In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Casa of San Giorgio, Genoa

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Journals
  • Public Debt
  • Banking Activities
  • A Social History through the Sources of the Casa di San Giorgio
  • Politics and the Casa di San Giorgio
  • Fiscal Activities
  • Usury
  • Buildings and Material Culture
  • Niccolò Machiavelli and the Casa di San Giorgio
  • The Casa di San Giorgio and the Model of the Business Corporation
  • The Sources and Archive of the Casa di San Giorgio

Renaissance and Reformation The Casa of San Giorgio, Genoa
Carlo Taviani
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 July 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0489


The Casa di San Giorgio, funded in 1407, managed the debts of the Commune of Genoa and was composed of all the Genoese creditors of the Commune. Unlike other systems of debt utilized in republican cities with extensive territorial holdings (like Florence or Venice), or those of the European monarchies in the medieval and early modern eras, the Casa progressively acquired rights and powers that were originally the Commune’s prerogative. No other financial system developed such a degree of autonomy relative to the political power that managed debt. In Genoa, only the wealthiest male creditors participated in the management of the Casa di San Giorgio, while all male citizens could vote in the Commune. This is the most important difference between the governance of the two institutions. Over the fifteenth century, the Casa di San Giorgio acquired both the right to levy all the gabelle (taxes) in all the areas under the Commune’s control and the compere (the sets of credits) attached to them. Private contractors paid the Casa di San Giorgio in advance and at a discount for the right to collect taxes, managing the raising of gabelle. The revenue San Giorgio received served as the basis for payment of the debts that the Commune owed its creditors. Unlike other public systems of debt, the interest rate was not inversely proportional to the value of the title, but depended on the revenue obtained by the selling of gabelle. Shares of the Casa di San Giorgio, the loca, produced an interest, the pagae, which varied over time. Both the loca and the pagae were negotiable in the secondary market. From 1408 to 1444 and from 1530 until 1805, the Casa di San Giorgio performed activities of a main central bank. Genoese bankers and citizens had accounts with the Casa di San Giorgio. The bank offered both deposit and credit operations. From 1446 on, the Casa di San Giorgio progressively acquired from the Commune territories that it governed until 1562 with the fullest extent of territorial authority. These rights meant that it was the Casa di San Giorgio, rather than the Commune, that administered justice and governed the populations of these territories: Caffa on the Black Sea, Famagusta in Cyprus, Corsica, the Lunigiana (northern Tuscany), and communities within the Liguria (Ventimiglia, Pieve di Teco, Levanto).

General Overviews

The most comprehensive works are Sieveking 1898–1899 and the more recent La Casa di San Giorgio. Cuneo 1842; Lobero 1832; and Marengo, et al. 1911 are quite similar in structure and focus not only on finance but also on other aspects of Casa di San Giorgio’s history. Wiszniewski 1865 doesn’t use archival sources. Giacchero 1979 focuses on the seventeenth century.

  • Cuneo, Carlo. Memorie sopra l’antico debito pubblico, mutui, compere e banca di San Giorgio in Genova. Genoa: Stamperia dei Sordi Muti, 1842.

    The first part, seventy pages, focuses on the compere and public debt offices before the foundation of the Casa di San Giorgio. The second part analyzes the Casa’s administration, including offices, documentation (the ledgers of the investments, loca, and pagae), currencies and the banking activities, taxes, and administrative changes in the eighteenth century. A long appendix focuses on gabelle and the Casa’s buildings.

  • Giacchero, Giulio. Il seicento e le compere di San Giorgio. Genoa: Sagep editrice, 1979.

    More than a work on the Casa di San Giorgio, this is a study of topics related to the political and financial history of the Republic of Genoa in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These include the 1576 political reform; the circulation of coins and metals, especially silver; Genoese investments in the Spanish Empire; and Genoa’s urbanistic plans. Several topics include a focus on the Casa di San Giorgio.

  • La Casa di San Giorgio.

    The website provides very useful information on the history of the Casa di San Giorgio over four centuries and on its sources and its functions and characteristics. The section “Four Centuries of Illustrated History” (Quattro secoli di storia illustrata) shows images of selected sources and provides explanations of processes, phenomena, and financial tools.

  • Lobero, Antonio. Memorie storiche della Banca di S. Giorgio compilate dall’archivista. Genoa: Tipografia Ponthenier, 1832.

    This is a book on the whole history of the Casa di San Giorgio, with a special focus on the history of the compere (sets of credits) and the territories.

  • Marengo, Emilio, Camillo Manfroni, and Giuseppe Pessagno. Il Banco di San Giorgio: L’antico debito pubblico genovese e la Casa di S. Giorgio, La marina di Genova, S. Giorgio e i possedimenti coloniali di Terraferma; Il Palazzo della società e le sue dipendenze. Genoa: A. Donath, 1911.

    A useful work that focuses not only on the financial history of the Casa di San Giorgio, but on its political and territorial history. It offers an interesting archival study that completes Sieveking 1898–1899.

  • Sieveking, Heinrich Johann. Genueser Finanzwesen mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Casa di S. Giorgio. I: Genueser Finanzwesen vom 12. Bis 14. Jahrhundert. II: Die Casa di S. Giorgio. Freiburg: Verlag von J.C.B. Mohr, 1898–1899.

    This is the most authoritative book on the history of the Casa di San Giorgio. The first past describes the public debts before the foundation of the Casa di San Giorgio, the second part focuses on the history of the taxes, the revenues, loca and pagae, the territories, etc. The Italian translation is used more widely than the German original: Studio sulle finanze genovesi nel medioevo e in particolare sulla Casa di San Giorgio Atti della Società ligure di storia patria, part I, 1905 (XXXV); part II, 1906 (XXXV).

  • Wiszniewski, Adam. La méthode historique appliquée à la réforme des Banques et des Crédits mobiliers: Histoire de la banque de Saint-Georges de Gênes, la plus ancienne Banque de l’Europe; et des origines du crédit mobilier, du crèdit foncier, des tontines et des amortissements y pratiqués au moyen—âge. Paris: E. Voitelain et C., 1865.

    The initial chapters focus on sources for studying the Casa di San Giorgio, including the ledgers of the loca, taxes, and privileges of the Casa. It also focuses on the territories of the Casa (here, as in other books, called “colonies”). The work doesn’t use archival sources; it only mentions secondary scholarship.

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