The Catholic Southern Front

Chapter 9/12 – Our Lady and the Carolingian Dynasty

Charles the Great was born in 745, son of the Mayor of the Palace, Pepin the Short. Pepin was the first subject of Childeric III, the last Merovingian King of the Franks. The Merovingians were at this point referred to as the ‘do nothing kings,’ for the real power of the king over government was invested in the title of Mayor of the Palace. It was for this reason that Pepin the Short appealed to the Pope to recognize his role with the kingly title and dignity. Two years later, Pope Saint Zachary (741-752), crossed the Alps and anointed, with the oil of kingship, Pepin and his two sons (in the Frankish law of succession all male siblings were considered equal – this solved the issue of sibling rivalry). On July 28,754, Charles Martel’s house, was established upon the French throne by the solemn act of Pope Stephen II (752-757). Pope Stephen II was elected on March 26, the morrow of the Feast of the Annunciation by Saint Gabriel, apparently after the death of a first Pope Stephen II whose pontificate lasted for one day (March 23). The second Pope Stephen II died on April 25/26 the future Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Charles Martel’s son, King Pepin the Short, challenged the Moors expelling most by 753. That same year in thanksgiving to the Heavenly Queen for her assistance in fighting the infidel, the King founded the Abbey called Notre Dame de la Paix (Our Lady of Peace) in France.

Pope Zachary opposed Rachis, the Lombard King and Duke of Friuli, who sought to occupy all Italy. The Islamists were not the only menace, King Astulf was the successor of Rachis and together with his Lombard hordes invaded Italy and twice laid siege to Rome (749-756). As Astulf was about to sack Rome, Pope Stephen II sent a quick dispatch to Pepin the Short, who crossed the Alpine Pass with his army and defeated Astulf at Pavia in the year 754. A peace was settled with Astulf, but as Pepin reached his own country, Astulf recommenced the siege of Rome. Pope Stephen II performed a procession barefoot carrying the Image Acheropita or ‘not painted by human hand.’ Once again Pepin led his army through the passes of the Alps, defeated Astulf and donated part of the Exarchate of Ravenna, the town of Comacchio on the Adriatic Sea, to the Pope. The Abbot of Saint-Denis, Fulrad, laid the keys of the fortified places upon the altar of Saint Peter. Regarding this donation, the Eastern  Emperor seemed to have objected, claiming that the Exarchate was his territory, however Pepin replied that the lands now belonged to him by right of conquest. This donation was rather a second donation, for the first was carried out informally (or formally – the proving documents do not exist today) by Emperor Constantine four hundred years earlier. The matter was arranged to look as though it were a restoration rather than a second donation. As regards to Astulf, a fall from his horse or a wound from a wild boar, ended his dreams of conquering Saint Peter’s patrimony. King Astulf’s line came to naught, for he had no male issue, while Pepin the Short fathered the future Holy Roman Emperor, Charles the Great, and was the progenitor of the Carolingian Dynasty. Saint Peter rewarded Pepin for his brave defense of the Faith. Pepin the Short died in 768, leaving his kingdom to his two sons, Carloman and Charles.

Strife was kindled between the power-sharing brothers, however Carloman died leaving the entire kingdom in the hands of Charles. Carloman’s death occurred one year following his father’s death. In 778, at age 29, Charles ascended the French throne. He furthered his father’s plans and defended the French territory from the assailing Islamists. Following the death of Stephen III (768-772) on the future date reserved for the Feast of ‘Our Lady of the Tears’ (January 24), Pope Adrian I (772-795) was elected Roman Pontiff. At this time, the Lombard King Desiderius, was desirous of conquering the ‘Eternal City,’ and made plans of invasion for Rome. Charles, the Protector of the Holy Religion, similarly to his father Pepin before him, crossed the Alpine Passes and met Desiderius at Susa. The Lombard army was defeated in two battles, at Susa and Pavia. On entering Rome, Charles was hailed ‘Imperator’ and consecrated in 774.

