The latest report shows housing values continue to plummet. And the misdeeds of swindlers like Bernie Madoff continue to proliferate. What to do?
The German town of Augsburg–of the famous Lutheran Confession–has a very Catholic response: Dirt cheap rents ($.23 a year!) on decent homes in perpetuity–as long as the tenants pray for the eternal souls of the banker, Jakob Fugger, and his family, who built and endowed the housing development some five centuries ago.
The Wall Street Journal has the story:
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.
Much of the Fugger business empire crumbled over the next 150 years, battered by wars and soured credits. But the walled Fuggerei, with its picturesque lanes and seven gates in the heart of this onetime European banking capital, still stands.
As in medieval times, the Fuggerei enclave is locked at night. Residents take turns manning the gatehouse to open up for late stragglers and fine them (between 50 cents and a euro, depending on the hour).
They promise to say three prayers — the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and the Apostles’ Creed–each day to boost the celestial ambitions of the Fuggers. To remind them, the family built a church inside the entrance gate.
At this point, I might take that deal. Sorry, Martin Luther.
Via RNS’s Blog.