The Arengo was the first form of government in the Republic of San Marino. Originating in the early Middle Ages, around the year 1000, it responded to the need to create a political body capable of governing and directing the community that had been formed.
The term Arengo originally denoted the assembly of all heads of families who met at the sounding of the major bell of the parish to decide important matters concerning public life. This assembly held all the powers: legislative, executive and judicial that were previously in the hands of a single figure, the feudal abbot.
The Arengo was responsible for appointing the highest offices in the State, including the Consuls, later called Captains Regent. And it was they who inherited, from 1244, executive tasks such as judicial power.
With the Arengo also began the drafting of the Statutes, a collection of laws that regulated the life of the community.
Around the 15th century, as the population increased, it had become increasingly difficult to convene all the heads of families and especially to make common decisions: so the Arengo itself appointed 60 members to whom it entrusted part of its original functions.
Thus, the Great and General Council was born, and from direct participation of the people in political decisions, it became indirect.
At the end of the 18th century great upheavals affected the organization of power in San Marino: the Arengo no longer intervened in electing the representatives of the Council, rather it was relegated to a purely decorative institution. The Council, removed from any form of control, ruled in the name of the interests of an increasingly small number of patrician families.
From this time until the Alberonian occupation, the San Marino ordinances underwent a process of oligarchic involution.
It was not until March 25, 1906, that the Arengo was again convened in the parish; the event is remembered as the Arengo of 1906.
805 heads of families out of 1054 gathered and each was given a ballot with two questions:
- one asked whether in San Marino the government should be led by the Prince and Sovereign Council
- one asked whether a proportional number of councilors between the inhabitants of the contado and those of the city should appear on the Council.
This was the first form of referendum.
On May 5, 1906, the first electoral law was passed, according to which the Council was to be renewed for one-third every 3 years. This was a major restructuring that expanded and rebalanced powers and increased the number of people who could be part of the voting assembly.
Currently, the term Instanza d’Arengo is used to refer to the submission by citizens of requests in the public interest on a semiannual basis (the first Sunday after October 1 and the first Sunday after April 1).