The Republic of San Marino
In the Republic of San Marino, the veneration of the Saint who, according to legend, founded the Republic, is extremely deep-rooted and widespread. The legend narrates how this master stone-cutter left his native island of Arbe in Dalmatia and came to Mount Titano to establish a small community of Christians anxious to escape the persecutions of the emperor Diocletian. What is certain is that the area had been inhabited since prehistoric times, but the earliest definite evidence of a Monastery, a Parish Church and a Castle, which confirm the existence of an organised community on Mount Titano, only dates back to the middle-ages. At a time when the authority of the Empire was waning and the temporal power of the Pope had not yet been established, the local population, like those of numerous other Italian city states, decided to give themselves some form of government. Hence a free city was born. And while other Italian cities each dedicated their freedom to a saint, so the small community on Mount Titano, in memory of the legendary figure of Marinus, the stone-cutter, called itself “Land of San Marino”, later “Free city of San Marino” and finally “Republic of San Marino”. This is how the social fabric of the Republic originated. Government was entrusted to an assembly of the heads of families called the “Arengo” presided over by a Rector. Always anxious to promote peaceful relations and goodwill, this assembly drew up and promulgated the first laws, the Statutes, inspired by the principles of democracy. As the community grew, a Captain Defender was appointed to share the responsibility of the executive with the Rector. It was only in 1243 that the first two Consuls, the Captains Regent, were elected to office for a period of six months; a twice-yearly appointment made regularly since then right up to the present day, thereby confirming the validity and efficiency of the institutions and, in particular, of the Regency. And it was thanks to the wisdom which inspired the ancient free city of San Marino that the community was able to overcome perilous situations and consolidate its independence. The events of history were complicated and their outcomes often uncertain. In the end though the love of freedom enabled the free city to maintain its liberty. Particularly significant were the disputes with the Bishops of Montefeltro who demanded the payment of a tribute. The people of San Marino however finally established their rights and achieved political and administrative emancipation. Neither were they fainthearted when it came to defending the walls of the town with their now legendary crossbows or to taking part in numerous struggles alongside the Montefeltros of Urbino, champions of the Ghibelline party. The territory of San Marino barely extended beyond Mount Titano in 1463 when the Republic entered into an alliance against Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, Lord of Rimini who was defeated. As a reward, Pope Pius II Piccolomini gave San Marino the towns of Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Serravalle. The town of Faetano, of its own accord, joined the Republic in that same year. Since then, the size of the country has never changed. The Republic of San Marino was twice occupied by military forces, but only for a few months at a time: in 1503 by Cesare Borgia, known as Valentino, and in 1739 by Cardinal Giulio Alberoni. Freedom from Borgia came after the tyrant died, while in the case of Cardinal Alberoni, civil disobedience was used to protest against this abuse of power and clandestine messages were sent to obtain justice from the Pope who recognised San Marino’s rights and restored the state of independence. In 1797, Napoleon offered gifts and friendship to San Marino and expressed the wish to extend its territorial boundaries. The people of San Marino were very grateful and honoured by such generosity, but refused with instinctive wisdom to enlarge their territory, satisfied as they were with the “status quo”
In the year 1861, Abraham Lincoln showed his friendship and sympathy for San Marino when he wrote among other things to the Captains Regent “Although your dominion is small, nevertheless your State is one of the most honoured throughout history..” San Marino boasts an exceptional tradition of hospitality. This free country has never refused asylum or help to those persecuted by misfortune or tyranny, whatever their condition or ideas. Suffice it here to mention just two of the many examples that could be quoted: in 1849, when Giuseppe Garibaldi was surrounded by three enemy armies after the fall of the Roman Republic, he found unexpected safety for himself and his surviving companions in San Marino. During the last World War, San Marino gave protection to over 100,000 refugees.
Today the Republic is independent, democratic and neutral, and although it continues to remain faithful to its ancient traditions, it is becoming ever more responsive to the call of progress.