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Italians and Eastern Europe in Late Middle Ages. New contributions for an underrated topic

Justice in the Florentine Trading Community of Late Medieval Buda

Katalin Prajda

Résumé

Florentine merchants in some parts of Europe had by the mid-14th century established corporations, known as nazioni, which aimed at providing a jurisdictional and organizational framework for their activity. The consuls of the nazioni often acted as judges or legal representatives of Florentine merchants, mediating between the merchants and the local society. Besides the consuls, merchants living abroad had the possibility to bring their business cases before the guild consuls as well as the Mercanzia, which operated as the supreme commercial court in Florence, or before local authorities, such as the ruler and the town court judges. The paper analyzes various jurisdictional aspects of Florentine merchants’ trade in Buda during the late 14th and early 15th centuries.

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Notes de l’auteur

For his constructive criticism on earlier versions of the manuscript, I wish to thank Cédric Quertier, Martyn Rady and Sergio Tognetti. I am indebted as well to Amy Samuelson for revising the text.

Texte intégral

Introduction
  • 1 Pignatti 1981.
  • 2 Petti Balbi 1991, p.151-246. Petti Balbi 2007.
  • 3 Goldthwaite 2009, p. 108.

1Merchants in North and Central Italian centers of long distance trade during the late Middle Ages organized themselves in different ways in their home and host cities. In Venice, they belonged to confraternities, so-called scuole, while foreign merchants also founded fondachi in the city.1 Abroad, Venetian as well as Genoese businessmen established colonies, which became centers of political and military control, besides their primary purpose of creating hubs of international trade.2 Florentine long distance trade merchants instead traditionally belonged to the Calimala Guild, though a significant number of them are also found in the matriculations of the other major guilds, namely the Wool, the Por Santa Maria (later Silk), Speziali and Cambio (moneychangers) Guilds. While abroad, sometimes they organized themselves into associations known as nazione in order to handle commercial disputes as well as obtain local privileges. Statutes established the parameters of nazione authority, and elected officials governed their activity; usually these included a consul and two councilors and at some cases even a notary and a treasurer.3

  • 4 Astorri 1998, p.165. For an overview of the history of Florentine consulates see: Quertier 2014.
  • 5 In Valencia, Florentine, Genoese, Lucchese and Sienese merchants belonged to the joint consulate; i (...)

2By the mid-14th century, Florentines had set up only a few independent nazioni or consulates, mainly in the Italian Peninsula, in Pisa, in Naples and in Venice for instance. By the end of the Albizi regime (1382-1434), their number had increased, and a few others had been founded in major trading centers such as London and Bruges.4 Besides independent ones, joint consulates operated in Valencia and Aragon, including not only Florentine but also Genoese, Lucchese, Sienese and Venetian merchants.5

  • 6 Reinhold Mueller mentions the existence of a Florentine consulate in the late 14th century. Mueller (...)
  • 7 For Florentine cases brought before the Giudizi di Petizion see: Prajda 2016a. For the administrati (...)

3The earliest surviving reference to the existence of an independent Florentine consulate comes from mid-14th century Venice.6 While several expatriate merchants chose to bring their commercial cases before the Mercanzia at home, a considerable number turned to the Venetian Giudici di Petizion for settling their business disputes.7 The practice of using independent arbiters for solving less complicated issues was also widespread.

  • 8 For the statutes of the Florentine consulates in a later period see: Masi 1941.

4The activity of jurisdictional bodies, established in Florence for handling mercantile disputes, has never been widely investigated. Very little is known about the actual functioning of the consulates in this early phase of their evolution, before the mid-15th century when such trade organizations had already become more widespread and developed.8

  • 9 For the dense commercial relations of Florentine merchants in Buda during the late 14th and early 1 (...)

5The present paper therefore aims to analyze, through the case of the Florentine merchant community in Buda, some elements of these organizations’ activity connected to the supervision of Florentines’ trade abroad, and to look at how their authority overlapped with that of local organizations in the Kingdom of Hungary.9

The Italian consul in the Kingdom of Hungary

  • 10 Domino Johanni Seracino olim consuli latinorum in Regno Ungarie. ASF Mercanzia 11310. I wish to tha (...)
  • 11 “Il giudice de taliani di Buda” is mentioned as a creditor of the Florentine merchant Bernardo di S (...)
  • 12 Quertier has noted that in Pisa the notary (notaio-sindaco) acted as judge for Florentines but in s (...)

6On June 3, 1392, the Florentine merchant court addressed a letter to Giovanni Seracino, the “ex-Latin consul in the Kingdom of Hungary”, asking for his help in the dissolution of a partnership of Florentine businessmen.10 Besides this document, only a declaration from the 1433 Florentine tax survey, the Catasto, refers to the existence of the “Italians’ judge in Buda”.11 Consuls of the Florentine nazioni often acted as local judges; therefore, both sources would likely refer to an officer of an organization established by Italian merchant groups, probably of various proveniences, in the city of Buda.12

  • 13 Pach 1975. A letter addressed by the Florentine Signoria to the Hungarian king, Louis I in 1375 req (...)

7The granting of collective privileges to Italian merchant communities in the Kingdom of Hungary was not an entirely new phenomenon in the late 14th century. Genoese merchants had already obtained from Louis I particular trading rights; consequently Sigismund of Luxemburg guaranteed them free trade in Transylvania.13 However, the lack of specific research carried out in the Genoese archives and the unavailability of explicit sources in Hungary make it impossible to reconstruct the jurisdictional framework of their activity and the impact these acts had on their trade. Merchants of Venetian privileges might have also been present in the Kingdom in significant numbers; nevertheless, it seems to me that Florentines outnumbered both groups during the late 14th and early 15th centuries. In this period, those merchants who traded with Hungary through Venice were, according to the testimonials of the Venetian sources, mainly of Florentine origins. Hungarian sources occasionally mention Italians from Arezzo, Siena and Padua as well, but their number here likely remained considerably lower than in the three major Italian trading nations.

  • 14 Quertier 2014, p. 68.
  • 15 However, the family name Saracini was noted in contemporary Florence; four members of the family ar (...)

