On the 23rd of August 1521, Jakob Fugger signed the deed of foundation for his social settlement that would later be called “Fuggerei”. Foundations like these were considered valuable Christian deeds. According to the beliefs of the time, they would contribute to reducing divine punishment for sins in purgatory. Like most of his contemporaries, Jakob Fugger saw himself as an instrument of divine powers. On a panel dating back to 1519 that is mounted at the Fuggerei, Jakob Fugger’s motivation and that of his brothers is spelled out as follows: “to give back the fortune that has been bestowed upon them by their almighty and benevolent Lord”.
Foundations increased the reputation of the founder’s family - another motivation that surely applied to Jakob Fugger as well. He created his foundations expressly in the name of his already deceased brothers Georg and Ulrich. By doing so, Jakob Fugger ensured the commemoration of his entire family.
Being an Augsburg citizen, Jakob Fugger was a part of the municipal community: an equal among equals who was cooperatively associated to his fellow citizens. It was considered a civil duty to care for one another. By establishing the Fuggerei, Jakob Fugger thus took on responsibility and helped out fellow citizens in need.
Alongside church-related endowments, such as chapels and mass, foundations for the poor were common at the time. However, they usually were restricted to the support of 12 or 13 (referring to the number of the apostles) poor, mostly elderly or sick individuals. Those beneficiaries were provided shelter in so-called hospital foundations and led a life that reminded of monks or nuns in a monastery, including mandatory prayers for the founder. The Fuggerei differed from that fundamentally: its concept focused on residents who were still able to work and thus would only have to invest a limited amount of time for prayers. The Fuggerei provided room for a large number of families and focused on the individual conduct of life rather than on the community as it was common in hospital foundations. Also, the generous proportions of the settlement and the quality of the buildings were unique for their time. All this hints at another, very personal motivation of Jakob Fugger: He wanted to create something new. Regarding the Fuggerei, he did not emulate existing models but created something new that would set new standards.