The Info List - Ghibellines

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The Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
(/ɡwɛlfs/; /ˈɡɪbɪlaɪnz/, also US: /ˈɡɪbəliːnz/, /ˈɡɪbələnz/; Italian: guelfi e ghibellini [ˈɡwɛlfi e ɡɡibelˈliːni]) were factions supporting the Pope
and the Holy Roman Emperor, respectively, in the Italian city-states
Italian city-states
of central and northern Italy. During the 12th and 13th centuries, rivalry between these two parties formed a particularly important aspect of the internal politics of medieval Italy. The struggle for power between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
had arisen with the Investiture Controversy, which began in 1075 and ended with the Concordat of Worms
Concordat of Worms
in 1122. The division between the Guelphs and Ghibellines in Italy, however, fuelled by the imperial Great Interregnum, persisted until the 15th century.


1 History

1.1 Origins 1.2 13th–14th centuries 1.3 Later history

2 Allegiance of the main Italian cities 3 In heraldry 4 In literature and popular culture

4.1 In literature 4.2 In movies

5 See also 6 References 7 External links


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Origins[edit] Guelph (often spelled Guelf; in Italian Guelfo, plural Guelfi) is an Italian form of the name of the House of Welf, the family of the dukes of Bavaria
(including the namesake Welf II, Duke of Bavaria, as well as Henry the Lion). The Welfs were said to have used the name as a rallying cry during the Siege of Weinsberg
Siege of Weinsberg
in 1140, in which the rival Hohenstaufens of Swabia
(led by Conrad III of Germany) used "Wibellingen", the name of a castle today known as Waiblingen, as their cry; "Wibellingen" subsequently became Ghibellino in Italian.[1] The names were likely introduced to Italy
during the reign of Frederick Barbarossa. When Frederick conducted military campaigns in Italy
to expand imperial power there, his supporters became known as Ghibellines (Ghibellini). The Lombard League
Lombard League
and its allies were defending the liberties of the urban communes against the Emperor's encroachments and became known as Guelphs (Guelfi). The Ghibellines were thus the imperial party, while the Guelphs supported the Pope. Broadly speaking, Guelphs tended to come from wealthy mercantile families, whereas Ghibellines were predominantly those whose wealth was based on agricultural estates. Guelph cities tended to be in areas where the Emperor was more of a threat to local interests than the Pope, and Ghibelline cities tended to be in areas where the enlargement of the Papal States
Papal States
was the more immediate threat. The Lombard League
Lombard League
defeated Frederick at the Battle of Legnano in 1176. Frederick recognized the full autonomy of the cities of the Lombard league under his nominal suzerainty. The division developed its own dynamic in the politics of medieval Italy, and it persisted long after the direct confrontation between Emperor and Pope
had ceased. Smaller cities tended to be Ghibelline if the larger city nearby was Guelph, as Guelph Republic of Florence
Republic of Florence
and Ghibelline Republic of Siena
Republic of Siena
faced off at the Battle of Montaperti, 1260. Pisa
maintained a staunch Ghibelline stance against her fiercest rivals, the Guelph Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa
and Florence. Adherence to one of the parties could therefore be motivated by local or regional political reasons. Within cities, party allegiances differed from guild to guild, rione to rione, and a city could easily change party after internal upheaval. Moreover, sometimes traditionally Ghibelline cities allied with the Papacy, while Guelph cities were even punished with interdict. Contemporaries did not use the terms Guelph and Ghibellines much until about 1250, and then only in Tuscany
(where they originated), with the names "church party" and "imperial party" preferred in some areas. 13th–14th centuries[edit] Further information: Interregnum (HRE)

A 14th Century conflict between the militias of the Guelph and Ghibelline factions in the comune of Bologna, from the Croniche of Giovanni Sercambi of Lucca

