restricted access The Arrival of Islam
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The History of the Church 68 The Arrival of Islam In 732, exactly one century after the death of Mohammed, Charles Martel halted a Muslim raid between Poitiers and Tours. The spectacular speed with which the Arabs carried out their conquests was a phenomenon. After having seized Egypt and the Christian Africa of Saint Augustine and quickly reinforced by Berber tribes converted to Islam, the horsemen of Arabia passed into Spain in 711. The Iberian Peninsula was covered by Islam, with the exception of a few valleys in the north. A practical outcome of the Muslim victory over the Arian Visigoths of Spain was that it sealed the fate of the Arian heresy. Muslim expansion continued beyond the Pyrenees into France, and Narbonne also fell. To the East, Constantinople was twice under siege (in 673 and 717), but each time narrowly succeeded in destroying the Muslim fleets, thanks to the Byzantines’ Greek fire, which could burn even on water. The Catholic response was also swift. In 778, Charlemagne made some incursions into Spain. And the small Christian principalities of the north gradually extended further into the peninsula, invoking the name of Saint James of Compostela, Santiago Matamoros, the “slayer of Moors.” Theseconflicts, however, did not keep Charlemagne from establishing diplomatic relations with the caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rachid, who presented him with the gift of an elephant in 801. Nonetheless, the Mediterranean Sea, the mare nostrum [our sea] of the Roman Empire, ceased to be a zone of exchange and symbol of unity, instead becoming the frontier of hostilities between two civilizations violently at odds with each other. Juan Carreño de Miranda (1614–1685) Saint James Leads the Spaniards against the Moors (Battle of Clavigo, 834) Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest ...


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