- Fugger Family
- Mercantile and banking family of Augsburg, noted for their role in financing European governments but also as patrons of art and scholarship. Their rise began in the 14th century with Hans Fugger, a cloth merchant. The true founder of their greatness was Jacob Fugger (1459-1525), who transformed the family from important local businessmen into a major force in European economic and political life. The secret of Jacob's rise to fame was his lending large sums of money to the Habsburg dynasty, especially the Emperor Maximilian I and his grandson Charles V, in order to finance the wars, dynastic marriages, and other political schemes that made the Habsburgs the most powerful rulers in 16th-century Europe. As security for these loans, Fugger received control of valuable mining properties in central Europe, establishing a stranglehold on the mining and processing of silver and copper ore. He also became financial agent for the popes, a responsibility that involved the bank in the financial administration of the infamous St. Peter's indulgence of 1517 which evoked criticism of indulgences by Martin Luther and thus precipitated the Protestant Reformation. As the Habsburgs' dynastic expansion brought the Netherlands, Spain, and southern Italy, as well as Spain's rapidly growing empire in the Americas, under their political control, the Fugger bank, together with some other Augsburg firms, provided loans that made it all possible.The bank was still rich and powerful under the direction of Jacob's nephew Anton Fugger (1493-1560), but the insatiable demands of the Habsburgs for money and their inability to pay the costs of their empire led to a series of governmental bankruptcies (the first in 1557) that eventually undermined the power of the bank, though members of the family, which had been granted noble status, remained personally wealthy.The Fugger family were also important patrons of the arts, employing major painters like Hans Burgkmaier, Hans Holbein, Albrecht Dürer, and Giulio Romano. They built chapels for churches, urban and country palaces for the family, and they created the Fuggerei, a community of more than 50 houses designed to provide decent housing for Augsburg workers. Members of the family also became major collectors of ancient coins, bronzes, and marbles, accumulated a major library, and patronized musicians and composers, of whom the most famous was Orlando di Lasso (Roland de Lassus).
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.