Guelfs and Ghibellines

The two main party groups in medieval Italian politics. “Guelf” is derived from the name Count Welf (d.825), father-in-law of Louis the Pious and founder of the great German family of Welf; “Ghibelline” comes from Waiblingen, seat of the Hohenstaufen in Swabia, and from the battle cry Hie Weibling. Thus in the struggle between Frederick II and the papacy, the imperialists were termed Ghibellines and the pope and papal party Guelfs. From use in Tuscany in the thirteenth century the names spread throughout Italy and were used of opposing parties in many cities and towns. Hence diverse social, political, and religious factors contributed to the creation of the parties of Guelfs and Ghibellines. The exact meaning of each term thus differed somewhat from city to city—so much so, that in the sixteenth century the French kings and their supporters in Italy were called Guelfs, while the supporters of Charles V were called Ghibellines.