Against Wittekind the King of the Saxons, Charles was drawn in battle for a while, until Wittekind was converted to Christianity and in 785, received baptism at Attigny. Charles the Great stood as his godfather. King Charles also helped Pope Leo III prove his innocence against men who declared him corrupt. His Holiness returned the favor by saluting the King as ‘Emperor and Augustus’ on Christmas Day 800, at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Romans hailed Charles: “To Carolus Augustus crowned by God, mighty and pacific Emperor, be life and victory.”(1) During the same period King Charles welcomed three envoys from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, who presented him with the keys of the Holy Sepulchre and the banner of Jerusalem. These tokens recognized the French King as the protector of the Holy Sites of Christendom. Charles’ position as the Western Roman Emperor and Protector of Christendom, was evident even to the Eastern Emperor.

Charles the Great is particularly remembered for his campaign in Spain, which came to a close on the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, 778. According to St Mary Agreda in her literary work titled, ‘The City of God,’ the saint recounts how Saint James the Apostle, who was arrested and was to be executed in Jerusalem, beheld in vision the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout his martyrdom right unto his execution by beheading. Saint James was martyred on March 25, 41. This occurred five years and seven months after setting out to preach in Spain and seven years following the death of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Saint James’ disciples embarked with his body for Galicia in Spain. Spain owed its first Catholic instruction from this martyr, and accordingly the Blessed Virgin desired that his body would be buried in Spain. Apparently, the motive for the Spanish burial was to further secure, by the future miraculous assistance and intercession of this martyr, the protection of the Faith over that territory. In the eight century, King Charles received in vision a path consisting of stars, commencing in Northern Germany and ending in Galicia, Spain. The King dwelt on this vision and subsequently beheld Saint James in apparition. After disclosing his identity, the apparition expressed the troubling news that his unmarked grave in Galicia was foully treated at the hands of the Islamic Jihadists. Saint James marveled at Charles, saying that the alleged protector of the Catholic Church of Rome had not as yet delivered the land where his body lies from the unbelievers. The apparition revealed to the French King that God has given him strength and authority over all earthly kings, for he had to deliver Spain from the profane and prepare a path for pilgrims to the place where his remains rested, awaiting the ‘day of reckoning.’ Charles was more than pleased to enter this military pilgrimage of penitential warfare, for Saint James pledged sure and eternal salvation for the Gallic King. Charles was quick at mustering an army and invaded Spain. An interesting fact regarding this vision is that the term ‘Compostella’ (Saint James of Compostella), means ‘ground or field from where the star shone,’ thus referring to Charles’ vision as he beheld the Spanish star from Germany. Our Lady’s Star ?

During this Iberian Crusade, whilst transiting Southern France near Toulouse, Charles the Great visited the famous Shrine of Rocomadour. Initially a cave by the river Alzou in Quercy, a hermitage founded by Zaccheus of Jericho who died in the year 70. The sanctuary hosted a miraculous statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which along the centuries was visited by thousands of pilgrims and can still be visited today. Its staircase in the mountainside, consists of 216 steps, which pilgrims used to climb one at a time and on their knees. Both Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Dominic visited the Sanctuary of Rocomadour. On visiting the Sanctuary of ‘Our Lady of Rocomadour,’ Charles the Great ascended the giant staircase on his knees and sought the Blessed Virgin’s assistance and her heavenly aid on his way to battle the Islamic foe in Spain. After climbing over two hundred stairs on his knees, the good Lord could not refuse King Charles. Nowadays we rarely hear of any head of state, president or general who accomplishes such acts of Faith, such as climbing 216 steps on one’s knees and invoke Our Lord’s protection!