8The Italian merchant community in Buda was therefore of heterogeneous provenience already in the late 14th century, and the Italian consul mentioned in the Mercanzia’s letter might have extended its authority over each of these trading groups. The possible identity of the consul seems to underline this hypothesis. Unlike other correspondences of the merchant court addressed to Florentines, the letter sent to the former Italian consul was written in Latin.14 Letters addressed to Florentines and registered in the same volume are written in vernacular. The merchant court seems to have used Latin only for correspondences with non-Florentines. This, in my opinion, would suggest that the consul, Giovanni Seracino, was not of Florentine origins.15

  • 16 He was also mentioned as « magistro Saracheno ». Weisz 2009, p. 39-40.
  • 17 Weisz 2009, p. 42.
  • 18 Weisz 2009, p. 40. Giovanni Saracino worked also with another administrator of Paduan origins. Mály (...)
  • 19 Weisz 2009, p. 45. He was mentioned in 1387, together with Bernardi as « Iohannes Sarachenus » Mály (...)
  • 20 Weisz 2009, p. 46.
  • 21 For Johannes’s settlement in Buda see: Mályusz 1956, doc. 2043. Already in 1389, he used the names (...)

9In fact, a certain « Jacobi dicti Serechen Gallici» appears in Hungarian sources as early as the 1350s, governing the chambers in Szerém (Srijem, HR) and Pécs. Before that, he had been working as a shopkeeper (apothecarius) in Buda.16 His younger brother, named Johannes, was first mentioned in 1371 as a castellanus in Nyitra County (Nitra, SK).17 The Seracino brothers occupied various offices in Hungary, including the administration of salt, taxes and mints. A document issued by the chancellery of Ladislaus of Durazzo informs us that the brothers were of Paduan origins.18 In 1382, Johannes had already managed the thirties tax (tricesima) with a Florentine merchant named Francesco Bernardi.19 In 1389, these two officers were still at their positions, at approximately the same time when Giovanni Seracino might have been elected to the consul’s office.20 Johannes settled in Buda; he was also promoted to noble rank by King Sigismund and died sometime before June 13, 1402.21

  • 22 Pach 1999, p. 265-266. Weisz 2009, p. 46.

10The hypothesis that Giovanni Seracino, the Italian consul in Hungary, is identical with the abovementioned Johannes, comes of the tricesima, is supported by the very letter to the merchant court. The case for which the Mercanzia asked for Giovanni’s help involved the dissolution of the Portinari company’s branch in Buda, after manager Nanni Boscoli’s death. Between 1382 and 1387, when Johannes was in charge of the tax, the sources mention another officer of the thirties, a certain Nani Busculi de Florentia.22 That name, I believe, would refer to the very same Nanni (Giovanni) Boscoli.

  • 23 Teke 1995.
  • 24 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 44r-v.

11The branch of the Portinari company in Buda was set up by three Florentine businessmen: Gualtieri Portinari, Ardingo de Ricci and Giovanni (Nanni) di Bandino Boscoli. So far it is considered the earliest Florentine partnership established in the Kingdom of Hungary, sometime in the early 1380s.23 It was at that time when Gualtieri first appeared in the region, in the city of Zara, where he was arrested for suspicious behavior as a Venetian spy. Three years later, his partner, Giovanni Boscoli, was already engaged in trade with dignitaries of the Church in Hungary. The two businessmen’s commercial activity included the import of silver and copper and the export of woolen cloth from the Italian Peninsula. They operated in the towns of Zagreb, Segna (Senj, HR), Pécs, Buda, Zara and Kapus (Căpușu Mic and Căpușu Mare, RO).24 Parallel to doing business, Giovanni Boscoli also acted as an officer of the thirties, and he died sometime before 1390, the date when the Florentine merchant court formed a commission to handle the liquidation of the company’s branch in Buda.

  • 25 ASF Mercanzia 11310.75r.

12Years passed and the business affairs left by Boscoli’s absence remained unclosed. It was probably on June 3, 1392 that the Mercanzia sent out the abovementioned letter to Giovanni Seracino asking for his help in facilitating the merchant court’s access to Boscoli’s account books.25 To what extent Seracino was able to perform his duty, we do not know. The consul, though, should have had good practice in reading account books. Giovanni is not mentioned as practicing any mercantile activity in Hungary, but he worked in the royal administration, and his brother started his career as a merchant, which would suggest that he was knowledgeable in such matters. The request of the Mercanzia also alludes that the consul acted as a local judge in business disputes, and that he had the authority and the skills to keep and read account books of Florentine merchants who had pending business affairs at the merchant court. The fact that the office of the consul was an elected one also suggests that Giovanni Seracino had good familiarity with local laws and customs, which would have facilitated his attempt to mediate between Florentines and locals.

  • 26 For the German edition of the Law Book see: Mollay 1958. For the Buda Law Book about selling Italia (...)
  • 27 Foreign merchants were not allowed to engage in any commercial activity without the consent of the (...)

13The existence of an Italian consul in Buda would also mean that Italian merchants had an independent organization in the city, which is not mentioned in Hungarian sources covering the period. Though the Hungarian National Archives lacks documents of a commercial nature, the so-called Buda law book, recording the laws and customs of the city, does not refer to the Italian consul either. However, the law book – probably written between 1405 and 1421, in German, for personal use – would not necessarily report the existence of an independent organization of Italians.26 In spite of the fact that the city statutes strictly regulated the activity of non-indigenous merchants who did not possess citizenship in Buda, their business conduct was not the focus of the Buda law book. Some Florentine merchants did acquire citizenship there, and therefore their jurisdictional cases might have fallen under the authority of the town court judges, but the majority most likely did not.27 Since the book is mainly concerned with German merchants’ privileges in the city, and if there was very little overlap between the two groups on the organizational and jurisdictional levels, then there would have been no reason at all to mention the Italian consul. To what extent the Italian consulate differed from similar structures in other parts of Europe, we do not know. But the mention of the consul and the judge by two independent sources, separated by a span of forty years, would imply the continuous operation of such an organization during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg (1387-1437).

The Florentine guild consuls as arbitrators

  • 28 Goldthwaite 2009, p.110.
  • 29 For the statutes of the guild see: Enriques Agnoletti 1940. For the history of the guild see: Hoshi (...)

