The origins of San Marino: how did the world’s oldest republic come into being?
Archaeological excavations establish that Mount Titan was inhabited since prehistoric times, starting from 5000-4000 BC.
According to legend written in an anonymous 12th-century hagiography, the origins of San Marino date back to the time of Saint Marino, a stone cutter who arrived in 257 AD in Rimini from Dalmatia and took refuge on Mount Titan to escape the persecution against the Cristians ordered by Emperor Diocletian.
The wayfarer’s personality emerged in the small mountain community because of his gifts as a thaumaturge and soon enabled him to receive Mount Titan as a gift from Donna Felicissima in thanks for the healing of her son.
On September 3, 301 A.D., legend has it that Marino before dying uttered these last words, symbolic of his mission, “Relinquo vos liberos ab utroque homine” or “I leave you free from both men,” meaning the Emperor and the Pope.
Thus was born the name “Land of San Marino” in memory of its holy founder.
Dated 885 AD is the Placito Feretrano, the first document in which the life of the San Marino community is recorded.
At the time of the Communes, the government of the mount was entrusted, according to democratic principles, to the heads of families gathered in an assembly called the Arengo. Executive power rested with the Rector and the Captain Defender until 1243 when the first two Captains Regent were chosen, figures appointed every six months and still provided for in the institutional organization.
In 1295 the Arengo promulgated the first body of laws from which descended the Statute of 1600, which, like the institutional organization, has survived to the present day.
The saint’s words were the foundation on which the independence of the Republic was founded, maintained over the centuries despite the external attacks suffered: in the 11th century by Saracens, Normans and Hungarians and in the 16th century by Cesare Borgia and Cardinal Alberoni.
Soon the ancient republic became a place recognized by prominent historical figures: in 1797 it was recognized by Napoleon‘s France and in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna; during the Italian Resurgence, Giuseppe Garibaldi and his troops found refuge in the autonomous republic, and many San Marino citizens took part in the uprisings that led to the unification of Italy. Abraham Lincoln recognized the “state as one of the most honored in history.”
Its historical path up to World War I and World War II allow us to remember the territory as a neutral place always ready to give political asylum and hospitality to people fighting for freedom.
The history of San Marino with its testimonies is told in the State Museum.
Follow the historical stages of San Marino: