Lodovico Capponi: A Florentine Banker and a Lending Transaction in 16th Century Florence
By Elsa Lindstrom
Voces Novae: Chapman University Historical Review, Vol.1:2 (2010)
Abstract: This paper examines how loans transpired in early 16th century Italy, taking a look at a specific transaction involving Lodovico Capponi of Florence and the Vatican in Rome. The study breaks down into three separate themes: lenders, collateral, and interest. The paper takes a look at what sorts of people were lending money to whom, the importance of collateral and the kind of objects that were deemed acceptable for it, and the delicate application and retrieval of usurious interest on a loan. This is followed by a debate concerning the economy and the movement of money during this era. Although at this time there was not yet a regimented baking system as we understand it today, it is clear that there were understood rules and regulations that were followed between two parties joined in a loan.
Introduction: On Pope Leo X’s death in December 1521, Lodovico Capponi was summoned to the Vatican by the Camarlingo, Cardinal Armellino, to loan money for the papal funeral and to fund the empty see. During this time, the Apolisitic Chamber owed a total of 297,000. Together with a handful of business partners, they offered up the sum of 27,000 ducats. During this time, the Apostolic Chamber owed a total of 297,000 ducats. This shows that this shows that this one loan of 27,000 ducats was an incredibly large sum, almost ten percent of the Vatican’s total debt. Although quite large, the debt was finally settled three years later by Pope Clement VII.
Blurred distinctions between banking families, money, and lending institutions make it difficult to complete a conclusive study of economics in 16th century Florence. The term “bank” and “family” were used interchangeably, as well as coin denominations, such as “ducats” and “scudi.” Years of detailed research on individual account books would be needed to construct a reasonably complete economic history for this era. However, much can be learned by examining individual transactions, like the ones that involved Lodovico Capponi and the executers of the estate of Pope Leo in 1521. In the paper that follows, Lodovico’s life as a merchant-banker is outlined; some light is shed on the role of lenders, collateral, and interest in Italy; and the overall economy of Florence at the beginning of the 16th century is analyzed by looking at these lending transactions.