14Many cases of a mercantile nature might have required the intervention of other, domestic organizations in Florence. Although, as Richard Golthwaite claims, the commercial activity of Florentine merchants abroad was not subject to guild membership at home, they often enrolled in one of the five major guilds.28 In fact, a good number of merchants’ names appear in the matriculations of those who traded in the Kingdom of Hungary, very often because they also ran for public office or for guild consulate at home. The major guilds during the Albizi period still maintained their own courts, headed by the so-called guild consuls, distinguishing them from the consuls of the nazioni, who in the name of the corresponding guild, also handled commercial quarrels.29

  • 30 ASF Arte della Lana 542. 13r.

15Two occasions have come to light so far in which Florentine merchants selling textiles in Hungary were sued by wool entrepreneurs who were enrolled members of the Florentine Wool guild. Dealers of the merchandise, according to the acts, refused to pay off the interests of the manufacturers. In the first case, likely occurring on May 13, 1388, the wool entrepreneur Zanobi di Neri Macigni submitted a petition to the guild consuls for the 2400 golden florins Nofri di Francesco dello Stanghetta owed him for wool cloth he had transported to Hungary.30

  • 31 ASF Arte della Lana 542. 28v. Since Maruccio, according to another source, had arrived in Hungary i (...)

16On February 12, probably in the same year, Gabriello di messer Bartolomeo Panciatichi also brought a case before the guild consuls; he accused Giovanni and Michele di Benedetto da Carmignano of failing to pay for wool textiles Gabriello had sent to Hungary which were consequently sold by Maruccio di Pagolo Marucci in Zagreb.31

17Unfortunately, both the processes and the outcomes of these two cases have not been revealed by archival documents. Several other entries in the registers suggest that those Florentines with pending affairs in Hungary often turned to the Wool Guild’s consuls for protection of their business interests against other Florentine merchants.

  • 32 ASF Arte del Cambio 59-65.

18In the absence of similar registers containing court cases of the other major guilds, we can only assume that they might have handled similar appeals at the request of Florentines trading in Hungary. Besides the Wool Guild, only the Arte del Cambio has a limited number of surviving court sentences covering the period, though they seem to have no connection to trade in Hungary.32 Despite the fact that guilds had the right to administer justice internally, merchants frequently also brought their claims before the merchant court, the activities of which we will now consider.

The Merchant court’s supervision in the Kingdom of Hungary

  • 33 For the history of the merchant court in Siena see: Ascheri 1989, 2008. For the merchant court in B (...)
  • 34 For the history of the Mercanzia in the 14th century see: Astorri 1998. During our period the numbe (...)
  • 35 Goldthwaite 2009, p. 110-112.
  • 36 Quertier 2013.

19As in other parts of Northern and Central Italy, the merchant court was set up in Florence, probably in the view of creating a magistracy to handle the credit claims of companies and individuals as well as bankruptcies, but it also negotiated trade treaties with foreign governments.33 At the head of the merchant court sat a rector of foreign origins and a council of five representatives, one from each of the five guilds whose members were also merchants. Initially the five councilors were to be Florentine merchants engaged in trade abroad, but later this was not necessarily the case.34 So far, the role of the Mercanzia and its function in the administration of justice has not been well studied.35 This is especially true when it comes to its role as a supreme court in cases of Florentine merchants living abroad. Recently, Cédric Quertier has published insights into the tribunal process the Mercanzia used to handle bankruptcy and tensions between Florentine and foreign merchants outside the walls of the city-state.36

  • 37 Other cases involving Florentine merchants in Hungary were also brought before the merchant court. (...)

20However, the processes used when Florentine merchants needed to recover credits from foreigners or to manage the closure of a business outside the city have remained uncovered so far. The above-mentioned story of the Boscoli-Portinari company in Buda eloquently illustrates how the Mercanzia might have fulfilled its duties in such cases.37

  • 38 ASF Mercanzia 11310.32v.
  • 39 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 2r.
  • 40 The priest was addressed as bishop in the letter. ASF Mercanzia 11310.75v, 43r-v, 45r.

21On June 28, 1390, the Florentine merchant court set up a commission in order to settle a dispute between several parties, including Ardingo de Ricci, Gualtieri Portinari and the company on one side and Giovanni di Bandino Boscoli’s heirs on the other side.38 The details of the case are revealed thanks to Mercanzia registers aimed at keeping track of all outgoing correspondence.39 According to the letters addressed to various dignitaries in Hungary, Giovanni by his account book left many debtors in Buda, among them the voivode of Transylvania, István Laczkfi, the archbishop of Esztergom, Miklós priest of Kapus (Căpușu Mic and Căpușu Mare, RO), the bishop of Eger and Pál, the brother of the bishop of Pécs.40 Recuperating debts from dignitaries in Hungary exceeded the capacity of a Florentine company, and if they did not wish to pay, the merchants had no other option than to complain to different authorities and continuously beg the debtors for payment. The goods sold by the company consisted of luxury items of considerable value, such as spices, velvet, silk, pearls, crowns and ribbons made of gold; therefore non-payment might have significantly affected the company’s financial situation.

  • 41 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 75r.

22The Mercanzia also lacked authority and power against these Hungarian dignitaries, having no other tools in its hands than to continuously send letters to them. Approximately three years after the commission had been formed, Gualtieri Portinari, in cooperation with the Mercanzia, sent an agent named Agostino di Paolo Marucci to Buda in order to check Giovanni Boscoli’s account books. His trip was also designed in such a way that he would recuperate part of the credits of the company. On this occasion, the merchant court contacted the ex-Italian consul in an attempt to facilitate the agent’s access to the account books, and then wrote a letter to one of the major debtors, the archbishop of Esztergom, asking him to pay his debt of 524 gold florins to the agent.41

  • 42 For the letter addressed to « Judicibus juratis in Regno Hungarie » see: ASF Mercanzia 11310. 75v.