On arriving in Spain, the King immediately besieged the Islamic Fortress of Pamplona. The outer walls fell at his supplication made to God. On learning regarding these unexplainable events, the Muslim princes of the surrounding territories came to do homage to Charles, the Catholic King and envoy of Christ, the Heavenly King. On arriving in Galicia at Saint James’s tomb, Archbishop Turpin baptized the Galicians. Charles laid siege to a city, Luiserne, and prayed to God that the walls would fall. The King destroyed all idols and the temples of the Islamists. With the gold recovered from Spain, he financed the construction of many churches including the Church of Our Lady Saint Mary in Aix-la-Chapelle (Achen, Germany) in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s aid. He also constructed another five churches dedicated to Saint James. That same year (800) the king was crowned and made Emperor by Pope Leo III in the Vatican Basilica in Rome. The great medieval epic ‘Chanson de Roland’ has been one of the historical sources supplying information regarding the eventful battles taking place during King Charles’ Spanish Campaign. The ‘History of Charlemagne and Roland,’ otherwise known today as the ‘Pseudo-Turpin,’ was authored by a monk in Galicia (France) during the times of the First Crusade. The intention was to honor Saint James, the holy Apostle of Christ and encourage the pilgrimage to his tomb. Pope Chalixtinus II (1119-1124) declared the ‘History of Charlemagne and Roland’ (Pseudo-Turpin) as reliable and factual and based on true events which transpired in Charles’ day. In our modern times, altering history by discrediting Saint James’ apparitions surely does not bring the blessings and graces God bestowed upon Charles the Great.

An Islamic Prince, together with his invading army, caused stiff resistance against Charles’ Crusade. In 732, the Islamists fled to Spain and re-grouped in Aquitaine, France. One group inhabited a fortress situated on a cliff overhanging Lourdes and was referred to as the Castle of Mirambel. In 778, when Charles the Great returned from his Spanish Campaign, he laid siege to this castle. The commander of this garrison was called Mirat, a Jihadist who swore by Mohammed, that he would not surrender to any mortal man. Mirat was notoriously cunning, and the siege was bringing the fortified castle to a desperate situation. One day an eagle carrying a trout from the Gave River flew over the castle walls and dropped by accident the fish. Mirat had the idea of sending a messenger with the trout to Charles, as proof of the inexhaustible rations of the besieged garrison. Charles fell for the trick and was close to raising the siege. Fortunately, the army’s chaplain Bishop of Le Puy recognized the deception and obtained an audience with Mirat. The Bishop of Le Puy was sent as Charles’s emissary and met the Muslim confiding to him his own greatest treasure. The Islamists were at the end of their rations and the bishop saw for himself this fact and inquired about the refusal for surrender. Mirat spoke of his oath and the bishop replied: “Brave prince, you have sworn never to yield to any mortal man. Could you not with honor make your surrender to an immortal Lady? Mary, Queen of Heaven, has her throne at Le Puy, and I am her humble minister there. Would you desire also to serve this Queen and not surrender to men?”(2) The Islamic Commander was thus freed from his oath and received baptism at Le Puy under the name of ‘Lorus’ or ‘Lorda.’ He was then knighted by Charles and received the command of the Castle of Mirambel. Lourdes is derived from the name Lorus. One thousand years later this town witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin to Saint Bernadette. Therefore, apart from Fatima, also does Lourdes relate to the conversion of Islamic Jihadists and Muslims to the knowledge of Redemption from the two falls.

