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History of the Middle Ages in San Marino

The Medieval history of San Marino has a special relevance because it is the only municipality of medieval origins in the world that maintained its autonomy until the modern age and until it was recognized as an independent state.

The Placito Feretrano is an 11th-century rewritten copy of an original document drafted in 885. In contrast, a document of the king of Italy Berengar II drafted in plebe Sancti Marini dates from 951.
These two documents testify to the presence of a community that gathered around the parish of San Marino.

We have to go as far as 1243 to find in a notarial deed evidence that San Marino had given itself a communal order (however, governed by the Bishop of Montefeltro who owned an abode on the Titan). The new order consisted of an Arengo (assembly of heads of families) with legislative power and governed by two “Consules” (the first two representatives of the community of whom we have any trace are Filippo da Sterpeto and Oddone Scarito) in office for six months only, so as to prevent the concentration of powers for too long in the hands of one person.

The Arengo is responsible for drafting Statutes designed to regulate the life of the commune. The domestic policy represented by the Statutes is flanked by the foreign policy apt to expand the territory, which grows in a short time from 4 km² to 27 km² (about half the current extent).

However, the life of the Commune is constantly threatened by the bishops of Montefeltro, Rimini and Ravenna, who aspire to gain control of it.

Various attempts were made during this period to impose duties or tributes on the town, which were rejected by the population, which appealed directly to Pope Boniface VIII.

The origin of the independence of San Marino land of freedom

The case on independence is discussed in Rimini in the presence of a papal delegate who, given the evidence (which has been destroyed) proving such independence since the time of the founding saint (“libertatis fundator”), agrees with the San Marino people.
First, however, he questions the (mostly illiterate) citizens present about the meaning of “liberty”: “Quid est libertas?” Not at all intimidated by the question, they answer, thus leaving testimony to the ideas of the San Marino people of the time: “[A] man is born free, and possesses his own, and of this he is not beholden to any but our Lord Jesus Christ” (Martino da Montecucco); “[A] man is free and is not to be subject to any” (Gianni da Cristoforo da Sterpeto).

In the next century (XIV) the municipality improved its fortifications to the point of making the mountain impregnable and ensured a continuous supply of weapons. For internal politics the Arengo becomes the “Great and General Council,” composed of sixty representatives and no longer all heads of families while the Consuls change their designation to Captains or Rectors (“Capitaneus seu Rector”).

During the 15th century the territory gained new expansion, thanks to the support of the dukes of Urbino during the wars against the Malatesta of Rimini.

Thus, in 1462, with a treaty signed with the Pope in Fossombrone, it reached its present extension, with the annexation of the court of Fiorentino, the castles of Montegiardino and adjoining lands and the castle of Serravalle and respective jurisdictions, to which the territory of Faetano was to be added in 1463. The Pope’s gesture represents one of the most eloquent testimonies to the actual independence of San Marino and its increasingly concrete liberation from the domination of the Church, which had already begun at the time of the Placito Feretrano.

A long path to official recognition of its independence had come to fruition.

The story continues with the period from the 16th to the 19th century in San Marino and relations with Napoleon.