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Who's Who in Medieval History and the Renaissance

Pippin III


Military Leader



Pippin III (also spelled Pepin), known as Pippin the Short (in French Pépin le Bref; in German Pippin der Kurze), was the son of Charles Martel, the father of Charlemagne, and the first Carolingian ruler of the Franks to be anointed as King.

For years the Merovingian kings had been rulers of Francia in name only. But it was the "Mayor of the Palace" who had real control of the government, beginning with Pippin's grandfather, Pippin II of Herstal. When Charles Martel died in 741, Pippin and his brother Carloman were declared "mayors" of the Franks. At this, their half-brother Grifo rebelled, leading several unsuccessful revolts, getting imprisoned and ultimately losing his life en route to joining the Lombards, enemies of the Franks.

The pious Carloman decided to enter a monastery in 747, leaving Pippin as the sole ruler of the Franks. Pippin decided that, since he already held the responsibilities of rule, he should hold the prerogatives of title, as well. He wrote to the pope with concerns about the powerless Merovingian figurehead, asking, "Is it wise to have kings who hold no power of control?" Pope Zacharias wrote back authorizing Pippin's coronation. The last Merovingian king, Childeric III, was deposed and sent to a monastery, and the "Mayor of the Palace" was crowned king at Soissons by St. Boniface in November, 751.

As king, Pippin was a strong supporter of the Catholic Church. When the king of the Lombards, Aistulf, seized Ravenna and threatened Rome, Pope Stephen II managed to make it to Frankish territory in 754. He requested Pippin's help, and Pippin promised to win back the captured lands and was re-anointed by Stephen in return. When the pope returned to Italy, Pippin and his army went with him and, after a fierce battle against Aistulf, won from the Lombard king the promise of returning the captured lands to the papacy. Pippin's promise (and the 756 document that would later record it) became known as the Donation of Pippin, part of the precedent used by the Papacy to justify its claims to lands in Italy. 

Important Dates

Died: Sept. 24, 768

Dynastic Table

Early Carolingian Rulers
Use this quick-reference table to see the progression of Mayors of the Palace, Kings, and Emperors who ruled Carolingian territory.

On the Web

Pippin III
Concise, well-hyperlinked article at Wikipedia.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Pepin the Short
Fairly substantial biography by Franz Kampers.

In Print

The link below will take you to a site where you can compare prices at booksellers across the web. More in-depth info about the book may be found by clicking on to the book's page at one of the online merchants.

The Carolingians: A Family Who Forged Europe
by Pierre Riché; translated by Michael Idomir Allen

Related Resources

The Carolingian Empire
An index of sites concerning the successors of Charles Martel and the empire they built.

Early Europe
Directory of sites that offer useful resources for the study of Europe in Late Antiquty, or shortly after the fall of Rome.


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