When the Spanish campaign was over and Charles the Great returned to France, another Islamic king from Africa named Agolant invaded Spain. On being informed, Charles immediately returned through the arduous Pyrenees and discovered Agolant and his army waiting for their match. The Catholic troops fought against Agolant’s soldiers in a form of contest, first ten against ten, then fifty against fifty, one thousand of Agolant’s soldiers pitted against a thousand Christian soldiers. On each occasion, the Catholics won. Finally a battle arose which was very bloody. The night previous to the battle, the Catholic soldiers rested with their lances left struck in the ground outside their tents. The morrow, many of the soldiers awoke to witness a prodigious miracle whereby their lances had sprouted leaves and roots. The event was interpreted as martyrdom for the Faith. The ensuing battle witnessed the death of many Catholic soldiers. Duke Milo of Anglier, Roland’s father, was amongst these. In spite of the losses, victory belonged to the Christians. Agolant fled the battle and passed the next few years gathering a formidable army from all over Africa and the Middle East. He returned and conquered Gascony (Aggeni). Charles laid siege to the city for six months and Agolant escaped to another city, Charles followed. At Tailleborc, the miracle of the lances was repeated and the following day, 4,000 Catholics received martyrdom. Agolant fled and reached Pamplona where he rebuilt the fallen walls. King Charles left for France to assemble a greater army. He returned with a large force, which included amongst many nobles, Roland his nephew. More than 100,000 men were gathered from all over Europe. They invaded Spain and encamped in the mountains in the vicinity of Pamplona. When Agolant beheld the large army he called for a truce. During the truce he discussed the Catholic and Muslim faiths with Charles. They both decided to wage another contest and if Charles won, Agolant would accept baptism into the Faith. Once again the contest commenced, the Catholics won each time except for one time when they retreated in fear. Beholding the decisive outcome, Agolant concorded to be baptized. The Baptism would have occurred were it not for his disgust on observing the manner with which the noble Christians treated their poorer messengers. Changing his mind as quickly as a wind vane changes direction, Agolant set all his energies once again on battle. One hundred and thirty-four thousand Catholics fought against one hundred thousand Islamists in a bloody confrontation, which left no quarters. Apart from a few who escaped to the mountains, the Jihadists were utterly routed and Agolant was amongst the dead.

Soon after these events, Fernaguz, a giant who was said to have amongst his ancestors the biblical Philistine named Goliath, arrived from Syria and encamped at Nadres. Accompanying him was a small army of 20,000 Turks. Fernaguz had the strength of forty men and his fingers were three fists long. The Islamic giant defeated every man sent to him in dual and challenged Charles. As Roland desired to dual Fernaguz, Charles was obliged to consent, albeit against his will. During one-to-one combat or rather during the dual, Roland demonstrated superior ability than the previous Christians and avoided Fernaguz’ mighty blows. Fernaguz was in awe; this induced him to inquire regarding the Faith within which Roland’s trust rested. A brief interruption of the dual followed and Fernaguz had his many questions answered by Roland on the topic of Jesus Christ, the Virgin birth, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Lord’s death upon the Cross, His Resurrection and Ascension to the Father. The Islamic enemy pondered on Roland’s replies and made up his mind that, accordingly, if Roland defeated him, than the Catholic Faith was the faith to follow. The battle commenced and Fernaguz pinned Roland to the ground. Roland invoked help from ‘the Son of the Virgin’ and quickly sprang over Fernaguz striking him with his sword in the navel; Fernaguz received his deathblow. The rest of the Jihadists were struck down in battle and the city was freed from the peril.

