Charles Eugène de Foucauld was a religious leader who inspired the founding of the Little Brothers of Jesus. He was assassinated in 1916 at the door of his retreat in the Algerian Sahara.
Born in Strasbourg on September 15, 1858, he grew up in an aristocratic family and entered the Saint-Cyr Military Academy in 1876. He later was a French Army officer in Algeria but left the Army in 1882 and went as an explorer to Morocco.
In 1890 he joined the Trappist Order but left in 1897 to follow an as yet undefined religious vocation. He returned to Algeria and lived a virtually hermetical life. He first settled in Beni Abbes, near the Moroccan border, building a small Hermitage for "Adoration and Hospitality", which soon became the Fraternity. For Charles wished to be, and was seen to be, a Brother to each and every visitor, whatever their religion, ethnic origin or social status. Later he moved to be with the Touareg people, in Tamanghasset in southern Algeria. This region is the central part of the Sahara with the Ahaggar Mountains, known as the Hoggar, immediately West of there. Charles used the highest point, the Assekrem, as a place of retreat. Living close to the Touareg, and sharing their life and hardships, he made a ten-year study of their language and cultural traditions. He learned the language and worked on a dictionary and grammar. His dictionary manuscript was published posthumously in four volumes and has become known among Berberologues for its rich and apt descriptions. He formulated the idea of founding a new Religious Order, which only became a reality after his death, under the name of the Little Brothers of Jesus.
He was shot to death by passing Marauders on December 1, 1916, in his Tamanrasset compound against the general background of uprising against the French colonial power and the World War. De Foucauld was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI, on November 13, 2005 and is considered a martyr of the Roman Catholic Church.