An unbelievably rich and powerful family of merchant
s in medieval
Europe, predominantly Germany
. Their rise began with Jakob Fugger (1459-1525), also called "The Rich". He inherited a large trading company rooted in Augsburg
, and expanded by heavily investing in mining
, and the trading and processing of ore
. He then managed to be put in charge of handling the finances of the Catholic Church
in Germany, especially the transfer of money raised through indulgences
Even more important, he started lending large amounts of money to nobles, with a cleverly designed system of interest rates that seemed cheaper than it was. In the end, several Kings were completely indepted to him, which made him the most powerful person in Europe at that time. With his money, he made Charles V, King of Spain, the next Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to increase his influence and ensure that the Spanish Crown would keep paying their interest rates.
Of course, these enormous riches evoked jealousy; in addition, many people found the Fugger's methods rather immoral. Martin Luther criticized him sharply for his loan policies and his support of the indulgences system. But Jakob could afford good PR: he used parts of his money for social causes and built houses in Augsburg in which poor but hard-working people could live very cheaply.
However, all of this mattered little in the end. The Fuggers' power waned in the 16th century, and the bankrupcy of the Spanish Crown in 1557 (previously an unthinkable event) pretty much broke their neck.