At the beginning of the 13th century, Philip of Swabia, a Hohenstaufen, and his son-in-law Otto of Brunswick, a Welf, were rivals for the imperial throne. Philip was supported by the Ghibellines as a relative of Frederick I, while Otto was supported by the Guelphs. Philip’s heir, Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, was an enemy of both Otto and the Papacy, and during Frederick’s reign the Guelphs became more strictly associated with the Papacy while the Ghibellines became supporters of the Empire, and of Frederick in particular. Frederick II also introduced this division to the Crusader states in the Levant
during the Sixth Crusade. After the Sixth Crusade, Frederick II quelled a rebellion led by his son Henry in Germany and soon invaded Lombardy
with a large Army. Pope Gregory IX attempted to stop the invasion with diplomacy but failed. Frederick defeated the Lombard League
Lombard League
in the Battle of Cortenuova
Battle of Cortenuova
and refused any Peace treaty with any of the Guelph States. He then laid siege to Brescia
but was forced to lift it. He was then excommunicated by the Pope, and in response expelled the friars from Lombardy
and placed his son Enzo as Imperial vicar in Italy, he quickly annexed Romagna, Marche, and the Duchy of Spoleto
Duchy of Spoleto
as well as part of the Papal States. In the meantime Frederick marched through Tuscany
hoping to capture Rome, however he was forced to retreat, sacking the city of Benevento. Soon however the Ghibelline city of Ferrara
fell and Frederick once more marched into Italy
capturing Ravenna
and Faenza. The Pope
called a council but an Imperial-Pisan fleet defeated a Papal fleet carrying Cardinals and prelates from Genoa
in the Battle of Giglio and then Frederick continued marching towards Rome. However Pope
Gregory soon died and Frederick, seeing the war being directed against the Church and not the Pope, withdrew his forces, releasing two cardinals from Capua, although Frederick did again march against Rome
over and over throughout 1242 and 1243. A new Pope
Innocent IV
Innocent IV
was elected. At first Frederick was content with the election since Innocent had relatives in the Imperial camp. However the new Pope
immediately turned against Frederick. When the City of Viterbo
rebelled, the pope backed the Guelphs. Frederick immediately marched to Italy
and besieged Viterbo. The Pope
signed a Peace treaty with the Emperor, relieving the city. However after the Emperor left the Cardinal Raniero Capocci, as the leader of Viterbo, had the garrison massacred. The Pope
made another treaty but he immediately broke it and continued to back the Guelphs, supporting Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia
Henry Raspe, Landgrave of Thuringia
as King of the Romans and soon plotted to have Frederick killed. When the attempt failed the Pope fled to Liguria. Soon the tide turned against the imperial party as the Lombard city of Parma
rebelled and Enzo - who had not been present - asked his father for help. Frederick and Ezzelino III da Romano, the Tyrant of Verona, besieged the city. However the imperial camp was ambushed by the Guelphs and in the ensuing Battle of Parma
Battle of Parma
the imperial party was routed, losing much of their treasury. Frederick retreated and gathered another army but the resistance of Parma encouraged other cities to rebel and Frederick was powerless to do anything. Things became worse for the imperial party as the Ghibellines were defeated in the Battle of Fossalta
Battle of Fossalta
by the Bolognese, at which Enzo was captured and imprisoned until his death. Although the Ghibellines did start recovering, defeating the Guelphs in the Battle of Cingoli, Frederick by then was ill. Before he died much of his territory was recovered by his son Conrad, King of the Romans, thus leaving Italy
at peace for a very few years. After the death of Frederick II in 1250 the Ghibellines were supported by Conrad IV of Germany
Conrad IV of Germany
and later Manfred, King of Sicily, while the Guelphs were supported by Charles I of Naples.[1] The Sienese Ghibellines inflicted a noteworthy defeat on Florentine Guelphs at the Battle of Montaperti
Battle of Montaperti
(1260). After the Hohenstaufen
dynasty lost the Empire when Charles I executed Conradin
in 1268, the terms Guelph and Ghibelline became associated with individual families and cities, rather than the struggle between empire and papacy. In that period the stronghold of Italian Ghibellines was the city of Forlì, in Romagna. That city remained with the Ghibelline factions, partly as a means of preserving its independence, rather than out of loyalty to the temporal power, as Forlì
was nominally in the Papal States. Over the centuries, the papacy tried several times to regain control of Forlì, sometimes by violence or by allurements. The division between Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
