Montes Pietatis

Montes Pietatis (Fr. Mont de Piete, Ital. Monte di Pieta) is the name of charitable institutions, thoroughly Christian in origin and purpose, the object of which is to lend money to the very poor at a moderate rate of interest. They date from the close of the mediaeval period, when all such transactions were in the hands of usurers to whom the necessities of the poor were but an inducement to the most oppressive extortion. The principle was to advance small sums, not ordinarily exceeding $100, on the security of pledges, but at a rate of interest barely sufficient to cover the working expenses of the institution, any surplus to be expended for charitable purposes. The earliest of these charitable banks is believed to have been that founded by the Minorite Barnabas at Perugia in 1464, and was confirmed by pope Paul III. Another was founded at Padua in 1491, and a third (the first in Germany) was established in 1498 at Nuremberg. The first opened at Rome was under Leo X; and the Roman Monti di Pieta are confessed to have been at all times the most successful and the best managed in Italy. The institution extended to Florence, Milan, Naples, and other cities. The Mont-de-Piete system has been generally introduced into France and Germany, the state now controlling its affairs, and not the Church. It has also been introduced into Spain, and into the Spanish provinces of the Netherlands. It formed the model of the Loan Fund Board of Ireland, established by the administration of queen Victoria.

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