Guelphs and Ghibellines

Guelphs And Ghibellines, the names given to two great mediaeval parties which acquired a pre- eminent celebrity especially in Germany- and Italy, inasmuch as their contests made Up a great portion of the history of those countries from the 11th to the 14th centuries, and which claim notice here because of the close connection of their party strifes with the ecclesiastical history of that period, and the use which the papacy made of them to increase its power and authority. According to the most reliable authorities, the word Guelph, or Guelf, is derived from" Welf," a baptismal name in several Italo, German families, which may be traced even up to the 9th century in a line of princes who migrated from Italy to Germany in the 11th century, when it appears there as the name of several chiefs of the ducal house of Saxony. Ghibelline is referred to "Waiblingen' (anciently Wibelingen), a town of Wurtemberg, and the patrimonial seat of the Hohen-stauffen family. The party conflicts originating in the rivalry of the ducal houses above mentioned, and probably also the party names, are of earlier date, but the first recorded use of these terms to designate the opposing parties occurred A.D. 1140, in the great battle of Weinsberg, in Suabia, fought between the partisans of Conrad of Hohenstauffen and those of Henry the Lion, of the house of Wolf, rival claimants of the imperial throne. In this battle the followers of Conrad rallied to the cry of "Hie Walblingen !" and those of Henry to the cry of" Hie Wolf!" These party cries, transferred to Italy, subsequently the chief theatre of these party contests, became Ghibellini and Guelphi or Guelfi, in the Italian language, the former designating the supporters, and the latter the opponents of the imperial authority, which generally vested in the Ho-henstauffen house. The opposition to this authority arose from two sources, viz. (1)from the cities and smaller principalities seeking to maintain their local rights and liberties, and (2) from the popes, who, jealous of the power of the German emperors, and irritated by their exercise of authority in ecclesiastical matters, especially in regard to investitures (q.v.), favored the party of the Guelphs, and, indeed, became the representative leaders thereof. Hence the term Guelph came to signify in general those who favored the Church's independence of the State, and the maintenance of municipal liberty as against the partisans of a supreme and centralized civil authority represented in the emperor. This statement; however, seems not to hold good always, since in the multiplied and complicated' conflicts of these parties an interchange of the distinctive principles and objects of each appears to have taken place in certain instances, and the interests of the hierarchy by no means always coincided with the aspirations for municipal and personal freedom, however freely it evoked them to advance its own ends. The contest of the papacy for supremacy over the civil power, organized and definitely directed to its object by Gregory vii (q.v.), culminated in the pontificate of Innocent III (q.v.), when, "under that young and ambitious priest, the successors of St. Peter attained the full meridian of their greatness" (Gibbon, 6:36, Harper's ed.), and "the imperial authority at Rome breathed its last sigh" (Muratori, Annal. Ital. anno 1198).

In the contests of the Ghibelline and Guelph parties historians note" five great crises "viz. (1) in 1055, under Henry IV; (2) in 1127, under Henry the Proud; (3) in 1140, under Henry the Lion; (4) in 1159, under Frederick Barbarossa; and (5) the pontificate of Innocent III. After the decline of the imperial authority in Italy, in the conflicts between opposing parties among the nobility and in the cities, Ghibelline was used to designate the aristocratic party, and Guelph those professedly favoring popular government. But the party name, as thus defined, did not always represent the real principles and objects of the party. In the course of time the contest "degenerated into a mere struggle of rival factions, availing themselves of the prestige of ancient names and traditional or hereditary prejudices" (Chambers), so that in 1273 pope Gregory X used the following language: "Guelphus nut Gibcllinus, nora-inn ne illis quidem, qui illa proferunt, nota; inane nomen, quod significat, nemo intelligit" (Muratori, Scriptt. return ltalicarum, 11:178); and in 1334 pope Benedict XII forbade the further use of the terms, and "we read little more of Guelphs and Ghibellines as actually existing parties." The conflict of principles in ecclesiastical as well as civil polity which these terms once served to represent may be traced through every subsequent age, and has not, even in this 10th century, ceased to exist. — Chambers, Cyclopaedia, s.v.; English Cyclop. s.v. ; New American Cyclop. 8:547-8; Hoe-for, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 22:360 sq.; sismondi, Hist. Des Francais (see Index); Ranke, Hist. of Papacy (see Index); Herzog, Real-Encykl. 17:659 sq. (J, W. M.)

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