San Marino and its history are a unique example of a small state which has remained independent and autonomous through the centuries.
The legendary origins talk about a refugee, a Dalmatian stonecutter, Marinus, who arrived in Rimini. But fate had saved shelter for him on Mount Titano. In order to flee religious persecution by Emperor Diocletian, Marinus founded a sort of community, which was based on both lay and religious principles, on the safest part of the Mount. Such foundation is supposed to date back to 301 A.D. After being appointed deacon by the Bishop of Rimini, it is believed that Marinus died in 366.
The first historical document dates back to 885 and describes the quarrel occurred between abbot Stefano from San Marino and bishop Deltone from Rimini. The document stated that the debated territories had always been possessed by the people of San Marino and had to remain under their control.
The first documents bearing the names of two Captains Regent, the former “Consules”, who are in charge of governing the State, date back to 1243. The first Statutes were written in 1253 and still constitute San Marino’s legislation with suitable modification.
Over the centuries, the people of San Marino opposed any attempt of expansion. Instead, they developed a careful policy of alliances which led them to gain control over a 61 sq. km large territory after they had won the war against the powerful Malatesta family of Rimini (1463) thanks to the support of the Pope and the Dukes of Montefeltro. Such extension has never changed again in time.
The Republic obtained valuable recognitions from the most important personalities: in 1797 Napoleon legitimated its sovereign power and the Congress of Vienna recognized its independence while redefining the borders of Europe.
The people of San Marino particularly appreciated what President Abraham Lincoln said when he was declared an honorary citizen. In a letter dated May 7, 1861 he wrote to the Captains Regent: “Despite being so small, Your State is one of the most honoured countries in the whole history”.
Generous and hospitable, the small Republic repeatedly welcomed people who sought shelter and protection because of the trouble vicissitudes they had experienced in their country.
One of the most illustrious characters who sought refuge in San Marino was Giuseppe Garibaldi, who on 31 July 1849, exhausted but respecting the territory of San Marino, stopped here for twenty-four hours together with his disarmed troops while fleeing from the Austrians. After the so-called Hero of the two Worlds and the glorious vicissitudes of the Risorgimento, San Marino was also the theatre of another important historical event in a much ill-omened time: in 1943 it gave shelter to over 100,000 people fleeing the tragedies of World War II.