January 16, 1412 – The Medici family is appointed official banker of the Papacy.
The House of Medici was an Italian banking family, political dynasty and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de’ Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside, gradually rising until they were able to fund the Medici Bank. The bank was the largest in Europe during the 15th century, seeing the Medici gain political power in Florence — though officially they remained citizens rather than monarchs.
The Medici produced four Popes of the Catholic Church; two regent queens of France; and, in 1531, the family became hereditary Dukes of Florence. In 1569, the duchy was elevated to a grand duchy after territorial expansion. They ruled the Grand Duchy of Tuscany from its inception until 1737, with the death of Gian Gastone de’ Medici. The grand duchy witnessed degrees of economic growth under the earlier grand dukes, but by the time of Cosimo III de’ Medici, Tuscany was fiscally bankrupt.
The Medici Bank was one of the most prosperous and most respected institutions in Europe. There are some estimates that the Medici family were the wealthiest family in Europe for a time. From this base, they acquired political power initially in Florence and later in wider Italy and Europe. A notable contribution to the profession of accounting was the improvement of the general ledger system through the development of the double-entry bookkeeping system for tracking credits and debits. The Medici family were among the earliest businesses to use the system.
Submitted for your enjoyment today is a stamp issued by Italy in 1992, Scott No. 1875, honoring Lorenzo de Medici, grandson of Cosimo and considered the brightest of the five children of Piero and Lucrezia. Lorenzo was the de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic and was one of the most powerful and enthusiastic patrons of the Renaissance.