The Rise and Fall of the Medici Bank

During the fifteenth century, writes Christopher Hibbert, the Medici banking house in Florence ‘almost passed belief’ in power and influence.

Cosimo di Medici goes into exileConsidering their profession, which was banking,’ Philippe de Commines, the French diplomat and historian, wrote of the Medici in the fifteenth century, ‘this family was, I think, the greatest in the world.’

Commines had travelled through England and Flanders as well as Italy and France; and what he had seen of the power and influence of the Medici bank ‘almost passed belief’. It was not merely the most profitable organization in Europe, but the richest commercial house that there had ever been anywhere.

Not many years before Commines’s Memoires were written, the Medici had been but one of 72 families carrying on business as bankers and bill-brokers in the neighbourhood of the Mercato Vecchio in Florence.

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