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The Medicis immediately set about trying to eliminate the competition, of which there were three main sources of large amounts of decent quality alum—Turkey, the mines in Ischia , and the mines in Volterra.
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The Pope's share of the revenue was to be used to finance campaigns against the Hussites as well as the Turks, so buying Turkish alum was declared by him to be utterly immoral in that it helped the infidel enemy and hurt the faithful. Turkish alum was to be seized where it was found. They discouraged the alum mining near Volterra in Italy, apparently pushing its inhabitants to revolt against Florentine rule. At Lorenzo's direction, the insurrection was brutally suppressed.
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The mines reduced output safely under Florentine and thus, Medici control. The sad outcome of this episode was that the sack was entirely unnecessary: exploitation of this mine was abandoned in simply because the mine was so poor that it was unprofitable. Ischia was under the ownership and protection of the King of Naples , so the Medici and the company then exploited the Ischia mines signing a year cartel agreement to restrict output and boost prices by only selling at a fixed price.
This cartel flagrantly violated the teachings of the church, which tried to justify it by pointing to the virtuous military campaigns it would finance. Regardless, the cartel was not particularly successful. Turkish alum was never satisfactorily suppressed the Pazzi bank is known to have smuggled Turkish alum into the Low Countries , for example , and the cartel was not well organized with conflict between the Medici branches. The Bruges branch and its manager Tommaso Portinari were convinced that the papal mines were simply producing far too much alum and glutting the market.
They would not accept more alum on consignment until the alum they then had had finally sold. Between this internal dissension, the dissension between cartel partners, the constant flow of Turkish alum, and the organized opposition of consumer groups, the alum interest was never as profitable as expected. Regardless of its success, or lack thereof, the alum interest ended after the Pazzi Conspiracy , in , after which Pope Sixtus IV confiscated as much Medici property as he was able to.
The Rome branch of the Medici bank was a fully incorporated partnership which technically did not reside in Rome. It was known internally as "ours who follow the Court of Rome" i nostri che seguono la Corte di Roma  , and only contingently resided in Rome at times, as it followed the Papal court. Odd situations could occur, though. The Rome branch was always busy. The Papal court was attended by hundreds of minor officials, both ecclesiastical and secular, along with their attendants. The needs of the Papal court were such that there was a measurable rise in the frequency of money shortages wherever the court went.
This led to a need for banking services that the Medici could provide. The various bishops, cardinals, and prelates often held Church or private estates in far-flung states in and beyond Italy. The revenues from these estates needed to be transferred to wherever the Court was residing. A more practical reason was that alternate investments generally took the form of real estate, and any cardinal or bishop who invested overly much in real estate which they were not supposed to or relied on income from Church lands might see his investments confiscated under a new Pope who might not favor him so much or even turned over to a replacement.
Accounts with the Medici were kept secret  and generally free from prying, ecclesiastical eyes, especially in the case of discretionary deposits. Persons not already at the court made use of the branch for cashing letters of credit to make their pilgrimage or journey safer. Tribute from the many dioceses and institutions the Church controlled needed to be consolidated but not collected by the Medici and then safely transmitted.
That service, too, the Medici could provide to a degree, though not in all areas. Officially, the branch could not make its money by lending at a profit to the Popes who were lax in repaying the Medici  , and taking in many deposits at interest. The branch did this to some extent, but the principal means of profit came from commercial transactions.
Rather than charging interest, "the Medici overcharged the pope on the silks and brocades, the jewels and other commodities they supplied. These payments were entirely one way, and not exchanges. Rome and Italy generally produced little to nothing of value and so the balance of trade was greatly unequal. It could be alleviated by the production from northern silver mines, but in general the main commodity Italy was willing to exchange specie for was English wool. The decline in availability of English wool to be imported, and the general concomitant economic problems, have been identified as one of the contributing causes to the bank's decline.
At this time, the Popes frequently held great councils and conferences. These meetings of eminent and wealthy individuals gave rise to a need for advanced banking services, to such a degree that the Medici were not the only Italian bank to open up temporary branches wherever such councils were convened. The close relation between the papacy and the branch declined over the years, with the decline especially pronounced after , with few to no branch managers being selected to be the "depositary-general", the official who was essentially the fiscal agent for the Apostolic Chamber , or the Church's treasury.
