The first Monte PioThe Monte di Pietà, or Monte Pio, was established on 27 February 1472 by resolution by the General Council of the Republic, for the purpose of granting loans to “poor or miserable or needy persons” at a minimal interest rate. By origin it is a fully secular institution, authorized from the beginning to charge an interest rate of 7.5%, thus not aspiring to any kind of speculation, but also avoiding having to make the interest-free loans recommended by the Franciscan Friars Minor, who supported the Monte dei Pietà. “Monte” (“heap”) in this case indicates a collection of money, offered or deposited and then distributed for purposes of welfare or charity.
In Siena, many families of the landed aristocracy of Siena had, as early as the thirteenth century, instituted a profitable activity in commerce, and in particular in the movement of money, by developing the custom of “letters of exchange”—payable in the most widespread places—and of the “deposit warrant.” The Sienese mercantile companies belonging to the Ruggieri, Angiolieri, Tolomei, and Gallerani families ventured out along the roads of the great European markets, lending money to princes and prelates and becoming collectors of the papal tithes, i.e., bankers of the Roman Curia, or collectors of the imperial taxes like the Salimbeni. Subsequently, the competition of Florentine bankers and the lack of development of local manufacturing limited the success of the Sienese, who in any case maintained their reputation through the banks of many families in other Italian cities.
The Charter promulgated by the Commune of Siena on 4 March 1472 established the Monte Pio, a new public financial institution authorized to make low-interest loans against pledges. On this occasion, the units, operating procedures and headquarters of the Monte were established, with its seat of operations in the Castle formerly belonging to the Salimbeni family.