After leaving San Leo, driving through the Apennines…
… we have reached the Republic of San Marino, whose territory covers 61 km2 (which is eight times less than the area of city of Warsaw). In the Middle Ages there were many such small countries in Europe, but almost all of them were absorbed by the growing nation-states – San Marino is one of the few that remained independent.
Since 1243, the country has two heads of state, called Captains Regents, elected for six-month terms in pairs by the parliament (a bit like ancient Roman consuls) and sitting on one throne. One of them was Andrea Sabbatini, painter and student of Rafael Santi.
The name of the country comes from Saint Marinus (Italian: Marino), who probably came from the town of Lopar (some resorts there use the name of San Marino) on the Croatian island of Rab, the destination of my first travel abroad in 2000.
According to legend, Marinus escaped from the persecutor of the Christians, the Roman Emperor Diocletian, hid on the Monte Titano and in 301 he founded the Christian community there.
In the following centuries a small Republic was established. The area of San Marino only covered Monte Titano until 1463, when the Republic joined the alliance against the Wolf of Rimini. As a reward, Pope Pius II gave San Marino the surrounding cities: Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Serravalle, while Faetano joined the Republic of its own accord. Since then, the San Marino territory has remained unchanged.
Sighteesing the capital of the Republic, Città di San Marino, means climbing the winding roads up Monte Titano.
First of all, we saw the 16th-century Convento dei Frati Cappuccini (Convent of the Capuchin Friars). Its central point is Chiesa di San Quirino, the church of Saint Quirinus, erected as a thanksgiving for repelling the attack of Fabiano da Monte San Savino, a nephew of Pope Julius III. The attack took place on June 4, 1543, when the Saint Quirinus’ Feast was celebrated, hence he became the patron of the church.
In 1849, after the fall of the ephemeral Roman Republic, Giuseppe Garibaldi, one of the key activists for the unification of Italy, dissolved his legion under the portico of this church. His followers named Garibaldini found the asylum in the convent.
A monument of Garibaldi can be found nearby:
In exchange for granting asylum to his soldiers, Garibaldi respected the will of the inhabitants of San Marino, who refused to include the Republic in the newly created Kingdom of Italy. That is why San Marino remains an independent state to this day.
The tradition of asylum continued during World War II, when over 100,000 Italians and Jews (almost seven times more than the then population of San Marino!) found a temporary shelter in the Republic. After the war, San Marino became the first Western state ruled by a coalition of communists and socialists, which lasted until fatti di Rovereta, the dramatic constitutional crisis in 1957.
At Piazza della Libertà (Liberty Square), the main square of the city, is the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall and the seat of the government of the Republic. At the end of the 19th century, it was reconstructed in attempt to restore its original Gothic design by the Roman architect named Francesco Azzurri.
The façade is supported by three gothic arches. Between the arches there are the coats of arms of Serravalle, Fiorentino, Montegiardino and Faetano, and over the central arch of the arcade there is a cartouche with the coat of arms of the Republic.
At the mezzanine level, in the right corner of the building, there is a bronze statue depicting Saint Marinus.
A clock tower towering above the town hall is on the left. Above the clock dial is a mosaic depicting the figures of St. Marinus, Saint Leon and Saint Agata.
Entry to the Palazzo Pubblico is guarded by members of the Guardia di Rocca, The Fortress Guard:
Interestingly, the part of Sammarinese Armed Forces from 1295 is the Corps of Crossbowmen (Balestrieri), which currently performs only representative functions.
Near the Piazza della Libertà there is the neoclassical Basilica di San Marino, erected in 1826-1855 on the site of a much older church. There are relics of the patron of the Republic inside.
Then we saw a fortress called Guaita, erected in the eleventh century and expanded in the fifteenth, during the struggle against Malatesta. Guaita along with two other fortifications named Cesta and Montale is inscribed at the UNESCO World Heritage List and appears in a symbolic form on the flag and in the coat of arms of the Republic. Interestingly, although the fortresses are accompanied by the word “Libertas” (freedom), Guaita served as a prison until the 1970s.
From another perspective, Guaita looks more impressive.
In 1739, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, Ravenna’s legate, occupied San Marino. Residents appealed for justice to Pope Clement XII, who restored the independence of the Republic. Girolamo Gozi played an important role in these events, and in exchange for his merits became one of the Captains Regent and a monument of him was erected.
Another person whom the people of San Marino erected a monument was Bartolomeo Borghesi. He was an antiquity researcher specializing in Roman numismatics and epigraphy (the study of inscriptions). On the order of Pope Pius VII he cataloged the Vatican collections of coins. In 1821, the Pope excommunicated Freemasons and Carbonari, which may have been related to the fact that in the same year Borghesi left Rome and moved to San Marino, where he spent the other half of his life. In addition to a scientific career, he held a high office (podestà).
Next we got to the upper station of Funivia di San Marino, a cable car, very useful considering the altitude beetwen this point and the foot of Monte Titano!
Through unmerciful heat we did not reach the already mentioned fortress called Cesta (or De la Fratta) and the Museum of Ancient Arms in it. The trip has not been properly completed, which motivates me to return to San Marino – just not in the middle of summer!