Pepin the Short

Summary

Pippin III called the Short (Jupille, 714 – Saint Denis, Sept. 24, 768) was palace butler of Neustria (741-751) and Austrasia (747-751), then king of the Franks (751-768). He was the father of the future emperor Charlemagne.

He was crowned king of the Franks by the pope who, threatened by the advance of the Lombards, had obtained his protection and reciprocated the help he received from Pippin the Short with a formally illegitimate coronation.

He was the second son of the palace butler of Austrasia and later palace butler of all the Frankish kingdoms, Charles Martel (who was the son of Pippin of Herstal or Pippin II, palace butler of all the Frankish kingdoms, (ca. 650-† 717), whose ancestry is unknown, but the Ex Chronico Sigeberti monachi informs us that she was sister of a certain Dodon, servant of Pippin II, who martyred the bishop of Liege, Lambertus) and his first wife, Rotrude of Trier (695-724) who for a long time was thought to be the daughter of Willigarda of Bavaria and St. Liévin, Liutwin or Leudin (but more recent studies have established that she was the daughter of Count Lambert II of Hesbaye (from whom Ermengarda (778-818), wife of Ludwig the Pious, also descended.

Pippin the Short in 736, together with his father Charles Martel and his elder brother Charlemagne, crossed the Loire and, fighting the Duke of Aquitaine Hunaldo, reached the Garonne, conquered the city of Bordeaux and the castle of Blavia and succeeded in subduing the whole region and taking possession of it. However, he granted Hunaldo to rule the duchy as a result of his oath of allegiance to Charles and his sons, Charlemagne and Pippin III.In 741, his father Charles divided the kingdom into two parts: to Charlemagne, the first-born son, he handed over Austrasia, Swabia-now called Alemannia-and Thuringia; to his second-born son, Pippin handed over Neustria, Burgundy and Provence. In that same year, Charles, assailed by fever, died.According to the Annales Mettenses, his father, Charles, would have liked to divide the kingdom into three parts, as requested by his second wife Swanachilde, but – following the opinion of the Franks, who considered his second-born son, Griffin, illegitimate – Charlemagne and Pippin refused.

Gryphon rebelled against his half-brothers so that he could have part or even all of his father”s domain. Then Charlemagne and Pippin gathered their army to capture Griffin, who, upon hearing the news, fled with his mother and locked himself in Laudunum (present-day Laon), where the half-brothers laid siege. Seeing that he could not escape from the siege, Griffin surrendered himself to the half-brothers. He was imprisoned by Charlemagne in a castle (Nova Castella) in the Ardennes, near Liège, where he remained until 747, the year his half-brother Charlemagne went to Rome.

Palace butler

Charlemagne and Pippin, after the throne of the Frankish kingdom had been vacant for some years, decided in late 741 to recognize as king the Merovingian Childericus III, who, according to the Annales Francorum Ludovici Dufour, was related to the predecessor, Theodoric IV (possibly brother or son).

In 742, Charlemagne and Pippin went to Aquitaine to fight Hunaldo, who after the death of Charles Martel had not kept his pledge of allegiance to his sons. Having gathered their army and crossed the Loire at Aurelianis, present-day Orléans, they reached Beturigas, present-day Bourges, which they set on fire. Continuing on, they defeated Hunaldo and forced him to flee; during the pursuit, they captured the castle and town of Lucas, present-day Loches, sparing the inhabitants. Then at Vetus-Pictavis (Vieux-Poitiers) the two brothers divided their prey and hostages.In the autumn of that year, having crossed the Rhine, Charlemagne and Pippin ravaged Alemannia, reaching as far as the Danube, where the Alemanni, led by Theobald, son of Duke Gotfrid, seeing themselves beaten surrendered and, handing over hostages and offering gifts, asked for peace.

