Nobile Collegio della Mercanzia
who we are
The Nobile Collegio della Mercanzia (the Noble Guild of Merchants) is a centuries-old institution with an associative character which, similar to the Nobile Collegio del Cambio, has a first-rate importance in the medieval and modern history of Perugia.
The Guild of Merchants
The existence of the institution is documented as early as 1218. Its history is linked to the free medieval municipality. The Guild of Merchants was the first, in importance and precedence, among the corporations; it gathered the mercatores, that is, the merchants, organizing them independently, giving them rules and guarantees, and representing them in the organs of the free municipality. According to the municipal statutes of 1279, it nominated the first two of the ten Priori who governed the municipality.
Statutes and Registers
The statutes and registers of the Collegio della Mercanzia of 1323, 1356 and 1599 are preserved. The registers contain the names of the members of the Guild, and the statutes dictate the ius mercatorum (the predecessor of commercial law): they regulate the admission requirements and the exercise of individual or corporate trading, unfair competition, mediation, weights and measures, the methods of displaying and selling goods, the consequences of bankruptcy, certification of deeds, the work of apprentices, commercial jurisdiction.
Great was the interference of Mercanzia in the public life of the Municipality: in addition to designating the first two decemvirs, it collected the oath of the highest officers, nominated the magistrate in case of property disputes, managed the tax collection, guaranteed for the captain and others foreign officers, and established the official rate of the coin.
The Guild and Nobility
The decline of trade, the urbanization of the feudal nobles, the emergence of the magnate class, the marriages, the victory of the noble party of Braccio Fortebracci are factors of a singular historical process, which began in the 15th century and culminated in the statutory modification of 1670. The Collegio della Mercanzia, while retaining its primary institutional importance, was transformed from a bourgeois corporation into a body of the Perugian nobility, parallel to the Collegio del Cambio. Thus, to be admitted, rigorous proofs of nobility were required and access was forbidden to non-nobles. Furthermore, through these two institutions, now "closed", the reserve of the city government was guaranteed for a long time to the same ruling class.
With the Napoleonic era, the institutional function ceased. But Mercanzia and Cambio continued, until the 1983 Statute, to maintain the aristocratic character unchanged.