Compendium of Church History - Notre Dame

Seventh Century
The Century of Mohammedanism

As it was in the Eastern Church that heresy and schism had so well succeeded up to the seventh century, it was also in that Church that God, by a just effect of His wrath, permitted the devil to carry out his destructive schemes. Mohammed was the instrument used by Satan to inflict upon religion the deepest wound it had yet received.

Mohammed was born at Mecca, in Arabia, 570. While still young he undertook to manage the affairs of a rich widow, and later he married her. In 609 he announced himself as commissioned by God to do away with paganism, and to reform both Judaism and Christianity. This he pretended to do by blending the three religions into a new creed, which he preached to his relatives and neighbors. They did not believe in him, and finally drove him out of the town. Mohammed fled to Medina in 622, from which date the Mohammedans reckon their chronology. This event is the Hegira.

Moral Code.
The doctrines of Mohammedanism are set forth in the Koran, which means the Book above Books. The principal moral duties inculcated are:

  • Prayer. Mohammedans must pray five times a day.
  • Almsgiving. They must give from five to twenty per cent of their income in charity.
  • Fasting. They fast during one month of each year.
  • Pilgrimages. Every Mohammedan whose means and health will permit, must make at least one pilgrimage to the Temple of Mecca.


  • Medina, 622-661.
    Founded by Mohammed.
  • Damascus, 661-750.
    Founded by Moaviah. He supplanted Mohammed's own children and transferred the Caliphate to Syria, selecting Damascus as his capital.
  • Cordova, 755-1031.
    Founded by Abd-er-Rahman. Here he built a magnificent mosque. His rule was wise and able, and conciliatory to the Christians.
  • Bagdad, 763-1238.
    Founded by Abu-Jaafar. He built Bagdad, and made it the seat of his caliphate. For more than four centuries the Abbassides continued at Bagdad.

The Spread of Mohammedanism.
The spiritual and temporal sway of Mohammed was acknowledged throughout Arabia before his death. His successors conquered Syria and Palestine, Persia, and North Africa. From Africa they crossed over into Spain under the name of Moors, and in a single battle overthrew the power of the Goths in that country.

Destruction of the Mohammedan Power in Europe.

1. Battle of Poitiers, or Tours, 732.
The Moors, or Mohammedans, crossed the Pyrenees and threatened France. They were met by Charles Martel at Poitiers, and for seven days the armies were face to face. The Moors were finally routed in what is often styled one of "the decisive battles of the world."

2. Battle of Lepanto, 1571.
A fleet under Don John of Austria was commissioned by Pope Pius V to stay the advance of the Turks. The site of the conflict was the Gulf of Lepanto. The Christian forces encountered a powerful fleet of 430 Turkish vessels, and after a stubborn fight, which lasted all day, a panic seized the Turks. A fierce storm completed the havoc, and the Turkish power on sea was broken forever. The festival of Our Lady of the Rosary commemorates this triumph, which the voice of Christendom attributes to our Blessed Lady.

3. Siege of Vienna, 1683.
When in the year 1683 the Turks laid siege to Vienna, the Pope and the Emperor called on John Sobieski for help. A rapid march across the plains toward Vienna brought him unexpectedly in sight of the Turks. These made a desperate resistance, but finally fled, leaving the ground strewn with silks and jewelry, splendid tents, and implements of war. Pope Innocent XI thanked Sobieski in the name of Europe for his victory over the Moslems.

4. Battle of Belgrade, 1717.
In 1717 Prince Eugene destroyed the Turkish power on land in the Battle of Belgrade.

Different Names for the Followers of Mohammed.

  1. Moslems, Muslims, or Mussulmans; that is, be longing to the sect of Islam—resignation.
  2. Arabs, people from the West.
  3. Saracens, people from the East.
  4. Moors, inhabitants of Morocco.
  5. Turks, inhabitants of Turkey.

Heresy of the Seventh Century

The Heresy of the Monothelites.
The Monothelite heresy was the outgrowth of an attempt to effect a reconciliation between the Catholics and the Eutychians. According to this heresy, there are two natures in Christ, but only one will, the human will being merged into the divine.

The author of this heresy was Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople. Sergius tried to deceive Pope Honorius I by urging that if all debates on the subject could be stopped, the trouble would cease. Honorius did not suspect Sergius, and replied in words that might easily be misconstrued; and unfortunately they were.

The Emperors took part in this controversy, defending the heresy and persecuting the popes. The miserable contest went on for nearly a hundred years, until Pope Agatho called the Sixth General Council of Constantinople, A.D. 680. This Council condemned the heresy, stating the true doctrine thus: That in Jesus Christ there are two distinct wills and operations, the one Divine, the other Human, never conflicting, but the Human will always subject to the Divine,