In 743 the Duke of Bavaria Odylon, who the year before had forced Charlemagne and Pippin”s sister Iltrude to marry him against the wishes of her brothers (according to the Ex Chronico Sigeberti monachi had kidnapped her), rebelled against the authority of the Franks, thus forcing Charlemagne and Pippin to gather their army to attack Bavaria. They camped on the banks of the Lech River, while on the opposite bank not only Bavarians but also Saxons, Swabians and Alemanni had gathered. Unable to cross the river at that point, after a few days Charlemagne, having divided the army into two groups, crossed the Lech at night into marshy and uninhabited areas. He unexpectedly swooped down on his opponents, while Odylon and Theodoric, duke of the Saxons, fled across the Inn River. The Franks took many prisoners including the pope”s envoy, Sergius, who persuaded them to return home.In that same year, Charlemagne captured the castle of Hoohseoburg (present-day Seeburg, near Eisleben), defeated the Saxons led by Duke Theodoric and forced them to make peace.

Also in 743, Hunaldo, the duke of Aquitaine, crossed the Loire and conquered and burned Carnotis, present-day Chartres. In 744Charlemagne and Pippin, mindful of Hunaldo”s insult, retaliated, crossed the Loire and set up camp in Aquitaine.Hunaldo, seeing that he could not resist his opponents, decided to abdicate.

Then, also in 744, Charlemagne and Pippin intervened with the army to put down the rebellion in Saxony and, after capturing Duke Theodoric another time, according to the anonymous continuationist Fredegarius, having taken a large number of prisoners and found that they were of similar stock to the inhabitants of his kingdom, Charlemagne acquired them as subjects and many of them converted to the Christian faith and asked to be baptized. Also in that year, Charlemagne and Pippin intervened in Bavaria, and after defeating him, Charlemagne made peace with Odylon.

In 745 the Vascones again rebelled, so the army of the Franks was rallied on the banks of the Loire. Frightened by this the Vascones demanded peace.In 745 Theobald, son of Gotfrid, duke of the Alemanni, rebelled, but was defeated by his brother, Pippin.

In 746, the Alemanni rebellion resumed; Charlemagne and Pippin fought them. Charlemagne lashed out at them, wreaking havoc, especially at Candistat (now Cannstatt, a district of Stuttgart).

After many battles, Charlemagne confessed to Pippin that he wanted to leave the secular life, and in 747, they did not move the army, but prepared to facilitate the path chosen by Charlemagne; he renounced power, which he handed over into the hands of his brother Pippin, leaving him also the guardianship of his son Drogon, went to Rome with several of his ministers and with many gifts, where he met with Pope Zacharias, had himself tonsured and became a monk, receiving the monk”s habit from the same pope. According to some historians, supported by the Annalium Petavianorum continuatio, Charlemagne withdrew to a monastery to atone for the sins of the massacres he committed in the various battles he fought, especially against the Alemanni(see 746 massacre of Canstatt). Others claim that Pippin the Short, with the complicity of the pope, facilitated this decision of his brother Charlemagne.

In that same year Pippin freed his half-brother Griffin from the prison in which Charlemagne had imprisoned him and welcomed him into his palace, giving him a county and several annuities. But, in 748, while Pippin was in Duria (present-day Düren), Griffin left Pippin”s house with many young nobles.Pippin then pursued him and, having crossed Thuringia, arrived in Saxony and occupied the border town of Skahningi (present-day Schöningen), where the Swabians had come to Pippin”s aid and where many Saxons were captured and many of them converted to the Christian faith. Also at Hocsemburgh (present-day Süpplingenburg) the treacherous Duke Theodoric was captured by Pippin for the third time. Continuing to advance, Pippin arrived on the bank of the Obacra River (present-day Oker), while Griffin with the Saxons were stationed on the opposite bank of the Obacra River, near the town of Orhaim (present-day Ohrum). During the night, thinking they were weaker, the Saxons abandoned their positions and so Pippin easily destroyed their fortifications. Also in that year, Gryphon thinking the Saxons were too weak to defend him and not trusting his half-brother, where his uncle, his mother”s brother, the Duke of Bavaria, Odylon I had died.Gryphon in Bavaria was well received by his half-sister, Iltrude, Odylon”s widow, regent on behalf of her son, the new Duke Tassilon III. Griffin, making dynastic claims (as the son of a Bavarian princess, Swanachilde), usurped the throne from 7-year-old Tassilon III and with the help of Lanfredo subjugated the Bavarians. Learning of this, Pippin went to Bavaria and Lanfredo afterwards reconfirmed his nephew Tassilon on the ducal throne. Pippin pardoned all the young men who had followed Griffin, received twelve counties in Neustria, including Le Mans.

