeeded in reuniting the Frankish realm, eventually acquiring Aquitaine and Burgundy. He supported the missionary efforts of Saint Boniface and others like him in the hopes of consolidating his military victories. In 732 he achieved one of the most significant victories in early Europe at the Battle of Tours, which stemmed the tide of Muslim advancement from Spain into Frankish territory.

Although Martel was in practice king of the Franks, he never took the title, always maintaining the fiction that the Merovingians still ruled. When he died, he divided his lands between his two legitimate sons, Pippin III (father of Charlemagne) and Carloman.

Important Dates

Victorious at Tours: Oct. 10, 732
Died: Oct. 22, 741

Dynastic Table

Early Carolingian Rulers
Use this quick-reference table to see the progression of Mayors of the Palace, Kings, and Emperors who ruled Carolingian territory.

On the Web

Catholic Encyclopedia: Charles Martel
Substantial biography by Godefroid Kurth.

Charles Martel
Well-hyperlinked bio at Wikipedia.

Related Events

The Battle of Tours
Concise overview at Northpark University.

Primary Sources

Pope Gregory II - Appeal to Charles Martel, 739
A letter from 739, online at Paul Halsall's Medieval Sourcebook.

In Print

The links below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.

Charles Martel
(in French)
by Jean Deviosse

The Age of Charles Martel
by Paul Fouracre

The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe
by Pierre Riché; translated by Michael Idomir Allen

Related Resources

The Carolingian Empire
An index of sites concerning the successors of Charles Martel and the empire they built.

Early Europe
Directory of sites that offer useful resources for the study of Europe in Late Antiquty, or shortly after the fall of Rome.


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