Saturday, August 7, 2021

Today on the Almanac, we contemplate, among other things, really old banks in Italy and their important connection to the church in Renaissance Italy.

It is the 7th of August 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Let’s talk about Italian banking!

This time, not the DeMedici’s and their banking bonanza.

I’m talking about the oldest banks in the world which were established by the church, some of which still exist today (or have until recently).

All of this is to tell you about a guy named Cajetan (but maybe not that Cajetan).

Ok- so here is a list of Italian bank names (translated from the Italian) from the Renaissance/Early Modern era:

The Bank of the Most Holy Annunciation

The Bank of the Holy Spirit

The Bank of the Savior

The Bank of the Poor

Bank means table. Essentially they accepted deposits and changed currency. XXX Some might charge a little in interest (which was technically forbidden, but bankers and technicalities have always danced just fine together).

Initially, the Italians created the Monti Di Pieta- a banking system based on providing interest-free loans with deposits being given to the charity by the church as well as wealthy patrician families.

In 1515 A Papal Bull, Inter Multiplices called for a more robust banking system based largely on the model of the Monti Di Pieta but with low-interest rates and no accumulating fees for missed payments (you only paid your late fees). You could also get a deal whereby you would pay no interest unless you missed a payment and then you would pay a percentage for the rest of the life of the loan).

Essentially banks and the church came together for the good of the poor. Thus names like Bank of the Holy Spirit, Bank of the Savior, Bank of the Poor, etc… except one of the more famous of these banks don’t sound church-y at all. It was the Bank of Naples (considered by some to be the oldest bank in the world) which ties its founding back to St. Cajetan. Let me tell you about this remarkable fellow.

Cajetan of Thiene was born in 1480 to wealthy parents. He excelled at the University of Padua where he received 2 doctorates- one in civic law and one in canon law (state law/church law)x

On account of his academic acumen, he was made a secretary for Pope Julius II. Likely repulsed at the actions of the infamously politique Pope, Cajetan trained for the ministry and was ordained in 1517.

Yup. That year. Cajetan would not join the early reform movement (why would he? He was an Italian) but he himself saw the need for internal reform. He co-founded the Theatines, a religious order dedicated to reforming the education of parish priests and popular devotion. (Perhaps we should delineate Cajetan as a member of the “Catholic Reformation” instead of the “Counter-Reformation)

Cajetan may have stayed in Rome his entire life except for Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor sacked, arrested, and tortured Cajetan and others. It is reported that Cajetan was helped to escape by a sympathetic jailer.

Cajetan would end up in Naples. There he saw the need to assist the poor and thus helped to establish the Bank of Naples as a kind of new hybrid Monti Di Pieta and bank dedicated to assisting the poor. Cajetan would spend almost the entirety of the rest of his life in his adopted home of Naples where he died on this, the 7th of August in 1547.

The last word for today comes from a parable of Jesus. This is the end of the parable of the workers in the Vineyard and the workers who have been there all day are complaining that those who have worked less are paid the same.

13 “But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ 16 So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 7th of August 2021 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man whose least favorite names of actual banks include: Rabobank, Poppy Bank, and the Crazy Woman Creek Bancorp of Wyoming. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis and I'm curious about the Bank of Bird In Hand named for the Amish town in which it exists.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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