Guelphs vs Ghibellines: a quiz

The epic conflict between Guelphs versus Ghibellines tore apart Italy from the 12th to the 16th century. Which side would you have been? Answer the 7 questions below to find it out!

Before there were Republicans versus Democrats, before Marvel versus DC, there were the Guelphs versus Ghibellines.

 The epic conflict between these two political factions tore apart Italy from the 12th to the 16th centuries. It was because of his political allegiances that Dante Alighieri was exiled from Florence in 1302, dying in swampy Ravenna nineteen years later.

 

Dante knew whose side he was on—but how about you? If you had been alive in 14thcentury Italy, would you have been a Guelph or a Ghibelline?

 

Well, now you can finally find out! Just answer the seven easy questions below. If you get stuck on one, choose arbitrarily. That’s how politics was often done in Renaissance Italy as well.

Question1: OK, which ruler do you prefer?

a)      The emperor—he’s got all the best armies!

b)     The pope—no earthly authority is higher

 

Question2: Which flag is more appealing?

a)      A white cross on a red field

b)     A red cross on a white field

 

Question3: You’re at a dinner party in Florence. Who are you sitting next to?

a)      A rich country landowner drunk on Chianti

b)     A blinded up city merchant talking about all the art they’ve bought

 

Question4: This is a tough one—who should have the right to install bishops?

a)      The State, yeah!

b)     The Church (duh)

 

Question5: It’s time for some lockdown renovations. Which crenellations do you choose foryour castle?

a)      Swallow-tailed

b)     Square

 

Question6: So you’ve been exiled from Florence—where would you live?

a)      I’m leaning towards Pisa

b)     Bologna—such a saucy town

 

Question7: You’re in the sixth circle of Hell. Two phantoms appear—who would you hangout with?

a)      That bearded guy in the burning grave

b)     The young fellow with the quill—he looks artsy

 

Results

If you had more a’s, then you’re a Ghibelline and a staunch supporter of the emperor.

 

If you had more b’s, then you’re a Guelph and a faithful follower of the pope.

 

Key to the questions

 

1: The Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Empire, a state that Voltaire once quipped was neither holy, nor Roman, nor much of an empire. The Guelphs, on the other hand, were all for the pope, who supposedly had no temporal power (but he did).

 

2: The Ghibellines used the emperor’s standard of a white cross on a red background.To annoy them, the Guelphs put a red cross on a white background.

 

3: The Ghibellines were backed by rich landowners, while Guelphs were more often urbanmerchants and nobles.

 

4: This was the Investiture Controversy of 1078, a church-versus-state crisis that setoff the entire Guelph-Ghibelline conflict.

 

5: Yep, Ghibellines preferred the fancier swallow-tailed crenellations to the Guelphs’ straitlaced square ones.

 

6: The Italian city states often changed sides. Florence was mostly Guelph, but became Ghibelline a few times. Pisa was mostly Ghibelline, and Bologna stayed pretty much Guelph.

 

7: This scene takes place in Canto X of Inferno. The bearded guy is Farinata degli Uberti, a political rival of Dante, though the poet held him in some respect. The younger fellow is Guido Cavalcanti, a Guelph and Dante’s BFF, for a while at least—Dante was on a tribunal that exiled Cavalcanti from Florence in 1300 due to in-fighting within the Guelph faction. Cavalcanti caught malaria and died soon after, causing Dante a fair bit of remorse.

 

Oh, wait… you wanted to know which faction Dante belonged to? Well, he was a White Guelph, and it was the Black Guelphs who exiled him from Florence. Just when you thought politics couldn’t get any more complicated …