In 748, the Saxons, as was their custom, had not kept their oaths, so Pippin was obliged to intervene, with the help of the Frisians. After many of them had already been slaughtered or taken prisoners and their lands burned, the Saxons, seized with fear, asked for peace, promising to be tributaries. Seeing, moreover, that they could not counter the Franks, they dismissed their own commanders and converted to the Christian faith. Then, however, as a result of pressure from the Bavarians, they abjured their faith and broke their word, so in 749, Pippin returned with his army to Saxony and the Saxons retreated with their wives and children across the Inn River. Pippin then camped on the banks of the river to prepare to cross it with boats. The Bavarians, assessing that they could not come to the aid of the Saxons, sent gifts and agreed to be subjects of Pippin, who accepted and returned home, and for two years peace reigned.

Around 750, Pippin, at the request of his brother monk Charlemagne and the Holy See, instructed his half-brother, Remigio, to travel to Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, near Orléans, to request the abbot of Fleury Abbey to return the bones of Saint Benedict.

In this context of peace, Pippin, in 751, sent letters to Pope Zacharias and, unbeknownst to his king, but with the blessing of all the Franks, led by St. Burcard, bishop of Würzburg, and Fulrad, abbot of Saint-Denis, asking him whether the title of king belonged to the one who exercised power or to the one who was of royal blood. The pope replied that the one who truly wielded power should be king.Childericus III then was deposed and, by order of Zechariah”s successor, Stephen II, was shaved and, in 752, was taken to a monastery and tonsured, while Pippin the Short, with Queen Bertha and crowned, in Soissons, king of the Franks, by Boniface, bishop of Mainz. Pippin thus became the first king of the Carolingian Franks, first according to the traditions of his people and later for the Church of Rome.

King of all Franks

Crucial to European history was the legally illegitimate act of royal coronation with papal legitimacy (until then kings had only been blessed by the pope, while legal status to reign had to come from the sole heir to the Roman Empire, the Byzantine ruler). Pippin was usurping a “sacred” sovereign title toward the Germans while the pope was arrogating to himself a legitimizing power that had no defined legal basis. In practice, however, the sacredness of the pope compensated for the end of the sacredness of the Merovingian dynasty; moreover, the presence of a “heretical” (iconoclastic) emperor such as Leo III on the throne of Byzantium caused a power vacuum that the pope had already manifested that he wanted to arrogate to himself (the apocryphal document of the Donation of Constantine was born in those very years)..

In 752, the Gothic population of Septimania rebelled against the Saracens, who had occupied the region for several years, and called on Pippin for help, who by the end of the campaign had received from the Goths the towns of Nemauso (present-day Nîmes), Magdalona (present-day Maguelonne), Agate (present-day Agde) and Beterris (present-day Béziers).

When Pippin, in November 751, had been elected king of the Franks, his half-brother Griffin rebelled again and, in order to resume the fight, decided to go to Vasconia to the duke of Aquitaine, Waifer.Then Pippin sent his legates to Waifer so that his brother would be returned to him.Griffin, considering that his half-brother could have influenced Waifer, thought of reaching Italy to take refuge with the king of the Lombards, Astulf. Arriving, in 753, in the Maurienne area, he was intercepted by several Franks, who were loyal to Pippin, and in combat he met his death on the banks of the Arbore River (present-day Arvan ).At that time, Pippin had defeated the Saxons and, while returning and was in Bonna (present-day Bonn), he was met by messengers from Burgundy who told him that his half-brother Griffin had been killed near Maurienne.Pippin was able to reign in peace from then on.

