Banco di San Giorgio
Established in the great hall of the Casa di San Giorgio, a Genoese trading house, in 1407 by eight wealthy and influential merchant families at the behest of the Council of Ancients, the Banco di San Giorgio (Bank of Saint George) was created to relieve the struggling republic of its crushing debt. The bank would restore solvency to the republic and provide a secure institution for lending and exchange over the following centuries; some call the Banco di San Giorgio, using the phrase coined by the Florentine Niccolò Machiavelli, a “state within the state” of Genoa. The Genoese bank replaced the Fugger family of the Holy Roman Empire as the leading lender in Italy during the 15th century.
During the age of Genoa’s great colonial empire, the bank controlled interests across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Though Genoa’s overseas empire declined, the bank remains strong, a leading financier of the Spanish crown, the most powerful state in Europe; New World silver passes through Spain on its ways to the coffers of Genoa, and the Banco di San Giorgio receives the lion’s share of the bullion and coin.