was especially important in Florence, although the two sides frequently rebelled one against the other and struggled for power in many of the other northern Italian cities as well. Essentially the two sides were now fighting either against German influence (in the case of the Guelphs), or against the temporal power of the Pope
(in the case of the Ghibellines).[1] In Florence
and elsewhere the Guelphs usually included merchants and burghers, while the Ghibellines tended to be noblemen. They also adopted peculiar customs such as wearing a feather on a particular side of their hats, or cutting fruit a particular way, according to their affiliation. The struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
was also noticeable in the Republic of Genoa, where the former were called "rampini" (lit.: "grappling hooks") and the latter "mascherati" (lit.: "masked"), although there is no clear etymology for these names.[2] Genoese families like Fieschi and Grimaldi conventionally sided with the Guelph party, in contrast with the Doria and some branches of the Spinola families. While Genoa
was often under Guelph rule in the early years of the 13th century, in 1270, Ghibellines Oberto Spinola and Oberto Doria managed to revolt against Guelphs and started a dual government which lasted a couple of decades. In the meanwhile, Guelph families fled to their strongholds east (Fieschi) and west (Grimaldi), but were forced to cease their resistance with several military campaigns, which ended with their readmission to the Genoese political life, after paying war expenses. After the Tuscan Guelphs finally defeated the Ghibellines in 1289 at the Battle of Campaldino
Battle of Campaldino
and at Vicopisano, the Guelphs began infighting. By 1300 the Florentine Guelphs had divided into the Black and White Guelphs. The Blacks continued to support the Papacy, while the Whites were opposed to Papal influence, specifically the influence of Pope
Boniface VIII. Dante was among the supporters of the White Guelphs, and in 1302 was exiled when the Black Guelphs took control of Florence.[3] Those who were not connected to either side, or who had no connections to either Guelphs or Ghibellines, considered both factions unworthy of support but were still affected by changes of power in their respective cities. Emperor Henry VII was disgusted by supporters of both sides when he visited Italy
in 1310. In 1325, the city-states of Guelph Bologna
and Ghibelline Modena
fought over a civic bucket in the War of the Bucket, where the famous Battle of Zappolino was fought. Modena's victory in this battle, and therefore the war, led to a resurgence of Ghibelline fortunes. In 1334 Pope Benedict XII threatened people who used either the Guelph or Ghibelline name with excommunication. Later history[edit] In Milan, the Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
cooperated in the creation of the Golden Ambrosian Republic
Golden Ambrosian Republic
in 1447, but over the next few years engaged in some intense disputes. After the initial leadership of the Ghibellines, the Guelphs seized power at the election of the Captains and Defenders of the Liberty of Milan. The Guelphic government became increasingly autocratic, leading to a Ghibelline conspiracy led by Giorgio Lampugnino and Teodoro Bossi. It failed, and many Ghibellines were massacred in 1449, while others fled, including the prominent Ghibelline Vitaliano I Borromeo, who was sheltered in his County of Arona. Public opinion turned against the Guelphs, and in the next elections the Ghibellines were briefly victorious, but deposed after imprisoning Guelph leaders Giovanni Appiani and Giovanni Ossona.[4] After Francesco I Sforza
Francesco I Sforza
was made Duke by Milan's senate in 1450, many Ghibellines who had fled such as Filippo Borromeo and Luisino Bossi were restored to positions of prominence in Milan.[5] In the 15th century, the Guelphs supported Charles VIII of France during his invasion of Italy
at the start of the Italian Wars, while the Ghibellines were supporters of emperor Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. Cities and families used the names until Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, firmly established imperial power in Italy
in 1529. In the course of the Italian Wars
Italian Wars
of 1494 to 1559, the political landscape changed so much that the former division between Guelphs and Ghibellines became obsolete. This is evident with the election of Pope Paul V (1605), the first to bear the "Ghibelline" Reichsadler
in chief on his Papal coat of arms. On 25 March 2015 the Parte Guelfa has been reconstituted as Christian order and archconfraternity to serve the Catholic Church
Catholic Church
and the Catholic Archdiocese of Florence, guided by the Captains Andrea Claudio Galluzzo, Riccardo Mugellini, Tommaso Conforti, Nicola Biagi and Gabriele Malquori under the custody of Consul Luciano Artusi. The Mayor of Florence
established the headquarters of the reborn Guelph Party in the historic Palazzo di Parte Guelfa
Palazzo di Parte Guelfa
in the city. Allegiance of the main Italian cities[edit]