In 754, Pippin, who was residing on the banks of the Moselle, was informed that Pope Stephen II had departed from Rome with a large retinue and many gifts and had already crossed the Great St. Bernard Pass, an entirely unprecedented action for the bishops of Rome. Pippin, with his son Charles, met him as far as the bridge, Pons Sancti Hugonis, over the river Isère, near La Chapelle-du-Bard.The pope, having arrived in the king”s presence, requested his help against the Lombards and their king Astulf to free the Romans from the abuse they were suffering. Then Pippin led the pope and his delegation to Paris, where he was lodged at St. Dionysius. He then sent ambassadors to King Astulf to get him to cease his anguish against the pope.On June 28 Pope Stephen II anointed Pippin by confirming him king of the Franks and also anointed his sons, naming them Roman patricians (i.e., military defenders of territories belonging to the Church of Rome). At that same time, his brother, Charlemagne, had also traveled to France at the behest of his abbot; he was sent to France, in conjunction with Pope Stephen II”s trip to France, on a peace mission, consisting of convincing his brother Pippin not to invade Italy (according to the Annales Mettenses at the request of King Astulf).But, at the conclusion of the unsuccessful mission, he fell ill and remained in the city of Vienne, attended by Queen Bertrada, for many days and died peacefully in 754.

Since Pippin could not get what he had asked of the Lombards and Astulf continued to act as before, a decision was made in 755 to wage war against the Lombards on the side of Pope Stephen II, for which a large army was assembled. King Astulf, learning of this, took himself with the army to the locks of Susa. Then Pippin made part of the army pass through the mountains. Upon reaching Susa, Astulf attacked him. During the battle Astulf was wounded; he abandoned his men and fled to Pavia with a few followers. Pippin then put the whole region to the sword and pursued him to Pavia, where he set up camp and prepared for the siege. Astulf, believing he could not escape the siege, asked for peace, promising to respect the pope”s demands. Pippin, lenient, accepted the offers, leaving Astulf alive. Then, having received an invitation from the pope, who had meanwhile returned to the Holy See, he went to Rome, bringing with him countless gifts. Finally, having received forty hostages from Astolfo, he returned to his kingdom.

But Astulf did not keep his promises and, in that same year, headed for Rome, ravaging and burning the lands of the Patrimony of St. Peter. Pippin, in 756, again crossed the Alps at the Mont Cenis pass (Pippin”s second expedition against Astulf). The Lombards, having left Rome, had taken to the locks of the Alpine passes, where they were defeated by the Franks (April 756). Then, with his nephew Tassilon III of Bavaria, Pippin ravaged the region and pursued them as far as Pavia, which was put under siege. Astulf then again asked for peace, promising, in addition to an annual tribute to the king of the Franks, not to attack the apostolic see again and to return the disputed territories to the papacy: the Byzantine lands of the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis (this is the vast area from the Panaro River to Ancona). The territories, which had come under the power of the Lombard kings, starting with Liutprand, were handed over to Pepin”s envoy, Abbot Fulrad. According to agreements made in 754 with Pope Stephen II (Promissio Carisiaca), Pippin donated the conquered lands to the Apostolic See.Also in 756, Astulf, during a hunting game, struck by a tree branch and was thrown from his horse. Desiderio was elected king of the Lombards.

In 757 Pippin, as a sign of friendship, exchanged, through ambassadors, gifts with the Byzantine emperor, Constantine V.In that same year, Tassilon III, duke of Bavaria, with a retinue of notables who countersigned, swore allegiance to Pippin and his two sons, Charles and Charlemagne

In 758, Pippin went to Saxony and, in Sitnia (today”s Sythen, tamed their willingness to resist for several years.

In 759, after Pippin had laid siege to it, the city of Narbonne, which many years earlier had fallen to the Saracens by the Goths, was handed over by them to the Franks.