23On the same day, June 3, the court sent another letter to the Kingdom of Hungary, specifically to the town court judges of Buda, asking for their support so that Agostino could complete his task successfully.42 Besides debtors in Hungary, the Mercanzia should have also dealt with the company’s other financial claims against some Italian business partners engaged in trade in Hungary. During the litigation, the names of the Florentine businessmen Bernardo di Sandro Portinari – distant cousin of Gualtieri – as well as Giovanni di Niccolò Tosinghi and the Sienese businessman Jacobo di Francesco Ventura appear in the documents produced by the merchant court.

  • 43 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 33r.
  • 44 He was sent to Hungary, probably by the merchant court, in accordance with the two remaining partne (...)
  • 45 ASF Mercanzia 11310.44r-v.

24In August 1386, four years before the commission was formed, Bernardo had left spices and textiles for Jacobo Ventura, Boscoli’s agent, in Boscoli’s house, and now he was claiming back the value of the merchandise from the heirs.43 The heirs, along with the mother company, were able to fulfill the requests only through complete liquidation of the branch in Buda and by selling all of Giovanni Boscoli’s mobile and immobile properties in the city. Since the case went on for several years at the merchant court, and former agent Agostino Marucci’s attempt to close Boscoli’s business affairs in Hungary was not entirely successful, in 1390, another agent, Giovanni Tosinghi, arrived in Buda.44 In this way, the Mercanzia, through its agents, supervised the complete liquidation of Boscoli’s properties.45

  • 46 Agostino was a member of the Wool Guild: ASF Arte della Lana 25.2r. Maruccio was working as a texti (...)
  • 47 In 1389, Giovanni was in charge of collecting the credits of the company run by Vieri de’Medici, An (...)

25During the years in which the Florentine merchant court appointed them to this particular task, the Marucci brothers as well as Giovanni Tosinghi worked as long distance trade merchants in Hungary.46 Since both of them had similar cases in the Kingdom of Hungary, in which the merchant court or, more directly, the Signoria sent them to the region for the liquidation of a company, it seems to me that hiring such agents to handle business quarrels abroad was a regular practice of the Mercanzia.47 These merchants probably had good familiarity with business customs and laws in the Kingdom of Hungary, and therefore could have successfully performed the role of agent and mediated between Florentine organizations and local authorities.

26The major Florentine guilds, which had an interest in long distance trade, often hired professional sensali to act as brokers in selling guild members’ merchandise abroad. If the guild consuls requested, these brokers should have been able to perform in other capacities as well. Whenever the mediation of agents proved to be unsuccessful abroad, the merchant court employed other, probably more efficient tools to settle disputes between the parties.

27Already the agencies of the Marucci and Giovanni Tosinghi have pointed to the Signoria’s practice of using means of diplomacy to recuperate credits for its citizens. On those occasions, the Florentine chancellery contacted the authorities in Hungary and took a stand, though a very humble one, against business misconduct.

The King

  • 48 Prajda 2015.

28Diplomatic correspondence reached the highest level; in some cases it occurred between the Florentine chancery and King Sigismund himself. Of course, one cannot talk about egalitarian communication between the parties, but rather about a desperate attempt of the chancery to convince the ruler, with kind words and manners, to act fairly with her citizens.48 Since the credit claims of Florentines in Hungary might have also included the King as a debtor, his partiality in these cases is obvious. One particular business dispute, which involved a company set up by Florentine merchants for trade in Hungary, clearly illustrates the King’s attitude in such situations as well as the possible intersections between jurisdictional procedures in Hungary and in Florence.

  • 49 For the history of the Borghini, Cavalcanti and Scolari families in Hungary see Prajda 2012; Prajda (...)
  • 50 For the Count of Modrus’s participation in long distance trade between Segna (Senj, HR) and the Ita (...)

29Sometime probably in the early 1420s, Tommaso di Domenico Borghini, silk manufacturer, and Matteo di Stefano Scolari, international merchant and brother of the Hungarian baron Pippo Scolari, went into business together by forming a trade partnership. Besides their joint business venture, other companies such as Tommaso’s silk warehouse in Florence and the Medici of Venice were also involved in the court case.49 Another complication was that the Hungarian king and other dignitaries, including Pippo Scolari and Niccolò Frangipane, the Count of Modrus were among the interested parties.50 Diverse surviving documentation, especially that of the merchant court, allows us to reconstruct the events which led to the process aimed at settling the disagreement between the parties.

  • 51 The document describing the case might be a short memo, prepared by/for Filippo Scolari: « Al nome (...)
  • 52 Matteo Scolari took textiles from Tommaso’s silk workshop and warehouse in the value of 730 florins (...)

30The story started in March 1425 when Tommaso sent silk textiles to Hungary via two Florentine merchants named Gianozzo di Giovanni Cavalcanti and Filippo Frescobaldi. They travelled with Tommaso’s partner, Matteo Scolari, to the royal court, in order to save on the costs of the journey as well as to guarantee the safety of the goods by joining a more sizeable company. By selling the textiles to King Sigismund, the merchants received a good deal of money, though he remained indebted to them in the amount of 1300 florins.51 On this particular trip to Hungary, Matteo Scolari also went into debt to his partner, Tommaso, for both cash and textiles he took from Tommaso’s warehouse, in the value of 900 florins.52

  • 53 See the contemporary extract of letters, collected for this particular case: « Copia di più lettera (...)
  • 54 Lorenzo di Giovanni de’Medici married Gianozzo’s sister. See her testament in 1444: ASF MAP filza. (...)

31In January 1426, Matteo Scolari died, and his brother Pippo, the so-called Spano became his heir. At the same time, the Spano had a pending, 1000 florin credit with the Medici of Venice, related somehow to the Count of Modrus’ debt with the Spano.53 One of the agents of the Medici of Venice was Gianozzo Cavalcanti, Lorenzo de’Medici’s brother-in-law with whom Tommaso Borghini was cooperating in the textile trade.54 In November 1426, the Spano gave a letter to his heir, Filippo di Rinieri Scolari, which testified to the Count of Modrus’s debt. The Spano died in December, and the duty to recuperate the money fell to Filippo di Rinieri Scolari. The agent he sent to the Count was Filippo Frescobaldi.

