Front Matter Gauls Defeat Romans Vercingetorix Saints of France Attila, Scourge of God Story of Clovis Sons of Clovis Mayors of the Palace Charles the Hammer Pepin the Short Charlemagne in Lombardy Defeat at Roncesvalles Emperor of the West Louis the Pious War of Three Brothers Louis the Stammerer Paris defies the Sea Kings Rollo the Viking Hugh Capet Becomes King Bishop Betrays the Duke Robert the Pious The Peace of God Harold Visits Duke William William Sails to England The Battle of Hastings Peter the Hermit First War of the Cross Louis the Fat and Laon King Fights his Vassal Second War of the Cross French Queen of England How Normandy Was Lost Albigenses War Battle of Bouvines Story of Hugh de La Marche Reign of St. Louis St. Louis's last Crusade Peter the Barber Knights vs. Weavers Pope vs. Philip the Fair Sons of Philip the Fair Philip VI vs. Flanders Battle and Plague King vs. Charles the Bad The Jacquerie Stephen Marcel Betrays Paris Charles V and du Guesclin Du Guesclin Fights for France The Madness of Charles VI The Battle of Agincourt The Maid of Orleans End of Hundred Years' War King vs. Charles the Bold Troubles of Duchess Mary Charles the Affable Knight Without Reproach Battle of the Spurs Francis I, Gentleman King King Taken Prisoner Duke of Guise Defends Metz Calais Returns to France The Riot of Amboise Huguenot and Catholic St. Bartholomew Massacre War of the Three Henries The Protestant King Edict of Nantes Reign of Favorites Taking of La Rochelle Power of the Cardinal-King Reign of Louis XIV The Man in the Iron Mask The Height of Power Edict of Nantes Revoked War of Spanish Succession

History of France - H. E. Marshall

The Saints of France

Thus, after eight years' fighting, there was peace in Home Gaul. The "Peace of Rome," it was proudly called.

It seems to us in reading history that the Romans brought only war. Yet, after a war of conquest was over, the Romans brought to the conquered people such peace as the world had never known before. The Gauls, as has been said, were found very widely spread throughout Europe. But it was Julius Caesar who first fixed the name of Gaul to that part of the continent which lies between the Alps and the Rhine, that part which is now divided into Belgium, Switzerland, Alsace, and France. For nearly five hundred years Gaul was under the rule of Rome, and during three hundred years of that time there was little fighting. For the attempts to rise against the conquerors were few and feeble.

And with the long peace came civilization. Gaul had had only small villages. Now aqueducts and roads were built, towns arose with fine buildings, streets and baths. Gauls fought side by side with Romans. They were given the rights of Roman citizens, and sat in the Roman senate. The old Gallic language disappeared before the Roman, and Latin became the language of all but the very ignorant and poor.

Following in the footsteps of civilization came Christianity. The story of Christ was first brought to Gaul, not from Rome, but from Greece. For long ages Greek merchants had traded along the shores of the Mediterranean. Marseilles was a Greek colony, and Greek merchants landed there and went far up the valley of the Rhone. And now they brought with them in their many comings and goings, not only merchandise, but the story of Christ. It was natural that the story of Christ should be brought by these merchants, for some of them came from places where St. Paul himself had preached and founded churches.

In Gaul, as in other lands, the coming of Christianity was hard. Those who believed in the new faith had to suffer terrible persecutions both from their fellow countrymen and from their Roman rulers. They were robbed of their liberty and their wealth. They were tortured, they were burned alive, thrown to wild beasts, and put to death in many cruel ways. It needed a courage of which we can form little idea to say, "I am a Christian." And yet hundreds and thousands were found, weak women and children among them, who had the courage to say these words, and cling to their faith through the fiercest of tortures.

Among these early martyrs was St. Denis, of Paris. He, with six others, was sent from Rome to teach the Gauls about Christ. St. Denis became the first Bishop of Paris, and about 272, after a long and wearisome imprisonment, he died there for his faith. His head was cut off upon the hill Montmartre, which is said to have taken its name from this deed, Montmartre meaning "mount of the martyr." The body of St. Denis was thrown into the river Seine, but was recovered from it by a Christian lady, and buried not far from where it was found. After a time a chapel was built on the spot.

