Friday, December 26, 2008
Power of Prayer (literally)
Mike Esterel (The Wall Street Journal)
Fuggerei is a Roman Catholic housing settlement in Augsburg, Germany, established in 1520 by Jakob Fugger "The Rich" to help the poor. The main gate, left, is locked each night, and stragglers are fined for coming in late.
AUGSBURG, Germany -- Every day, retired florist Rita Wunderle prays for the souls of bankers. Despite daily headlines about banker-fueled economic crisis and an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, her 145 neighbors pray, too.
Mrs. Wunderle lives in the Fuggerei, a Roman Catholic housing settlement for the poor that Jakob Fugger "The Rich" built in this southern German city nearly 500 years ago. Praying for Mr. Fugger and his descendants to enter the Pearly Gates is a condition for living here, at an annual rent of 1 Rhein guilder, the same as in 1520. In today's money, that's 88 euro cents, or about $1.23.
Jakob the Rich was Wall Street long before it existed. He minted coins for the Vatican, bankrolled the Holy Roman Empire and helped steer Europe's spice trade in the early 16th century to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful financiers in history. He left more than seven tons of gold to his successors -- and a good deed. More>>