History of San Marino

As the only surviving medieval microstate in the Italian peninsula, the history of San Marino is intertwined with the medieval, Renaissance and modern-day history of the Italian peninsula, according to tradition beginning with its foundation in 301 AD.

Like Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco, it is a surviving example of the typical medieval city-states of Germany, Italy and the Pyrenees.


San Marino is named after the Christian stonemason Saint Marinus, who created a mountainside colony to escape persecution

The country, whose independence has ancient origins, claims to be the world's oldest surviving republic. According to legend, San Marino was founded in 301 AD[1] when a Christian stonemason Marinus (lit. from the sea), later venerated as Saint Marinus, emigrated in 297 AD from Dalmatian island of Rab, when Emperor Diocletian issued a decree calling for the reconstruction of the city walls of Rimini, destroyed by Liburnian pirates.[1] Marinus later became a Deacon and was ordained by Gaudentius, the Bishop of Rimini; shortly after, he was "recognised" and accused by an insane woman of being her estranged husband, whereupon he quickly fled to Monte Titano to build a chapel and monastery and live as a hermit.[2] Later, the State of San Marino would bud from the centre created by this monastery.[2] Living in geographical isolation from the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians at the time, the mountain people were able to live peaceful lives. When this settlement of "refugee" mountain people was eventually discovered, the owner of the land, Felicissima, a sympathetic lady of Rimini, bequeathed it to the small Christian community of mountain dwellers, recommending to them to remain always united.[citation needed]

Evidence of the existence of a community on Mount Titano dates back to the Middle Ages. That evidence comes from a monk named Eugippio, who reports in several documents going back to 511 that another monk lived here. In memory of the stonecutter, the land was renamed "Land of San Marino", and was changed to its present-day name, "Republic of San Marino".[citation needed]

Later papers from the 9th century report a well organized, open and proud community: the writings report that the bishop ruled this territory.[citation needed]

In Lombard age, San Marino was a fief of Dukes of Spoleto (linked to Papal States), but the free comune dates to the tenth century.[citation needed]

The original government structure was composed of a self-governed assembly known as the Arengo, which consisted of the heads of each family (as in the original Roman Senate, the Patres). In 1243, the positions of Captains Regent (Capitani Reggenti) were established to be the joint heads of state. The state's earliest statutes date back to 1263. The Holy See confirmed the independence of San Marino in 1631.[3]

During the feudal eraEdit

Cesare Borgia (here painted by Altobello Melone) briefly took control of San Marino in 1503.

In quick succession, the lords of Montefeltro, the Malatesta of Rimini, and the lords of Urbino attempted to conquer the little town, but without success.[4] In 1320 the community of Chiesanuova chose to join the country.[5] The land area of San Marino consisted only of Mount Titano until 1463, at which time the republic entered into an alliance against Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, duke of Rimini, who was later defeated. As a result, Pope Pius II gave San Marino some castles and the towns of Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Serravalle. Later that year, the town of Faetano joined the republic on its own accord. Since then, the size of San Marino has remained unchanged.[6]

San Marino has been occupied by foreign militaries three times in its history, each for only a short period of time. Two of these periods were in the feudal era. In 1503, Cesare Borgia occupied the Republic until the death of his father some months later.[7]

On June 4, 1543 Fabiano di Monte San Savino, nephew of the later Pope Julius III, attempted to conquer the republic in a plan involving 500 infantry men and some cavalry. The group failed as they got lost in a dense fog, which the Sammarinese attributed to Saint Quirinus, whose feast day it was, and which afterwards has been celebrated annually in the country.[8]

San Marino faced many potential threats during the feudal period, so a treaty of protection was signed in 1602 with Pope Clement VIII, which came into force in 1631.[9]

On October 17, 1739, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, Papal Governor of Ravenna, used military force to occupy the country, imposed a new constitution, and endeavored to force the Sammarinesi to submit to the government of the Papal States.[4] He was aiding certain rebels, and acting possibly contrary to the orders of Pope Clement XII. However, civil disobedience occurred, and clandestine notes were written to the Pope to appeal for justice. On February 5, 1740, 3.5 months after the occupation began, the Pope recognized San Marino's rights, restoring independence. February 5, is the feast day of Saint Agatha, after which she became a patron saint of San Marino.[10]


The basis of San Marino's government is the multi-document Constitution of San Marino, the first components of which were promulgated and became effective on 1 September 1600. Whether these documents amount to a written constitution depends upon how one defines the term. The political scientist Jorri Duursma claims that "San Marino does not have an official constitution as such. The first legal documents which mentioned San Marino's institutional organs were the Statutes of 1600."[11][12][13]