According to the Pseudo-Turpin when two Islamic kings, Marsilion and Baligant, had arrived in Spain, they asked Charles to offer them baptism. In actual fact they managed to corrupt a Christian by the name of Ganelon, who was Charles emissary and both in truth refused conversion. The Islamic kings’ plan was successful, they intoxicated many Christians with wine and Saracen women, subsequently, in battle these Christians were routed. The only ones to escape were Roland, Baudoin and Thierry. Roland followed the Saracens through the Valley of Roncevaux and with the help of 100 Catholic soldiers succeeded in slaying King Marsilion. Roland was then troubled in spirit and with a great blow of his horn/trumpet, he called for any Catholic soldiers in the area. An angel carried the sound of the horn blows to Charles and with the force of blowing the horn was broken in half and Roland died for he had ruptured his neck vessels. Ganelon the traitor, convinced Charles not to aid Roland by saying that Roland was known to blow uselessly. That very day previous to battle, Roland had received the sacrament of reconciliation and received his Savior in the species of the Holy Eucharist. He lay upon the mountain at Roncevaux Pass waiting for his hour to arrive. He prayed to God saying: “Lord, Jesus Christ, son of the living God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I affirm with all my mind and with all my body and believe that you, who are my Redeemer, reign and live without end, and that you will resurrect (me) on the last day, and that I will behold Thee in this, my own flesh.” And “…All earthly things are vile to me, for I now see, by the gift of God, what no eye has ever seen, what no ear has ever heard, and what the heart of man cannot imagine: what Our Lord has prepared for those who love him.”(3) After praying for his companions in battle, Thierry, who was beside him left and Roland’s soul passed into eternity. Later, Charles recovered Roland’s body and removed him to Saint Romains in Blaye, France, for burial together with his sword ‘Durendal’ (meaning, to give a mighty blow to a Jihadist). His horn was removed to Saint Severins in Bordeaux.

When Charles died he was seventy-two years old and following his death the Bishop Turpin beheld a vision of a ‘headless Galician’ saving Charles soul from a stern Judgement and carrying him off to eternal life. One would understand this ‘headless Galician’ as being the apostle and martyr Saint James, who kept his pledge of intercession for the Emperor’s soul. Charles the Great was buried at Aix-la-Chapelle, the Church that he erected and had consecrated to Our Lady, in thanksgiving for her aid during the Spanish Campaign. His body was placed on a marble and golden throne: “…bound with his sword, with the text of the Gospels in his hands, propped on his knees.”(4) In his crown was placed a relic of the Holy Cross, his face was covered with a cloth, signifying his eternal gaze upon the Lord of Hosts. In the year 1000, Emperor Otto III opened Charles’ Imperial tomb and found the great Emperor as he had been buried three hundred years earlier, sitting on a marble throne, robed and crowned as in life with the book of the Gospels open on his knees.

The walls of a Spanish town enclosing Saracens fell to Roland when his companions and himself fasted for three days without food or drink. Roland prayed: “Dear Lord Jesus Christ, son of the high Father who parted the Red Sea, you who permitted your people to pass on dry land, while you plunged the Pharaoh who pursued them into the sea, together with all of his army, and you sent them manna from heaven. You destroyed many nations and many people who were their enemies: Seon, the king of the Amorriens; Og, the king of Basan and all the kings of the land of Canaan. And you gave them the Promised Land in which to live, as you had promised a long time in the past to their father Abraham. And you, Sir, who made the walls of Jericho, where the enemy of your people were shut up, tremble without any human being’s efforts, dear God, if it is true, and I believe it firmly, that you are all-powerful, then by your word only destroy this city with your power, so that the pagan people, who believe in their own pride and not in you, may clearly recognize that you are God all-powerful, stronger than any king, true helper of Catholics and those who destroy your enemies, you who live and reign with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, without beginning and without end.”(5) The walls fell on August 15, 778, Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven.

In 802, Charles issued a capitulary addressing monastic life indicating that monks: “…entirely shun drunkenness and feasting, because it is known to all that from these men are especially polluted by lust… if monks are found to be sodomites, we shall inflict such a penalty, not only on the guilty but also on those who have consented to such deeds, that no Christian who shall have heard of it will ever dare in the future to perpetrate such acts.”(6) It is interesting to note that in our modern day many nations might soon pass laws which would hold their citizens guilty of ‘hate-crimes’ especially when publicly pronouncing their negative opinions in the regard of same-sex relations. Both European Union and American politics is a far cry to our ancestor’s political Christian ideals.

(c) 2008 – 3000



1 Comment »

  1. […] was loud and clear carried far around when he preached) also known as the son of lightning – – and Matamoros. He was […]

    Pingback by Santiago Matamoros « The Catholic Southern Front Dispatch — June 28, 2009 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

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