For decades, this beautiful view was magnified by a gold-leaf statue of a horseman with beggar by his side. That statue was blown down by a huge of gust of Chicago wind. The statue represented n event in th elife of Roman cavalryman stationed in Gaul (France) in 317 AD, The soldier was Martin: Sanctus Martinus Turonensis; 316 – 8 November 397)
He was still an unbaptized catechumen when he was forced to join the army at 15. The Roman army apparently had a law that required sons of veterans to serve in the military. Still, Martin found this so far removed from his desire to be a Christian monk that he had to be held in chains before taking the military oath. Once the oath was administered he felt bound to obey. He was assigned to a ceremonial cavalry unit that protected the emperor and rarely saw combat. Like his father, he became an officer and eventually was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul (present-day France).
Even in the military Martin attempted to live the life of a monk. Though he was entitled to a servant because he was an officer, he insisted on switching roles with his servant, cleaning the servant's boots instead of the other way around!
It was on this garrison duty at Amiens that the event took place that has been portrayed in art throughout the ages. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune Martin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit -- gleaming, flexible armor, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lambswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar must have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely mantle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the remainder on his own shoulders. Many in the crowd thought this was so ridiculous a sight that they laughed and jeered but some realized that they were seeing Christian goodness. That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. Jesus said to the angels and saints that surrounded him, "See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet a catechumen, gave me." When he woke, it was the "yet a catechumen" that spurred Martin on and he went immediately to be baptized. He was eighteen years old.
Martin later refused to use his weapons in a coming battle. He told his commander that he would not spill blood, but he was no coward. Martin declared, " I am a soldier of Christ." To prove so, he offered to be placed unarmed and in the front-center of the infantry. This impressed his leaders, but the enemy surrendered before battle was given and Martin was allowed out of army when his time was up. He became a priest and most reluctantly, the Bishop of Tours.
Martin of Tours was St. Francis of Assisi one thousand years before that lovable saint was born. He was a capable administrator, even though he spent a great deal of time tending to the poor and sick and he was also a tireless defender of Catholic teachings, though most persons tended to be druids, or army camp followers of the cult of Mithra. Martin, a soldier, led from the front and over time his example changed hearts. Tours became wealthy center of trade and also philanthropy. For the next 400 years Tours flourished in finance, but more so in faith.
During this time, a great challenge to Christianity swept out of the Arabian deserts, conquered Roman Syria Eygpt, Carthaginian North Africa and most of Spain. The Sword of Islam wielded by The Prophet and the Caliphate (his successors) forced all other faiths and folk to submit to the Koran or pay the tax, or face beheading. Most submitted with no problem, or paid up. No one knows the exact numbers of the decapitated
A group of Germanic gents, The Franks, had settled in Roman occupied Gaul, converted to Christianity, yet retained their warlike impulses for slaughter with the scientific application of martial strategy from the Romans. One especially fierce Christian was Charles of the Austarasian Franks. When the Caliphate moved into Gaul Charles and his like-minded cousins were having none of it. They adopted a strategy.
The Battle of Tours (often called the Battle of Poitiers, but not to be confused with the Battle of Poitiers, 1356) was fought on October 10, 732 between forces under the Frankish leader Charles Martel and a massive invading Islamic army led by Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi Abd al Rahman, near the city of Tours, France. During the battle, the Franks defeated the Islamic army and Emir Abd er Rahman was killed. This battle stopped the northward advance of Islam from the Iberian peninsula, and is considered by most historians to be of macrohistorical importance, in that it halted the Islamic conquests, and preserved Christianity as the controlling faith in Europe, during a period in which Islam was overrunning the remains of the old Roman and Persian Empires.
Franks, led by Charles Martel. Estimates of the Frankish army defending Gaul vary, but by most accounts were between 15,000 and 75,000. Losses according to St. Denis were about 1,500.
Muslims, between 60,000 and 400,000 cavalry, (most likely closer to the lower number) under Abd er Rahman; besides source differences, this army is difficult to estimate in size, since it was often fractured into raiding parties to carry out the pillaging and plundering of various richly cultured Frankish centers; however, the entire Muslim army was present at Tours by Arab accounts. During the six days he waited to begin the Battle, Abd er Rahman recalled all those columns raiding and pillaging, so that on the seventh day, when by both eastern and western accounts the Battle began, both armies were at full strength. . . . No later Muslim attempts against Asturias or the Franks was made as conflict between what remained of the Umayyad Dynasty, (which was the Umayyad Emirate and then Caliphate of Iberia) and the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad prevented a unified assault on Europe. It would be another 700 years before the Ottomans managed to invade Europe via the Balkans.Christianity and Western culture was saved. Art, music, philosophy and architecture continued to reflect man's debt to God and despite the obvious misdeeds of Christian kings and popes and their minions - beautiful music, magnificent paintings and sculpture and the printed word moved men toward things eternal. Judeo - Christian man lived to aspire as well as submit to God's majesty. Name a great Muslim composer.
Martin of Tours gave a beggar a cloak and that act gave us a capella song and chaplains. Both words come from that deed. Imagine if Charles the Frank had decided to cave to the Caliphate. or parse his submission in surrender? Charles became known as The Hammer - Charles Martel. From his wild loins came a breed that produced Europe's greatest king Charlemagne, or Karl Der Grosse to our German cousins. Charles The Hammer saved the city of Tours and also knowledge of Martin of Tours.
On the Dan Ryan Expressway at 59th Street, just past the L tracks St. Martin of Tours remains in grey limestone pointing back to God.