  • 55 The letter was written on June 28, 1427. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370v.
  • 56 Two letters were sent, one on August 19 1427 and the other on January 16 1428. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop.  (...)
  • 57 See the decision of Sigismund, written by the royal chancellery. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 262r- (...)

32The Count had previously promised to pay off his debt by March 1427, but the deadline had passed and Filippo di Rinieri Scolari had not received anything. Consequently, in June 1427, King Sigismund gave a letter to Filippo Frescobaldi, in which he commanded the Count to discharge his debt.55 In spite of the order, Filippo Frescobaldi returned to the king empty-handed; the reason for the Count’s refusal, according to the letter, was the death of the Count’s wife. Between August 1427 and January 1428, two other Florentine merchants went to Segna (Senj, HR), but their attempts were also unsuccessful.56 At the same time, King Sigismund started to claim that since the Spano had died without descendants, and Filippo Scolari was not his legitimate heir in Hungary, the Count of Modrus’s debt should fall to the crown.57

  • 58 « …in su questo foglio faremo richordo apunto chome la chosa di Gianozzo Chavalchanti e Filippo Fre (...)
  • 59 « Item uno effetto publico scritto per mano di publico notaio per la quale apparisse come il sereni (...)

33A couple of months later, the ruler, as well as Filippo Scolari, instead of demanding payment from the Count, started to accuse Gianozzo Cavalcanti of business misconduct. Whether these accusations were true or false, and whether the Count had finally paid off his debt to Gianozzo, we do not learn explicitly from these sources. Filippo’s claim at the merchant court, however, was that the agents, Gianozzo and Filippo Frescobaldi, wanted to turn the money to their own interests.58 At that time, Gianozzo was hiding in Kalocsa at the court of his uncle, Giovanni Buondelmonti, who was the local archbishop and from whom the king requested the money that Gianozzo had taken from the Count of Modrus.59

  • 60 For the original: ASF Diplomatico, Normali, Firenze, Santa Maria della Badia 12/04/1428. For the co (...)
  • 61 They were all the Spano’s trusted men. The king also took the administration of salt mines from Fil (...)

34The case as well as putting Sigismund’s decision into written form by the royal chancellery were supervised by another Florentine merchant, Onofrio Bardi de Pölöke.60 Bardi had earlier worked as the Spano’s officer in the royal administration, and later Sigismund raised him to noble rank. His participation in the case, though, would suggest that his relation to the Spano’s heirs was far less amicable. He might also have had a hand in the arrests of Gianozzo and other Florentines who ended up in Sigismund’s prison that year.61 The power play inside the Florentine trading community in Hungary between Onofrio Bardi and Filippo Scolari might have had a lot to do with Sigismund’s harsh intervention, as well as the confiscations of Florentines’ money. Whether Gianozzo’s imprisonment resulted from a court procedure in Hungary, or whether he was only taken by order of the king, has remained untold by the documents.

  • 62 « Io sia dinanzi alla reale Maestà a suplicare la liberatione di Giannozo di Giovanni Cavalcanti. » (...)
  • 63 For the letter written by Guicciardini to the Guild consuls on July 14 1428 see: ASF Corp. Rel. Sop (...)

35However, other circumstances also support the possibility that the king’s decision might not have had solid jurisdictional grounds. Both of the Florentine domestic courts involved in the case – the Mercanzia as well as the court of the Calimala Guild – tried to use means of diplomacy to get Gianozzo Cavalcanti released. In fact, Gianozzo’s imprisonment was among the main topics of a letter that the Florentine ambassador, Piero di messer Luigi Guicciardini, sent home to the merchant court in April 1428.62 Piero’s duty also included the transmission of the Calimala’s letter to the King, in which they supplicated for Gianozzo’s deliberation.63 Gianozzo was finally released thanks to the intervention of the Florentine as well as the Milanese ambassadors.

  • 64 ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 242v.
  • 65 « Gli infrascritti sono testimoni in decti per Filippo di Rinieri Scolari nel piato che esso à nell (...)
  • 66 « Giovanni di Mazuolo del popolo di Sancto Michele Visdomini di Firenze testimone indecto e giurato (...)
  • 67 ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370r-v.
  • 68 « Nel piato mosso per Gianozzo Chavalchanti contro Filippo e Giambonino Scolari non pare Filippo in (...)

36In spite of the favorable outcome in Hungary, Gianozzo’s case was still pending at the merchant court as well as before the consuls of the Calimala Guild. During the process, the merchant court also asked the witnesses to compel testimony.64 Among Filippo Scolari’s witnesses were several merchants trading in the Kingdom of Hungary who provided the court with information on the debt the Count of Modrus had with the Spano and that the Spano gave that money to Filippo and his brothers.65 Some of them were eyewitnesses, meanwhile others had only heard about the Spano’s donation to his nephews.66 They also collected copies of letters which served as testimonies on Filippo Scolari’s side in the court case, aimed at proving that he indeed had received permission from the Spano to recuperate his credit claim.67 Based on the testimonies, the Mercanzia obliged Gianozzo to give back the money he had taken from the Count of Modrus, to the Scolari brothers.68

  • 69 « Vero che per anchora del fatto di Gianozo non è concluso e che ala Merchadantia…me scrivi che l’A (...)
  • 70 « Ancora pretende avere ragioni contra a Gianozzo Cavalcanti per uno scripto…Ancora pretende avere (...)

37The extent to which the two courts cooperated during the process remains unclear, but we learn from the Mercanzia’s decision that the Calimala’s intervention was due to the fact that Matteo Scolari, as a member of the Guild, left by his testament a considerable sum of money under the supervision of the guild consuls. The court processes moved slowly, since Giambonino Scolari, in a letter written on May 27, 1429 and addressed to his brother Filippo noted with preoccupation that Gianozzo’s case at the merchant court was not yet concluded and that the Calimala guild was about to call a meeting together to discuss this particular issue.69 On March 4, 1430, when submitting his tax return, Filippo Scolari claimed that his case with Gianozzo Cavalcanti and the Medici company had not been solved.70

  • 71 The documents were written on March 5, 1428. Tommaso petition was submitted in his and his partners (...)
  • 72 For the original document which survived in the register of the merchant court see: ASF Mercanzia 7 (...)
  • 73 For the lands that Tommaso Borghini received from the Scolari heirs, see the declaration submitted (...)
  • 74 « Denuntiamo sententiamo e dichiariamo non esser stato né esser giudice competente tra lle dette pa (...)