Main Ghibelline cities Main Guelph cities Variable adherence cities

Arezzo Assisi Como Fabriano Foligno Forlì Grosseto Mantua Modena Pavia Pisa Pistoia Spoleto Terni Urbino Alessandria Ancona Aquila Bologna Brescia Crema Cremona Faenza Florence Lecco Milan Orvieto Perugia Asti Bergamo Ferrara Genoa Gubbio Lodi Lucca Padua Parma Piacenza Prato Siena Treviso Verona Vicenza

In heraldry[edit] During the 12th and 13th centuries, armies of the Ghibelline communes usually adopted the war banner of the Holy Roman Empire—white cross on a red field—as their own. Guelph armies usually reversed the colors—red cross on white. These two schemes are prevalent in the civic heraldry of northern Italian towns and remain a revealing indicator of their past factional leanings. Traditionally Ghibelline towns like Pavia, Novara, Como, Treviso
and Asti, continue to sport the Ghibelline cross. The Guelph cross can be found on the civic arms of traditionally Guelph towns like Milan, Vercelli, Alessandria, Padua, Reggio and Bologna. Some individuals and families indicated their faction affiliation in their coats of arms by including an appropriate heraldic "chief" (a horizontal band at the top of the shield). Guelphs had a capo d'Angio or "chief of Anjou", containing yellow fleurs-de-lys on a blue field, with a red heraldic "label", while Ghibellines had a capo dell'impero or "chief of the empire", with a form of the black German imperial eagle on a golden background.[6] Families also distinguished their factional allegiance by the architecture of their palaces, towers and fortresses. Ghibelline structures had "swallow-tailed" crenellations, while those of the Guelphs were square.[7]

Coat of arms
Coat of arms
of an Italian family with Ghibelline (Imperial) style heraldic chief at top

Coat of arms
Coat of arms
of the Roberti family of Reggio, with Guelph (Anjou) style heraldic chief at top

Ghibelline swallow-tailed merlons of the "Casa di Romeo", of the Montecchi family of Verona.

In literature and popular culture[edit] In literature[edit]

In Dante Alighieri's Inferno (1300s), participants in the conflict are featured prominently. For example, Mosca dei Lamberti is the character suffering in hell for the schism for which he was held responsible.[8] In The Decameron
The Decameron
(1350s) by Giovanni Boccaccio, one of the ladies is a firm adherent of the Ghibellines to the point where she will not even praise Charlemagne. The Life of Castruccio Castracani
Life of Castruccio Castracani
(1520) by Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
tells the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
in the city of Lucca during the reign of Tuscan condottiere, Castruccio Castracani In the notes to the poem The Shepheardes Calender
The Shepheardes Calender
(1579), English poet Edmund Spenser's annotator E. K. claimed (incorrectly) that the words "Elfs" and "Goblins" derive etymologically from Guelphs and Ghibellines. Valperga (1823) is a historical novel by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley
influenced heavily by both Dante and Boccaccio, that deals directly with the Guelph and Ghibelline conflict. Its central figure, Castruccio Castracani, is a Ghibelline, while his love, the Duchess of Valperga, is a Guelph. In Schopenhauer’s essay "On Women",[9] he claimed that women are usually unfriendly toward each other.[10] The reason is that “…with women only one thing is decisive, namely, which man they please.”[11] Schopenhauer asserted that “Even when they meet in the street, women look at one another like Guelphs and Ghibellines. (Schon beim Begegnen auf der Straße sehn sie einander an wie Guelfen und Ghibellinen). In The Cantos
The Cantos
(1915–1962), Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
makes repeated mention of both Guelfs and Ghibellines. The pro-Papal Guelfs are associated with usury and corruption while the pro-Imperial Ghibellines are associated with law and order. The famous "fascist" canto, LXXII, makes mention of Ezalino (who would appear to be the sometime-Ghibelline leader Ezzelino III da Romano), "who didn't believe the world was made by a jew" (i.e., he rejected papal and Christian claims and embraced the antisemitism of World War II
World War II
in the fascist milieu in which the Canto was written). In Christ Stopped at Eboli
Christ Stopped at Eboli
(1945), Carlo Levi
Carlo Levi
compares the peasants and gentry of Aliano
to the Guelphs and Ghibellines, respectively, with the Fascist government as the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
and the desire to be left alone for local rule as the Papacy. In The Lost Steps (1953), by Alejo Carpentier, the narrator refers to the Guelphs and Ghibellines
Guelphs and Ghibellines
to describe the nature of the sudden guerrilla fighting that breaks out in the streets of a Latin American city. In The Quentaris Chronicles fantasy book series (2003–2009), the Duelphs and Nibhellines are feuding families based on the Guelphs and Ghibellines.

