Friday, 13 June 2014

italy week: acheiropoieton or bank on it

We had the chance to visit the ancient city of Lucca and first took a nice stroll atop the medieval walls, really berms, grassy with great inviting shade trees and took in an overall of view of the sites. Lucca was one of the rare places that preserved its fortifications and it certainly gave it a characteristic look and one could image that all the other places we visited were similarly defended.  We headed down into the city to explore and spent some time in the Duomo of San Martino and surrounding piazza.  The storied church houses the acheiropoieton (from the Greek term meaning not made by human hands—usually referring to a holy item that was crafted by angels) called the Volto Santo (Holy Face).
Tradition holds that Nicodemus, the individual who helped Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus, and began carving the massive crucifix shortly after. Nicodemus completed his masterpiece, all but the face, and went to take a nap. When he awoke later, the face was finished and many miracles have been attributed to this relic. The surrounding piazza, during the Middle Ages, hosted a bustling market and currency-exchange. There is an oath written on the Cathedral exterior exhorting merchants and these emergent bankers not to commit any commercial transgression—no trickery, that’s still visible to this day. The adjacent counting house became the Bank of Lucca in the mid-fifteenth century, among the oldest banking institutions in the world.
The concept of a network of banks came about during the Crusades, as it was too risky and impractical to carry too much coin for what could be a long, long mission, and branches were established by crusading knights that could extend credit to their clients. Would that they had kept their oath.