38Parallel to these events, in 1428, Tommaso Borghini, after years of desperate attempts to recuperate his money, brought his claim before the Mercanzia, requesting an order against Matteo’s heirs who refused to pay.71 About a month later, on April 12, 1428, one of the heirs, Giambonino Scolari, petitioned to the Florentine merchant court to cancel the order of his imprisonment, which the Mercanzia finally approved.72 There were at least two reasons behind the decision of the court. First, that the two parties, Tommaso and the Scolari brothers, had reached an agreement, and Tommaso’s claim of 900 florins was settled with silverware and the incomes of one of Matteo Scolari’s estates.73 Second, that the Mercanzia had finally acknowledged the competence of the Calimala Guild consuls and put an end to the court procedure.74

39It seems to me, though it is difficult to judge on the basis of the surviving evidence, that Tommaso Borghini wished to recuperate the credit he had given to Matteo Scolari by requesting the money the Scolari heirs were supposed to have received from the Count of Modrus. At the end, the Borghini-case was concluded by the decision of the court of the Calimala Guild.

40In this particular, very complex issue, at least three jurisdictional bodies intervened. As executors of Matteo Scolaris’s testament, the consuls of the Calimala Guild were involved in the litigation; meanwhile Matteo’s business partner, Tommaso Borghini, brought the case before the merchant court, too. Since the quarrel was a consequence of Matteo Scolari’s business activity in Hungary, and since Hungarian dignities, including Sigismund himself, were among the interested parties, the King used his authority to try to turn the situation to his own interest. Consequently, the Signoria managed to negotiate with the ruler a favorable outcome for its citizens and to solve the business conflict between Florentine merchants internally.

Conclusions

41Sources speaking about jurisdictional cases brought before the Italian consul, the guild consuls, the merchant court or the Hungarian King have several limits, especially due to the lack of other, comparable examples. Yet, they provide us with a picture of how these authorities might have performed their duties as supreme courts or judges for Florentines who traded in the Kingdom of Hungary during the reign of Sigismund of Luxemburg. Sometimes finding a solution for the situation and concluding litigation between the parties occurred at multiple levels and included actors in both Florence and Hungary. From this point of view, Florentines’ trading practices and the jurisdictional framework of their activity might have been entirely different from Florentine merchants’ experience in Venice or in other major trading hubs of the Italian Peninsula. We might find similar situations only in those places where, thanks to the feudal structure, the ruler’s as well as the town court judges’ authorities overlapped with that of the Florentine merchant court.

  • 75 Kuehn 2008, p. 59.
  • 76 For the imprisonment of Florentines in Hungary see Prajda 2010, p. 532.
  • 77 For example, the Melanesi family declared bankruptcy in Florence/Prato, their properties were taken (...)

42The sources mentioned in this article might have raised more questions than answers in the reconstruction of these processes and especially in assessing the roles of such jurisdictional bodies as the guild consuls or the town court judges of Buda. While elements of the Mercanzia’s court procedures received more emphasis in the documents, its punishment practices might have instead followed a pattern similar to those described by Antonio Manetti’s “Story of the Fat Woodcarver”, where the protagonist, Manetto Amannatini, on the basis of a made-up debt claim, ended up in the Mercanzia’s prison. Confiscation of mobile and immobile properties was also a very common solution used by the merchant court to clear business debts.75 Sigismund of Luxemburg applied basically the same methods against both the real and constructed business misconduct of Florentine merchants.76 We do not know if any qualitative differences existed between the Mercanzia’s and the King’s prisons. However, those Florentines who, in spite of bankruptcy and the confiscation of their properties, managed to avoid the Mercanzia’s prison in Florence might have still had a chance to survive, both economically and socially, in remote places such as the Kingdom of Hungary.77

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Diplomatico, Normali, Firenze, Santa Maria della Badia

MAP = Mediceo avanti il Principato 161.

Mercanzia 7714bis, 7115, 11310, 11312, 11313.

Miscellanea Repubblicana 10.

Signori Missive I. Cancelleria 21, 24.

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Pach 1975 = Zs. P. Pach, A Levante-kereskedelem erdélyi útvonala I.Lajos és Zsigmond korában, in Századok 1975, p. 3-32.

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Notes

1 Pignatti 1981.

2 Petti Balbi 1991, p.151-246. Petti Balbi 2007.

3 Goldthwaite 2009, p. 108.

4 Astorri 1998, p.165. For an overview of the history of Florentine consulates see: Quertier 2014.

5 In Valencia, Florentine, Genoese, Lucchese and Sienese merchants belonged to the joint consulate; in Aragon only Florentines, Genoese and Venetians did. Soldani 2010, p. 61-62.

6 Reinhold Mueller mentions the existence of a Florentine consulate in the late 14th century. Mueller 1992, p. 1.

7 For Florentine cases brought before the Giudizi di Petizion see: Prajda 2016a. For the administration of justice for foreign merchants in the Republic of Venice see: Fusaro 2014.

8 For the statutes of the Florentine consulates in a later period see: Masi 1941.

9 For the dense commercial relations of Florentine merchants in Buda during the late 14th and early 15th centuries see: Prajda 2013.

10 Domino Johanni Seracino olim consuli latinorum in Regno Ungarie. ASF Mercanzia 11310. I wish to thank Cédric Quertier for calling my attention to this important source. For bankruptcy of Florentine companies abroad see: Quertier 2013b.

11 “Il giudice de taliani di Buda” is mentioned as a creditor of the Florentine merchant Bernardo di Sandro Talani, who traded in Buda. ASF Catasto 450. 254v.

12 Quertier has noted that in Pisa the notary (notaio-sindaco) acted as judge for Florentines but in some cases, also the consul had a role in commercial litigations. Quertier 2014.