Napoleonic WarsEdit

After Napoleon's campaign of Italy, San Marino found itself on the border between the Kingdom of Italy and long-time ally the Papal States. On February 5, 1797, when, with the arrival of a letter from General Louis Alexandre Berthier addressed to the Regents, it was required to arrest and consign the Bishop of Rimini, Monsignor Vincenzo Ferretti, accused of instigating crimes against the French Empire, who fled with all his possessions to San Marino and refusal would result in the immediate intervention of French troops.[citation needed]

The Government of San Marino replied that it would do everything possible to fulfil the request, even though, in reality, the bishop was able to flee across the border.[citation needed]

A solution was found by one of the Regents, Antonio Onofri, who inspired in Napoleon a friendship and respect toward the sovereign state. Napoleon was won to the commonality in cause with the ideals of liberty and humanity extolled in San Marino's humble founding and wrote in recognition of its cultural value in a letter to Gaspard Monge, scientist and commissary of the French Government for the Sciences and the Arts who was at the time stationed in Italy;[14] further promising to guarantee and protect the independence of the Republic even so far as offering to extend its territory according to its needs. While grateful for the former, the offer of territorial expansion was politely declined by San Marino.[15]

Napoleon issued orders that exempted San Marino's citizens from any type of taxation and gave them 1,000 quintals (over 2,200 lb or 1,000 kg) of wheat as well as four cannons; although for unknown reasons, the cannons were ultimately never brought into San Marino.[16]

The mystery behind Napoleon's treatment of San Marino may be better understood in light of the ongoing French Revolution (1789–1799) where France was undergoing drastic political reform. At this time, the Republic of San Marino and the recently established First French Republic (est. 1792) would have been ideologically aligned.[citation needed]

The state was recognized by Napoleon by the Treaty of Tolentino, in 1797 and by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. In 1825 and 1853, new attempts to submit it to the Papal States failed; and its wish to be left out of Giuseppe Garibaldi's Italian unification in the mid-nineteenth century was honoured by Giuseppe in gratitude for indiscriminately taking in refugees in years prior, many of whom were supporters of unification, including Giuseppe himself and 250 followers. Although faced with many hardships (with his wife Anita who was carrying their fifth child dying near Comacchio before they could reach the refuge), the hospitality received by Giuseppe in San Marino would later prove to be a shaping influence on Giuseppe's diplomatic manner, presaging the themes and similar language used in his political correspondences such as his letter to Joseph Cowen.[17]

19th centuryEdit

In the spring of 1861, shortly before the beginning of the American Civil War, the government of San Marino wrote a letter (in "perfect Italian on one side, and imperfect but clear English on the other"[18]) to United States President Abraham Lincoln, proposing an "alliance" between the two democratic nations and offering the President honorary San Marino citizenship. Lincoln accepted the offer, writing (with his Secretary of State, William H. Seward) in reply that San Marino proved that "government founded on republican principles is capable of being so administered as to be secure and enduring."[19] Presaging a theme he would bring to the fore, using similar language, in his Gettysburg Address in 1863, Lincoln wrote: "You have kindly adverted to the trial through which this Republic is now passing. It is one of deep import. It involves the question whether a Representative republic, extended and aggrandized so much as to be safe against foreign enemies can save itself from the dangers of domestic faction. I have faith in a good result...."[18]

After the unification of the Kingdom of Italy a treaty in 1862 confirmed San Marino's independence. It was revised in 1872.[20]

Towards the end of the 19th century, San Marino experienced economic depression: a large increase in the birth rate coupled with a widening of the gap between agricultural and industrial development led people to seek their fortunes in more industrialised countries.[citation needed] The Sammarinese first sought seasonal employment in Tuscany, Rome, Genoa and Trieste, but in the latter half of the century whole families were uprooted, with the first permanent migrations to the Americas (United States, Argentina and Uruguay) and to Greece, Germany and Austria.[citation needed] This phenomenon lasted up to the 1870s, with a pause during the First World War and an increase during the Fascist period in Italy. Even today there are still large concentrations of San Marino citizens residing in foreign countries, above all, in the United States, in France and in Argentina. There are more than 15,000 San Marino citizens spread throughout the world.[21]

An important turning-point in the political and social life of the country took place on March 25, 1906, when the Arengo met; out of 1,054 heads of family, 805 were present.[22] Each head of family received a ballot which contained two questions: the first asking if the Government of San Marino should be headed by a Principal and Sovereign Council, and the second, if the number of members of the Council should be proportionate between the city population and the rural population. This was the first move towards a referendum and true democracy in San Marino. In the past, similar attempts were made by people such as Pietro Franciosi, but without results. In the same year a second referendum took place on May 5 dealing with the first electoral laws and on June 10 the first political elections in San Marino's history resulted in a victory of the exponents of democracy.[1]

World War IEdit

While Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary on 23 May 1915, San Marino remained neutral. Italy, suspecting that San Marino could harbour Austrian spies who could be given access to its new radiotelegraph station, tried to forcefully establish a detachment of Carabinieri on its territory and then suspended any telephone connections with the Republic when it did not comply.

