The first institutions that took on the storage of money and valuables, were the temples. For example, the inhabitants of ancient Athens kept their savings in the temples of the Acropolis and the medieval Europeans often save money in the monasteries.
The word “Bank” is of Italian origin. Word banco (translated from Italian bench, table) in the XV-XVI centuries in the Venetian Republic was called the benches on which the money-changers and usurers were put coins and business papers. If the Jew was bankrupt and could not pay money for its payment obligations, then this bench was broken on his head. From the Italian banco rotto (broken bench”) is the modern word “bankrupt”.
In medieval Europe, the Roman Popes were strictly forbidden to lend money at interest to cash in on the financial difficulties of faith was considered a terrible sin. Therefore, in 1179, Pope Alexander III declared moneylenders hardened sinners and was forbidden to admit them to communion. In addition, the so-called “bankers” were not allowed to be buried on consecrated ground, so they, like suicide, was buried outside the fence of the cemetery.
Unlike Christianity, Judaism does not forbid the believers to engage in usury, so the vast majority of the medieval “bankers” were Jews. By the way, is exactly what many of the Jews were money-changers and usurers, often led to the Jewish pogroms, the instigators were desperate debtors.
As Orthodox Christianity, Islam prohibits usury. Therefore, banks in Muslim countries never lend money at interest. And Islamic banks do not accept as deposits money earned on the sale of alcohol, tobacco, pornography and … pork! In addition, Muslim bankers try not to have any dealings with revenue from gambling.
The oldest active Bank in the world is the Italian Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena. It opened in 1472 in the city of Siena. Until recently, the oldest existing Bank in the world was considered to be the Swiss Bank Wegelin & Co, founded in 1466, but it ceased operations in January 2013.
Banks in the North of Italy give farmers loans secured… cheese. Head of Parmesan Bank keeps 2-3 years in a special storage until they ripen. If the cheese maker fails to repay the loan by the time of ripening of the cheese, the Bank sells cheese and reimburse their losses.
In modern Switzerland, there are about 400 banks that hold deposits with a total amount of about 52 trillion US dollars. Interestingly, in one of them there is a score on 13 Swiss francs, opened in the name of C. I. Lenin in 1902 and still not devastated.
If you believe the Guinness Book of world records, the largest Bank robbery is the mass exportation of goods from the Reichsbank of Germany in 1945. Then in an unknown direction disappeared a large part of the gold reserve of the third Reich and many cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis from European museums, with a total cost of approximately $ 5 billion (dollars in today’s prices).
This post is also available in Russian: Интересные факты о банках