13 Pach 1975. A letter addressed by the Florentine Signoria to the Hungarian king, Louis I in 1375 requested trading rights for Florentine similar to that of Genoese in the Kingdom. ASF Signori Missive I. Cancelleria 17.52v

14 Quertier 2014, p. 68.

15 However, the family name Saracini was noted in contemporary Florence; four members of the family are known from the Florentine tax survey and two of them were mentioned in the company records of the Carnesecchi-Fronte company of Buda in the 1420s. For the tax returns of Francesco and Luigi d’Andrea Saracini see: ASF Catasto 64. 356r, 76. 386r. For the entry in the Carnesecchi-Fronte company’s file see: ASF Catasto 381. 89v. Furthermore, another family member, Simone di Francesco, worked in the Florentine mint, which, as we will see later, was among the business profiles of the Saracino family in Hungary. ASF Catasto 76. 386r. Furthermore, Sergio Tognetti mentions a banker family, called Saracini in mid-15th-century Siena. Tognetti 2004, p. 65-67.

16 He was also mentioned as « magistro Saracheno ». Weisz 2009, p. 39-40.

17 Weisz 2009, p. 42.

18 Weisz 2009, p. 40. Giovanni Saracino worked also with another administrator of Paduan origins. Mályusz 1951, doc. 4661.

19 Weisz 2009, p. 45. He was mentioned in 1387, together with Bernardi as « Iohannes Sarachenus » Mályusz 1951, p.1. doc. 8.

20 Weisz 2009, p. 46.

21 For Johannes’s settlement in Buda see: Mályusz 1956, doc. 2043. Already in 1389, he used the names of Mesztegnyői or Százdi. Mályusz 1951, doc. 87, doc. 4659. He also became proprietary of noble estates in Hungary. Mályusz 1951, doc. 4762. For his death see: Mályusz 1956, doc. 1727.

22 Pach 1999, p. 265-266. Weisz 2009, p. 46.

23 Teke 1995.

24 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 44r-v.

25 ASF Mercanzia 11310.75r.

26 For the German edition of the Law Book see: Mollay 1958. For the Buda Law Book about selling Italian wine in the city: Blazovich – Schmidt 2001, p.423. article 209. On commercial goods coming from Italy: Blazovich – Schmidt 2001, p. 525, article 405.

27 Foreign merchants were not allowed to engage in any commercial activity without the consent of the town court judges and the local merchant community, and once arriving in Buda, they were required to sell their goods there. Blazovich – Schmidt 2001, p. 348-355, articles 74-78. The city regulations also prevented domestic merchants from forming partnerships with foreign merchants. Blazovich – Schmidt 2001, p. 360.

28 Goldthwaite 2009, p.110.

29 For the statutes of the guild see: Enriques Agnoletti 1940. For the history of the guild see: Hoshino 1980.

30 ASF Arte della Lana 542. 13r.

31 ASF Arte della Lana 542. 28v. Since Maruccio, according to another source, had arrived in Hungary in early 1388 as a representative of another Florentine company, we might suspect that he was an independent agent, selling Florentine companies’ goods in Hungary and hired by Giovanni and da Carmignano for this particular business.

32 ASF Arte del Cambio 59-65.

33 For the history of the merchant court in Siena see: Ascheri 1989, 2008. For the merchant court in Bologna see: Legnani 2005. For the case of Venice see: Michelon 2010.

34 For the history of the Mercanzia in the 14th century see: Astorri 1998. During our period the number of councilors was six.

35 Goldthwaite 2009, p. 110-112.

36 Quertier 2013.

37 Other cases involving Florentine merchants in Hungary were also brought before the merchant court. For example, Matteo Scolari, Fronte di Piero di Fronte and Antonio di Santi established a company in 1406 in Buda. The liquidation of the firm was started on Fronte’s initiative, while the merchant court mediated between the parties. Fronte was also involved in another partnership with Pagolo di Berto Carnesecchi in Hungary. Since the debtors acknowledged the genuineness of the claims, the Mercanzia’s role was reduced to the mediation between the partners. ASF Mercanzia 11312. 5r-v.

38 ASF Mercanzia 11310.32v.

39 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 2r.

40 The priest was addressed as bishop in the letter. ASF Mercanzia 11310.75v, 43r-v, 45r.

41 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 75r.

42 For the letter addressed to « Judicibus juratis in Regno Hungarie » see: ASF Mercanzia 11310. 75v.

43 ASF Mercanzia 11310. 33r.

44 He was sent to Hungary, probably by the merchant court, in accordance with the two remaining partners for recuperating the company’s credits and for making the account books available for inspection. ASF Mercanzia 11310.35r.

45 ASF Mercanzia 11310.44r-v.

46 Agostino was a member of the Wool Guild: ASF Arte della Lana 25.2r. Maruccio was working as a textile agent in Zagreb. ASF Arte della Lana 542. 28v. For Giovanni Tosinghi’s business activity see: Prajda 2013.

47 In 1389, Giovanni was in charge of collecting the credits of the company run by Vieri de’Medici, Andrea Ughi and Guidone di messer Tommaso in Hungary. This happened after the previous agent, Maruccio di Paolo, Agostino Marucci’s brother, had died. ASF Signori Missive I. Cancelleria 21. 38v; 11v; 40v; 66r-v. Later, in 1394, Agostino acted as an agent of the Signoria in settling the claims of the company of Francesco Federighi, Niccolò da Uzzano and Giovanni di Tommaso. ASF Signori Missive I. Cancelleria 24. 109v; 121r; 154r.

48 Prajda 2015.

49 For the history of the Borghini, Cavalcanti and Scolari families in Hungary see Prajda 2012; Prajda 2010.

50 For the Count of Modrus’s participation in long distance trade between Segna (Senj, HR) and the Italian peninsula see: Teke 1998.

51 The document describing the case might be a short memo, prepared by/for Filippo Scolari: « Al nome sia di Dio amen. In su questo foglio faremo richordo apunto chome la chosa di Gianozzo Chavalchanti e Filippo Freschobaldi è passata di danari di Filippo Scholari che si voleano chonvertire a lloro essere. » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.321. 98r.

52 Matteo Scolari took textiles from Tommaso’s silk workshop and warehouse in the value of 730 florins. For the court case see: ASF Mercanzia 7114bis. 63r-v, 134v-136r.