Two groups of 10 volunteers each did join Italian forces in the fighting on the Italian front, the first as combatants and the second as a medical corps operating a Red Cross field hospital. It was the presence of this hospital that later caused Austrian authorities to suspend diplomatic relations with San Marino.[23]

Although propaganda articles appeared in The New York Times as early as 4 June 1915 claiming that San Marino declared war on Austria-Hungary,[24] the republic never entered the war.[25]

Inter-war periodEdit

San Marino in the 1920s, still a largely agrarian society, experienced political turmoil influenced by the events in Fascist Italy, culminating in June 1921 in the murder in Serravalle of Italian doctor and Fascist sympathiser Carlo Bosi by local leftists, which led to condemnation by the surrounding Italian population and threats of retaliation by Italian squadristi. The government decided to ask Italy for help in the form of a detachment of 30 Carabinieri. As in Italy, Fascism eventually took over government of the Republic, the Sammarinese Fascist Party causing the Socialist newspaper Nuovo Titano to cease publication.

The 1930s was an era of public works and reinvention of the Republic's economy, with the construction of the San Marino-Rimini railway that connected it to the Italian railway network and modernization of the country's infrastructures that paved the way to its present status as a major tourist destination.[26]

World War IIEdit

New Regents of San Marino speak to British army personnel in October 1944

San Marino was mostly uninvolved in the Second World War. In September 1940, press reports claimed that it had to have declared war on Britain in support of Italy;[27] however, this was later denied by the Sammarinese government.[28]

On 26 June 1944, it was bombed by the British Royal Air Force which mistakenly believed it had been overrun by German forces and was being used to amass stores and ammunitions. The railway was destroyed and 63 civilians died during the operation. The British government later admitted the bombing had been unjustified and that it had been executed on receipt of erroneous information.[29]

San Marino's hope to escape further involvement was shattered on 27 July 1944 when Major Gunther, commander of the German forces in Forlì, delivered a letter from German headquarters in Ferrara to San Marino's government declaring that the country's sovereignty could not be respected if, in view of military requirements, the necessity of transit of troops and vehicles arose. The communiqué, however, underlined that wherever possible occupation would be avoided.[30]

Fears were confirmed when on 30 July a German medical corps colonel presented himself with an order for the requisition of two public buildings for the establishment of a military hospital. On the following day, 31 July 1944, in view of the likely invasion by German forces, the state sent three letters of protest: one to Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, one to Adolf Hitler and one to Benito Mussolini,[30] the latter delivered by a delegation to Serafino Mazzolini, a high-ranking diplomat in the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Demanding to meet Mussolini with the intention to ask that its neutrality be respected, the following day Mazzolini took them to see Mussolini, who promised to contact the German authorities and intervene in favour of San Marino's request.[31]

San Marino was a refuge for over 100000 civilians[32] who sought safety on the passing of Allied forces over the Gothic Line[1] during the Battle of Rimini, an enormous effort of relief by the inhabitants of a country that at that time counted only 15,000 people.[30]

Despite all this, the Germans and Allies clashed on San Marino's soil in late September 1944 at the Battle of Monte Pulito; Allied troops occupied San Marino after that, but only stayed for two months before returning the Republic's sovereignty.

Post-War period and modern timesEdit

After the war, San Marino became one of the first countries in Western Europe to be ruled by a communist party (the Sammarinese Communist Party, in coalition with the Sammarinese Socialist Party) through democratic elections. The coalition lasted from 1945 to 1957, when the fatti di Rovereta occurred. This was one of the first times anywhere in the world that a communist government was democratically elected into power.[33][34][35]

The Sammarinese Communist Party peacefully dissolved in 1990 and restructured as the Sammarinese Democratic Progressive Party replacing the former hammer-and-sickle logo (a communist motif representing the rights of workers) with the image of a drawing of a dove by Pablo Picasso.[36]

Universal suffrage was achieved by San Marino in 1960. Having joined the Council of Europe as a full member in 1988, San Marino held the rotating chair of the organisation during the first half of 1990.