The Pazzi's interlocked businesses and banks had captured the alum business after the Medici were removed from it, and were supplying the depositary-general from their ranks, indicating that they were trying to follow the Medici route of initially building up their empire through papal custom. Tornabuoni would still be in charge when came and the edifice of the Medici came crashing down. Because the branch had been doing so poorly, it owed more than it was due, so the Roman government was satisfied to allow Tornabuoni to assume the rest of the partnership's equity and debts. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Commercial banking Investment banking Private banking Retail banking Pawnbroker. Banks portal Italy portal. The Medici's relative lack of ambition can be seen in how they never truly challenged the Hanseatic League , established no branches in the Middle East, and did not pursue business in and around the Baltic Sea. See de Roover , pp.
Part of the problem were the large loans made to Venetian merchants which worried Piero and the merely mediocre performance of Alessandro Martelli's successor, Giovanni Altoviti. Sassetti eventually persuaded Piero to simply shut down the Venice branch rather than try to find a better manager, though in there was an abortive attempt to restart it, which only lasted a little over 8 years. It eventually engendered a crisis which not only brought about a shrinkage in the volume of international trade, but also had an adverse effect upon the prosperity of the Italian banking houses.
It was undoubtedly a potent factor in causing the downfall of the Medici branches operating in Bruges and London.
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While these reserve figures are drawn from unreliable catasto records, Goldthwaite , p. Banks' profits, therefore, came primarily from exchange operations, legitimate or otherwise, real or fictitious. The company's chief business was foreign exchange, an activity that was grafted on to international commerce. It effected exchange and transfer of credit for its clients.
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See de Roover, , p. Only a small fraction has come down to us This published material is made up exclusively of letters sent to Florence by the Bruges and London branches. There seem to have been two kinds of letters: the lettere di compagnia or business letters and the lettere private or confidential private letters. The lettere di compagnia were addressed to the firm or banco in Florence. They dealt chiefly with current business affairs: notices concerning bills drawn or remitted, information concerning shipments or the safe arrival of consignments, advices concerning debits and credits, and similar details The lettere private were not addressed to the firm, but personally to Cosimo or other members of the Medici family.
A few lettere private are congratulatory messages regarding family events or deal with purchase of tapestries for members of the Medici family The same is not true of the other lettere private wherein the writers discuss business prospects, political events, important problems of management, and the financial condition of the branches. God's Bankers - PBS". Some partnership agreements were extremely restrictive of the junior partner's life: the standard partnership agreement for Tani to take over the Bruges branch forbade him to leave Bruges for anywhere except the fairs of Antwerp and Bergen-op-Zoom , and business trips to London , Calais , Middelburg were allowed only if they were truly necessary.
Tani was not to entertain any women or boys, accept no gifts above one pound groat, spend no more than 20 pounds groat a year for living expenses, conduct no private business, engage in no insuring, trust only certain merchants, spend only up to pounds groat for wool or cloth a year etc.
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Even after the partnership expired, he would have to remain in Bruges a full 6 months to tidy up affairs. Archived from the original on Retrieved CS1 maint: archived copy as title link The first party gave the second a certain sum of gold, and the second promised to return the gold in Constantinople, with a small penalty if he failed to do so; neither intended to travel, and the penalty was in effect interest.
Between Italy and London, usance was three months in either direction. As a result, the exchange rate was lower in London and higher in Florence or Venice. Of course, a London banker offered fewer sterlings for having to wait before receiving a ducat in Venice or a florin in Florence. For the same reason, the banker in Italy was unwilling to part with a ducat or a florin unless he received in London a greater quantity of sterlings. In other words, economic equilibrium required that the exchange rate for usance bills be higher in Florence or Venice than in London.
Transfers from Poland sometimes took six months of more, whereas funds received in Bruges or London were made available in Rome within a month or less by a simple letter of advice. The bankers provided expeditious and efficient service.
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On the contrary, he was expected to pay off some of his indebtedness, unless war broke out with the Kingdom of Naples. Hibbert, Christopher. Parks, Tim , Medici money: banking, metaphysics, and art in fifteenth-century Florence , W. House of Medici. Alessandro "The Moor" Cosimo I. Caterina Maria. Filippo Bernardo Antonio Giuliano Zanobi.
Genealogical tables of the House of Medici. Festina Lente. Medici fountain Villa di Pratolino.