53 See the contemporary extract of letters, collected for this particular case: « Copia di più lettera da Buda, le quali parlano sopra i danari 1000 s’ ànno avere dal Conte di Signa per parte di messer Filippo Spano. » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370r-v.

54 Lorenzo di Giovanni de’Medici married Gianozzo’s sister. See her testament in 1444: ASF MAP filza. 161. 1r.

55 The letter was written on June 28, 1427. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370v.

56 Two letters were sent, one on August 19 1427 and the other on January 16 1428. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370v.

57 See the decision of Sigismund, written by the royal chancellery. ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 262r-v.

58 « …in su questo foglio faremo richordo apunto chome la chosa di Gianozzo Chavalchanti e Filippo Freschobaldi è passata de danari di Filippo Scholari che si voleano chonvertire a lloro essere. » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 321. 98r.

59 « Item uno effetto publico scritto per mano di publico notaio per la quale apparisse come il serenissimo principe et signore Sigismondo imperatore de romani scrisse lettera al arcivescovo di Collocia che in quanto Gianozzo Cavalcanti predecto non vole esser dare e pagare i certi assegnamenti che esso imperatore aveva facti per denari 2000 che il decto Gianozzo aveva ricevuti dal Conte di Segna in nome di messer Pippo Scolari e per suoi facti che esso ritenesse questo, il decto Gianozzo decta partita. Et come il decto arcivescovo di Colloccia avendo auti resposta dal decto Gianozzo che la decta partita aveva distribuita e derogati come doveva lo fece pigliare e detenere e messe decto Gianozzo nelle carcere. » ASF Mercanzia 7115. 98r. Furthermore, see the copy of a letter written by Sigismund’s chancellery to Giovanni Buondelmonti in Gianozzo’s case: « …i decti danari precisamente tocchano alla nostra Maiestà… » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 262v. Furthermore see a document issued by a public notary in Florence: ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 314. 18- 19.

60 For the original: ASF Diplomatico, Normali, Firenze, Santa Maria della Badia 12/04/1428. For the copy of the document see: ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326.235r. Miscellanea Repubblicana 10. inserto 260. For this last copy, I wish to thank Péter E. Kovács.

61 They were all the Spano’s trusted men. The king also took the administration of salt mines from Filippo Scolari. Prajda 2010, p. 532.

62 « Io sia dinanzi alla reale Maestà a suplicare la liberatione di Giannozo di Giovanni Cavalcanti. » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 337r.

63 For the letter written by Guicciardini to the Guild consuls on July 14 1428 see: ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 337r-v.

64 ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 242v.

65 « Gli infrascritti sono testimoni in decti per Filippo di Rinieri Scolari nel piato che esso à nella corte della Merchatantia in nomi che esso piato si contenghono con Gianozzo di Giovanni Chavalcanti… » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 247r-251r.

66 « Giovanni di Mazuolo del popolo di Sancto Michele Visdomini di Firenze testimone indecto e giurato come di sopra domandato e examinato sopra il decto fino capitolo che chomincia in parte per suo giuramento testificando disse che esso testimone udì dire da molti e molti in Varadino e altrove nelle parti d’Ungheria come lo Spano donò al decto Filippo di Rinieri Scolari e fratelli fiorini 2000 i quali è doveva avere dal Conte di Signa. Et che Gianozzo Chavalcanti gli aveva riscossi e mandati a Vinegia… » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 251r.

67 ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 370r-v.

68 « Nel piato mosso per Gianozzo Chavalchanti contro Filippo e Giambonino Scolari non pare Filippo in alchuna cosa essere tenuto a Gianozzo e i danari che si restano a pagare dovese dare al decto Giambonino… » ASF. Corp. Rel. Sop. 78.326. 242r-v. The documenti is without date and headline.

69 « Vero che per anchora del fatto di Gianozo non è concluso e che ala Merchadantia…me scrivi che l’Arte di Chalimala si doveva ragunare e farne conclusione che è cossa che molto mi piase pure sia presto… » ASF Corp. Rel. Sop. 78. 326. 354r

70 « Ancora pretende avere ragioni contra a Gianozzo Cavalcanti per uno scripto…Ancora pretende avere ragione contro altra compagnia di Medici ovvero a Gianozzo Cavalcanti di cierta quantità di denari di che ne differenza… » ASF Catasto 296. 160r.

71 The documents were written on March 5, 1428. Tommaso petition was submitted in his and his partners’ – Gianozzo di Giovanni Cavalcanti and Lorenzo di Giovanni de’Medici and company of Venice and Florence – names. ASF Mercanzia 7114bis 63v. 134v-135r.

72 For the original document which survived in the register of the merchant court see: ASF Mercanzia 7115. 235r-v. For the parchment version see: ASF Diplomatico, Normali, Firenze, Santa Maria della Badia, 12/04/1428.

73 For the lands that Tommaso Borghini received from the Scolari heirs, see the declaration submitted in 1427 in the name of Matteo Scolari’s inheritance. ASF Catasto 59. 871r.

74 « Denuntiamo sententiamo e dichiariamo non esser stato né esser giudice competente tra lle dette parti. Et la detta captura facta del decto Giambonino ad petitione del decto Tommaso a detti modi e nomi non esser si dovuti né potuti fare. » ASF Diplomatico, Normali, Firenze, Santa Maria della Badia, 12/04/1428.

75 Kuehn 2008, p. 59.

76 For the imprisonment of Florentines in Hungary see Prajda 2010, p. 532.

77 For example, the Melanesi family declared bankruptcy in Florence/Prato, their properties were taken, and Filippo di Filippo Melanesi was imprisoned, while his business partner and nephew, Tommaso Melanesi, managed to continue his life in Hungary. Prajda 2012, p. 160.

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Référence électronique

Katalin Prajda, « Justice in the Florentine Trading Community of Late Medieval Buda », Mélanges de l’École française de Rome - Moyen Âge [En ligne], 127-2 | 2015, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2015, consulté le 29 avril 2017. URL : http://mefrm.revues.org/2716 ; DOI : 10.4000/mefrm.2716

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Katalin Prajda

Department of Political Science, University of Chicago - kprajda@uchicago.edu

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