Origins of San Marino

Archaeological excavations ensure that the Monte Titano was inhabited since the Prehistory.

guercino santo marino

Scuola del Guercino – San Marino Benedicente (XVII sec)

During the year 257 AD the emperor Diocletian issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini which were destroyed by Demosthenes, King of the Liburnians. Among the stone cutters and engravers who came from all over Europe, there were two, who came from Dalmatia (and specifically from the Island of Rab now Croatia), and were destined to be remembered throughout history: Marino and Leo.

It is not certain if they came in search of employment or were fleeing from some religious persecutions. Shortly after their arrival on Rimini territory, they were sent to Mount Titano to extract and process various types of stone; they remained there for three long years.

Later the two companions decided to go their separate ways: Leo decided to remain on Mount Feliciano (also called Monte Feretrio or Feltro), digging a cell in the rock and building, with his travelling companions, a small oratory in honor of God. The settlement,thus founded, will later in history take on the name of San Leo.

Marino, instead, decided to return to Rimini and remained there for 12 years and 3 months, as narrated in epigraphs. During this period he continued to profess his faith and lead a life of penitence. Later, he withdrew to Mount Titano where he founded a small community of Christians. During this period on Mount Titano, it is said that Marino accomplished miracles; such as, healing a Dalmatian sinner possessed by the devil (who was disturbed by the sanctity of Marino). The woman attempted to circumvent him by affirming to be his legitimate wife. Or, the time he is said to have tamed a bear.

The most important miracle, however, was the encounter with Verissimo, son of the noble woman and widow, Felicissima (or Felicity), owner of the territory of Mount Titano. Verissimo disputed the residence of Marino on his territory and Marino, predicting the menacing intentions of the young man, prayed to the Divine Providence for help. In that very moment Verissimo fell paralyzed in his legs and arms. The mother, in her desperation, rushed to the Saint to ask his pardon and to offer him anything he desired. The Saint replied that he had no other desire but their conversion and baptism and a plot of land to rest upon. Felicissima accepted and to express her appreciation and thanks, donated Mount Titano to Marino and all his descendants. Verissimo was healed and all 53 members of the family were converted to Christianity!

Marino, ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Rimini, continued his life of meditation and prayer and, on September 3rd of perhaps the year 366, he died. This date is solemnly celebrated in the Republic.

This is the synthesis of what is contained in the writings on saints and martyrs by an anonimus of the XII century regarding San Marino (“Vita Sancti Marini”) – the Life of San Marino. It is difficult to determine the difference between truth and legend; however, for certain, we know that Demosthene, King of the Libernians, never existed and that, if Diocletian ordered the walls of the city of Rimini to be rebuilt, it was not in the year 257. More specific studies date the life of San Marino sometime between 500 and 700 AD. It is also possible that the story of the life of the Saint was, at least in part, falsified in order to defend the territorial patrimony of the Monastery of San Marino from the attempts to claim the territory by the Bishop of Rimini, Placito Feretrano (parchment of 885 AD where for the first time the name of San Marino has a specific territorial reference).

It is certain that the territory was inhabited even in prehistoric times; however, it is only during the Middle Ages that we have proof of the existence of an organized community. Whatever the truth may be, the legend is most certainly the true expression of the strong desire for independence of the inhabitants of Mount Titano and confirms the evocative image of “the ancient land of liberty”.