Between 759 and 760, Pippin, since Waifer was sheltering Franks who had rebelled and did not deal fairly with some ecclesiastical matters within the jurisdiction of the French church, turned his attentions to Aquitaine. Having passed the Loire in the vicinity of Autisioderum (present-day Auxerre), burning and ravaging, he arrived in Arvernicus (present-day Auvergne). Then Waifer, sent two ambassadors, handed over two hostages and, accepting the conditions set by Pippin, obtained peace.

In 761, Waifer, in revenge, entered Burgundy with his troops and bringing devastation reached as far as Cavalonum (present-day Chalon-sur-Saône). Pippin reacted immediately and, ravaging Aquitaine, reached Claremonte (present-day Clermont-Ferrand), where men ,women and children perished in the burning of the city. He continued afterwards and, together with his son Charles, occupied many other castles in Auvergne.Pippin returned the following year and laid siege to Bituricam (present-day Bourges), allowing all the defenders sent by Waifer who had been captured to return to their lands, while rebuilt Bitorica was occupied by the Franks.

In the years 763 and 764, the war against Aquitaine continued, though with less intensity, as Pippin feared betrayal by his nephew, Duke of the Bavarians, Tassilon III, so he did not move his army.

In the years 765 and 766, Pippin invaded Aquitaine and seized several towns, Pectavis (present-day Poitiers), Lemodicas (present-day Limoges), Santonis (present-day Saintes), Equolisma (present-day Angoulême), whose walls he destroyed. He devastated the whole area cultivated with vines and, having passed the Garonne, confronted by Waifer with a large army of Vascones, defeated him and many Vascones were killed. Waifer, with a few others, managed to escape and sent legates to Pippin who promised submission, but this time his offers were not considered. By 766, after Pippin had placed a Frankish garrison at Bitorica, Aquitaine, although devastated, could be considered a province of the Frankish kingdom.

In 767, Pippin went to Aquitaine with Queen Bertrada with the intention of capturing Waifer, who in the meantime had regained part of his duchy.Pippin continued in the conquest of the duchy and among other cities and castles.

In 768, Waifer, with a few followers, tried to undermine Pippin again, who was in Aquitaine with the queen and her two sons, Charles and Charlemagne, with him. Waifer was defeated and put to flight. Pippin divided the army into 4 groups and made them pursue, until they were captured and killed.Finally, master of all Aquitaine, Pippin returned to Saintes, where the queen, Bertrada, was waiting for him.

Death and succession

A short time later, Pippin was seized with a fever. He then went to Toronis (present-day Tours), to the monastery of St. Martin the Confessor, where he gave alms and prayed for his health. From here he then moved with his wife and children to Saint-Denis in Paris, where, noting that his life had come to an end, with the consent of the notables and bishops of the Franks, he divided the kingdom among his sons: to Charles, the eldest, went Austrasia and to Charlemagne La Burgundia, Provence, Gotia, Alsace and L”Alemannia, while the newly conquered Aquitaine he divided between the two (Charles had Austrasia, most of Neustria and the northwestern half of Aquitaine (Charlemagne got Burgundy, Provence, Gothia, Alsace, Alamagne, and the southeastern part of Aquitaine (i.e., the south and east of France plus the upper Rhine valley). After a few days, stricken with severe pains after 25 years of reign, on September 24.His sons buried him in Saint-Denis, as Pippin himself had wished. His tomb was desecrated more than a millennium later with the desecration of the tombs of the basilica of Saint-Denis during the French Revolution.

His sons Charles and Charlemagne were anointed and crowned kings on the same day in October at Noviomem (present-day Soissons) and Saxonis (present-day Samoussy), respectively.

The benevolence of the papacy and the energy of the new rulers soon erased from the collective memory any memory of usurpation. From then on, the existence, in the center of Italy, of a solid and well-defended Church territory (the Patrimony of St. Peter) made any subsequent plans to unify the peninsula impossible.

With Pepin the Short, the so-called “Carolingian monetary reform” was initiated, which also affected the mint system. Carolingian coinage set the following values: 1 pound = 20 soldi = 240 denarii.

Pippin married Bertrada of Laon in 744, from whom he had:

Historiographical literature

Sources

  1. Pipino il Breve
  2. Pepin the Short