Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Italian Renaissance Banksters and the Buying of Penance

From Mary Tao at the New York Fed:
During the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries, many Florentine bankers hired artists to produce devotional paintings and then donated those pieces to the Catholic Church to offset the Church’s disapproval of interest-bearing loans. Since usury was very much frowned upon, this practice of buying penance did not sit well with one Friar Girolamo Savonarola. He was such a vocal critic of the donations that he arranged for bonfires of “vain, lascivious, or dishonest things” (including many Renaissance artworks) in 1497 and 1498. The Medici Bank, the largest bank at that time, had much success in evading the ban on usury; its collapse in 1494 gave Savonarola leverage in his cause. The recent Florentine exhibit Money and Beauty. Bankers, Botticelli and the Bonfire of the Vanities depicts “how the modern banking system developed in parallel alongside the most important artistic flowering in the history of the Western world.”


  1. From what I've read the Medicis shopped monestaries until they could get someone to sign off on the most liberal interpretation of their business activities, and then charged "fees" that basically mimicked interest rates.

  2. Very cool history lesson for the day.

  3. Islam today condemns interest, along with credit and insurance just as the Bible does. The banksters of the Renaissance bought permission from the Vatican to continue their predatory practices and the priests stopped preaching against them. Poor Savonrola met a bad end for his crusade.

    Western economics has been in full throttle ever since and perhaps the sinners were the real creators of our Society. In any event, it is the misuse of credit, interest and insiurance that has lead to the continuing debacle and still challenges our ingenuity now.
    Derivatives are being called "the Devil's own" in countless advisories.

    Where do we go from here?

  4. As the economic grows and change its nature...it inline with the economic growth of the society... movements of its industrialization, cultural diversity..and art innovations. All of them are factors that molds modern business into success.