Monday, December 07, 2015

In this picturesque German village, the rent hasn't been raised since 1520...

Every day, retired florist Rita Wunderle prays for the souls of bankers.

Despite daily headlines about banker-fueled economic crisis and an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, her 145 neighbors pray, too.

Mrs. Wunderle lives in the Fuggerei, a Roman Catholic housing settlement for the poor that Jakob Fugger "The Rich" built in this southern German city nearly 500 years ago. Praying for Mr. Fugger and his descendants to enter the Pearly Gates is a condition for living here, at an annual rent of 1 Rhein guilder, the same as in 1520. In today's money, that's 88 euro cents, or about $1.23.

Jakob the Rich was Wall Street long before it existed. He minted coins for the Vatican, bankrolled the Holy Roman Empire and helped steer Europe's spice trade in the early 16th century to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful financiers in history. He left more than seven tons of gold to his successors -- and a good deed.

Much of the Fugger business empire crumbled over the next 150 years, battered by wars and soured credits. But the walled Fuggerei, with its picturesque lanes and seven gates in the heart of this onetime European banking capital, still stands. Full story...

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