Hermitage of Charles Foucauld, built in 1911, on the Assekrem
Charles de Foucauld was born in a house located 3, Place Broglie in Strasbourg, France.[a] In 1890, de Foucauld joined the Cistercian Trappist order first in France and then at Akbès on the Syrian-Turkish border. He left in 1897 to follow an undefined religious vocation in Nazareth. He began to lead a solitary life of prayer near a convent of Poor Clares and it was suggested to him that he be ordained. In 1901, he was ordained in Viviers, France, and returned to the Sahara in French Algeria and lived a virtually eremitical life. He first settled in Béni Abbès, near the Moroccan border, building a small hermitage for "adoration and hospitality", which he soon referred to as the "Fraternity".
He moved to be with the Tuareg people, in Tamanghasset in southern Algeria. This region is the central part of the Sahara with the Ahaggar Mountains (the Hoggar) immediately to the west. Foucauld used the highest point in the region, the Assekrem, as a place of retreat. Living close to the Tuareg and sharing their life and hardships, he made a ten-year study of their language and cultural traditions. He learned the Tuareg language and worked on a dictionary and grammar. His dictionary manuscript was published posthumously in four volumes and has become known among Berberologists for its rich and apt descriptions. He formulated the idea of founding a new religious institute, under the name of the Little Brothers of Jesus.
On 1 December 1916, de Foucauld was dragged from his fortress by a gang of armed bandits led by El Madani ag Soba, who was connected with the Senussi Bedouin. They intended to kidnap de Foucauld, but when the gang was disturbed by two guardsmen, one startled bandit (15-year-old Sermi ag Thora) shot him through the head, killing him instantly. The murder was witnessed by sacristan and servant Paul Embarek, an African Arab former slave liberated and instructed by de Foucauld.
The French authorities continued for years searching for the bandits involved. In 1943 El Madani fled French forces in Libya to the remote South Fezzan. Sermi ag Thora was apprehended and executed at Djanet in 1944.
De Foucauld was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on 13 November 2005, and is listed as a martyr in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.