In movies[edit]

poster of The Flame and the Arrow
The Flame and the Arrow

The Flame and the Arrow
The Flame and the Arrow
(1950) starring Burt Lancaster, Virginia Mayo and Nick Cravat
Nick Cravat
is set in the Guelph and Ghibelline era of 12th century Lombardy. Barbarossa (2009) starring Rutger Hauer, Raz Degan and F. Murray Abraham is set during the struggles between Guelph and Ghibellines and in particular during the battle of Legnano. In Jeff Baena's The Little Hours (2017), based on The Decameron, Nick Offerman plays a minor Lord given to long, rambling conspiracy theories about how the Guelphs are coming for him.

See also[edit]

Royal Guelphic Order


^ a b c  Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Guelphs and Ghibellines". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 668–669.  ^ Gori - Martini (1967). La liguria e la sua anima. Savona, Italy: Sabatelli. ISBN 8875451893.  ^ Haegen, Anne Mueller von der; Strasser, Ruth F. (2013). "Between Papacy and Empire – the Interminable Conflict between Guelphs and Ghibellines". Art & Architecture: Tuscany. Potsdam: H.F.Ullmann Publishing. p. 66. ISBN 978-3-8480-0321-1.  ^ A History of Milan
under the Sforza. Cecilia M. Ady, Edward Armstrong; Methuen & Co., 1907. ^ Tolfo, Maria Grazia; Colussi, Paolo (January 23, 2009). "Storia di Milano ::: dal 1426 al 1450" [History of Milan ::: from 1426 to 1450]. Storia di Milano (in Italian). Milano: Storiadimilano. Retrieved May 6, 2010.  ^ The Complete Book of Heraldry by Stephen Slater (ISBN 1843096986), page 201. ^ W.F.Butler (1906) The Lombard Communes, p.348 ^ "You will remember Mosca, too, who said alas 'What's done is at an end, which was the seed of evil for the Tuscans'. I added: and brought death to your own kinsmen; then having heard me speak, grief heaped on grief." (Inferno, XXVIII, lines 106-110) ^ Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume 2, Chapter 27, § 368 ^ ”…between women there is already, by nature, hostility….” (zwischen Weibern ist schon von Natur Feindschaft) ^ …bei ihnen (Weibern) nur eine entscheidet, nämlich: welchem Manne sie gefallen haben.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gardner, Edmund Garratt (1910). "Guelphs and Ghibellines". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. 7. New York: Robert Appleton. 

External links[edit]

Italian Wikisource
has original text related to this article: Istorie fiorentine

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Guelphs and Ghibellines.

Machiavelli, Niccolò (1532). History Of Florence
And Of The Affairs Of Italy
From The Earliest Times To The Death Of Lorenzo The Magnificent.  World of Dante Multimedia website that offers Italian text of Divine Comedy, Allen Mandelbaum's translation, gallery, interactive maps, timeline, musical recordings, and searchable database for students and teachers. Database allows search for Guelfs and Ghibellines in the poem.

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