San Marino became a member of the United Nations in 1992. In 2002 it signed a treaty with the OECD, agreeing to greater transparency in banking and taxation matters to help combat tax evasion.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ a b c d "San Marino Historical Origins and Legends". Sanmarinosite.com. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  2. ^ a b Radovan Radovinovič, The Croatian Adriatic Tourist Guide, pg. 127, Zagreb (1999), ISBN 953-178-097-8
  3. ^ "San Marino," U.S. Department of State, 10/05, 2009-2017.state.gov/outofdate/bgn/sanmarino/55324.htm
  4. ^ a b   One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "San Marino". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5. ^ "Chiesanuova". SanMarinoSite. 17 November 2014.
  6. ^ Arnold, M. Cameron. "San Marino". Countries and their Cultures.
  7. ^ Miller, William (1901). "The Republic of San Marino". The American Historical Review. 6 (4): 633–649. doi:10.2307/1834173. JSTOR 1834173.
  8. ^ Nevio and Annio Maria Matteimi The Republic of San Marino: Historical and Artistic Guide to the City and the Castles, 2011, p. 20.
  9. ^ Nevio and Annio Maria Matteimi The Republic of San Marino: Historical and Artistic Guide to the City and the Castles, 2011, p. 21.
  10. ^ Nevio and Annio Maria Matteimi The Republic of San Marino: Historical and Artistic Guide to the City and the Castles, 2011, p. 23.
  11. ^ Jorri C. Duursma (1996). Fragmentation and the International Relations of Micro-states: Self-determination and Statehood. Cambridge University Press. p. 211. ISBN 9780521563604.
  12. ^ Scott Witmer (2012). Political Systems. Heinemann-Raintree Classroom. p. 21. ISBN 9781432965563.
  13. ^ J. N. Larned, ed. (1894). History for Ready Reference. pp. 2799–2800.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Alain Queruel, Les francs-maçons de l'Expédition d'Egypte, Editions du Cosmogone, 2012.
  15. ^ Nevio and Annio Maria Matteimi The Republic of San Marino: Historical and Artistic Guide to the City and the Castles, 2011, p. 27.
  16. ^ "From XVI to XIX century, Napoleon in San Marino". sanmarinosite.com. 25 November 2014. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 11 May 2009.
  17. ^ "A Garibaldi Letter". The Daily Herald. Adelaide, Australia. 30 December 1914. p. 8 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ a b Doyle, Don H. (28 March 2011). "From San Marino, With Love". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-28.
  19. ^ Wallace, Amy; Wallechinsky, David; Wallace, Irving (1983). The People's almanac presents the book of lists #3. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0688016472.
  20. ^ "San Marino | Geography, History, Capital, & Language". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-07-02.
  21. ^ "Early 1900s, the Arengo of 1906, San Marino emigration". Sanmarinosite.com. 1906-03-25. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  22. ^ "San Marino, 25. März 1906". Database and Search Engine for Direct Democracy. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  23. ^ "San Marino e la Prima Guerra Mondiale". Educazione.sm. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009.
  24. ^ Tiny San Marino at war with Austria, The New York Times, 4 June 1915
  25. ^ "Guerre Mondiali e Fascismo nella storia di San Marino". Sanmarinosite.com. Archived from the original on 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  26. ^ "Pagina non trovata – Portale dell'educazione". Educazione.sm. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  27. ^ "Southern Theatre: San Marino In". Time magazine. 30 September 1940. Archived from the original on December 3, 2007. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  28. ^ United States Department of State. Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers, 1944. Europe (Volume IV). United States Department of State. p. 292.
  29. ^ "World Wars and Fascism in San Marino". Sanmarinosite, il portale della repubblica di San Marino. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  30. ^ a b c "Fascismo a San Marino". Storiaxxisecolo.it. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  31. ^ Rossi, Gianni (2005). Mussolini e il diplomatico: la vita e i diari di Serafino Mazzolini, un monarchico a Salò. Rubbettino Editore. p. 494. ISBN 9788849812084.
  32. ^ "Storia di San Marino". Sanmarino-info.com. Archived from the original on 2012-09-19. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  33. ^ Alan James Mayne (1 January 1999). From Politics Past to Politics Future: An Integrated Analysis of Current and Emergent Paradigms. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-275-96151-0. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  34. ^ "You can't beat a short break in tiny San Marino". Mirror.uk. 22 Mar 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  35. ^ Thomas Johnson Nossiter (1 January 1982). Communism in Kerala: A Study in Political Adaptation. University of California Press. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-520-04667-2. Retrieved 31 August 2013.
  36. ^ Margrit N. Grigory, "San Marino", in Richard F. Staar and Margrit N. Grigory (eds.), Yearbook on International Communist Affairs, 1991. Stanford, California: Hoover Institution Press, 1991; pp. 624-625. (Yearbook on International Communist Affairs series)

Further readingEdit