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Charles Martel

689-741. As a member of the Frankish aristocratic family, the Arnulfings, he succeeded to the office of Mayor of the Palace, the real power overshadowing the weak Merovingian kings. As military leader of the Frankish forces, in 732 his prestige grew both by his victory over the invading Saracens near Poitiers, which ended the threat of serious invasion of western Europe by Muslims from Spain, and by his ceaseless campaigns against the Frisians and Saxons in the northeast. Possibly Charles and his military advisers began the shift away from relying on the infantry to emphasizing heavy cavalry in the Frankish army, due to realizing the potential of the stirrup. This change contributed significantly to the development of medieval feudalism. Charles also encouraged and helped finance two great missionary monks, Willibrord* and Boniface,* in their work of Christianizing and pacifying the Germanic peoples north and east of the kingdom. But within the Frankish kingdom itself, he kept close control of both the ecclesiastical and lay magnates alike, confiscating at will church lands for military purposes or endowing churches and monasteries as the situation required. Such lay control may account partially for the spiritual degeneration and clerical indiscipline of the Frankish church.

See L. White, Medieval Technology and Social Change (1962); and J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West (rev. ed., 1962).