Later a great church and abbey arose there. St. Denis became the patron Saint of France, and his name is forever linked with the history of the country. "St. Denis " was the battle cry of French soldiers, just as "St. George" was the battle cry of English soldiers. It was over the high altar in St. Denis Abbey that the King's standard hung, except when he himself went to battle. It is in the Church of St. Denis that nearly all the kings of France lie buried.

But although St. Denis is the patron, St. Martin is the favorite, saint of France. St. Martin was born in Hungary, and his parents were heathen, his father being a soldier in the Roman army. Someone, perhaps his nurse, told Martin the story of Christ, and he longed to be a Christian. When quite a small boy he found his way to the Church, and there he was received as a scholar. He wanted to give himself up to a life of religion, but when he was fifteen the Emperor issued an order that all the sons of soldiers must become soldiers. So Martin was forced to join the army. In those days the life of a soldier was often rough and wild. But Martin lived so simply and quietly that his companions said he was more like a monk than a soldier. He kept only one slave, whom he treated as a friend and companion rather than as a servant. He astonished his equals by waiting upon himself and even lacing his own boots.

Martin was kind not only to his slave, but to everyone who was poor and unhappy. He gave away nearly everything that he possessed. One bitterly cold winter's day, as he was riding through the gates of Amiens with his companions, he met a poor beggar who was almost naked and shivering with cold. The wretched man begged of every one as he passed, but no one listened to him. Martin alone was filled with pity for the poor shivering creature. But he had already given away all that he had. The only thing which remained to him was his cloak. So, drawing his sword, he cut that in two, and gave half to the poor beggar.

Those around laughed at the figure Martin made, clad only in half a cloak; but he did not mind, for the beggar had gone away warm and comforted. That night, as Martin lay asleep, it seemed to him that Christ appeared with the half cloak wrapped round Him. 'Look well at my cloak, Martin," he said; "do you know it? >: Then, as he looked at it, Martin heard Christ say, "Martin who is yet only a learner has clothed me with this garment."

This vision made Martin very happy, for he remembered how when Christ was on earth he had said, "If ye did it unto them, ye did it unto me."

When he was eighteen Martin was baptized, and although he remained in the army, he was a soldier in little more than name, for there was no fighting. There came a time, however, when the Germans invaded Gaul, and the army was gathered to march against them. Then Martin asked to be allowed to leave the army. "I have served you faithfully," he said to the Emperor. "Permit me now to serve God. I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight."

"It is fear which makes you ask this," replied the Emperor; "you are afraid to face the enemy."

"Nay," said Martin, "it is not fear. Place me tomorrow in the front rank of the army, and, without arms or armor, but protected only by the Sign of the Cross, I will gladly march into the thickest of the fight."

To this the Emperor agreed. Meanwhile Martin was loaded with fetters so that he might not escape. But he had no need to keep his promise. There was no fighting, for that night the Germans sought for peace.

Martin was then allowed to leave the army, and he afterward led such a holy life that the people of Tours chose him for their Bishop. From that time forth he fought against idolatry. He took long journeys far into the country where Christianity was still unknown. His life was more than once in danger, for the fierce heathen in these wild and unknown parts of Gaul hated the new religion. They were angry because Martin cut down the sacred woods of the Druids, ruined the heathen temples, broke and burned their heathen images; and they would willingly have killed him.

Yet, though he waged war against idolatry, no one ever saw Martin angry or impatient. His heart was always full of kindliness and love, of peace and mercy.

By this time Christianity was no longer the despised and persecuted religion it had been. It had become the religion of the emperors, who treated Martin with great honor, and once when he was asked to dine with the Emperor, the Empress waited on him with her own hands, feeling herself greatly honored in the deed.

There are many stories told of miracles which Martin performed, and although we may not feel bound to believe all these, we may believe he was an unselfish, kindly man, simple in mind, tender of heart, who led a holy and useful life. He lived to a great age, and died peacefully, mourned by many friends.