The Most Serene Republic of San Marino, an independent state within Italy, was founded on 3rd September, 301AD.
San Marino is a landlocked country. Located on the northeastern side of the Apennine Mountains, it covers a land area of just over 61 km2.
The country derives its name from Saint Marinus, a stonemason from the then-Roman island of Rab in present-day Croatia. The official founding date is 3 September 301 AD. In 1320, the community of Chiesanuova chose to join the country. In 1463, San Marino was extended with the communities of Faetano, Fiorentino, Montegiardino, and Serravalle. Since then the country’s borders remain unchanged.
The founding and history of San Marino
Born in AD 275, Saint Marinus left the island of Rab in present-day Croatia with his lifelong friend Leo, and went to the city of Rimini as a stonemason. He participated in the rebuilding of Rimini’s city walls after their destruction by Liburnian pirates. Later, he founded an independently ruled monastic community on Monte Titano in AD 301. Thus, the microstate lays claim to being the oldest extant sovereign state, as well as the oldest constitutional republic.
In 1503, Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, occupied the Republic for six months. His father’s successor, Pope Julius II, intervened and restored the country’s independence.
Only forty years later, on 4 June 1543, Fabiano di Monte San Savino, nephew of the later Pope Julius III, attempted to conquer the republic. However, his infantry and cavalry failed as they got lost in a dense fog. The Sammarinese attributed this to Saint Quirinus, whose feast day it was.
After the Duchy of Urbino was annexed by the Papal States in 1625, San Marino became an enclave within the Papal States. It later led to its seeking the formal protection of the Papal States in 1631, but this was never a de facto Papal control of the republic.
On 17 October 1739, the legate (Papal governor) of Ravenna, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni occupied San Marino. Pope Clement XII restored independence on 5 February 1740, the feast day of Saint Agatha, after which she became a patron saint of the republic.
18th century onwards
The advance of Napoleon’s army in 1797 presented a brief threat to the independence of San Marino. The country retained its liberty through one of its regents, Antonio Onofri, gaining the respect of Napoleon.
Due to Onofri’s intervention, Napoleon, in a letter delivered to Gaspard Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for Science and Art, promised to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic, even offering to extend its territory according to its needs. The regents declined the offer, fearing future retaliation from other states’ revanchism.
During the later phase of the Italian unification process in the 19th century, San Marino served as a refuge for many persecuted for their support for unification. Among them were Giuseppe Garibaldi and his wife Anita.
Political structure in San Marino
San Marino has the political framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic. In other words, the captains regent are both heads of state and heads of government. There is also a pluriform multi-party system.
Every six months, the council elects two captains regent to be the heads of state. The captains are chosen from opposing parties so there is a balance of power. They serve a six-month term.
San Marino has had more female heads of state than any other country. As of October 2014, there have been 15 in total, including three who served twice.
Places to visit in San Marino
Medieval stone walls enclose the original settlement. The three fortresses at the top of the mountain give the country its best-known image and are linked by a path that runs along the entire ridge of the mountain – Monte Titano.
The first and earliest of the fortresses is Rocca Guaita, constructed in the 11th century. It was once a prison and was rebuilt several times until its current form. This was as a fortress during the 15th-century war between San Marino and the House of Malatesta.
The neo-classical Basilica di San Marino was built in the early 19th century on the foundations of a fourth-century Romanesque church.
The San Francisco Convent, completed in 1400, has a beautiful cloister and is now home to an art museum.
The site San Marino: Historic Centre and Mount Titano became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008.