The Catholic Church is one of the oldest religious institutions that still exists today since its founding by Christ on His rock in Peter the year 33 A.D., a testament of the enduring and everlasting strength of the Faith and Word of God. While the oldest institution today is the Catholic Church, could you believe that the oldest surviving country today was also founded by a Catholic Saint almost 1,700 years ago?
The Republic of San Marino is both the oldest surviving republic in the world and the fifth smallest country in geographical size. The landlocked country comes in at just over twenty-four square miles and is located on the Italian peninsula towards the northeastern side of the Apennines Mountains. If you are familiar with Italian you might already know: San Marino was founded by none other than Saint Marinus in the year 301 A.D.
Tradition holds that Saint Marinus was a stonemason by trade who came from the island of Rab (now part of modern-day Croatia) fleeing from the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He became a deacon and was ordained by Bishop Gaudentius of Rimini, a city nearby to modern day San Marino. Shortly after, he was accused by a deranged woman who claimed he was her estranged husband. Saint Marinus fled to the highest peak in San Marino, Monte Titano, to build a monastery and assume a monastic life.
His chapel and monastery would later serve as the seed and center for the State of San Marino. For years, his monastery and the area around it grew until a sizable population of peaceful mountain people had grown, safe high in the mountains from the persecution of under Emperor Diocletian. When the mountain people were discovered, the landowner Felicissima bequeathed it to the small Catholic community in perpetuity, telling them to always remain united, a commandment held steadfast today.
During the harsh winter of 366 A.D, Saint Marinus fell ill. With his dying breath, he proclaimed the words Relinquo vos liberos ab utroque homine, “I leave you free of both men.” His affirmation of independence from both the Empire and the Papal States of the time have long proved to be the inspiration for the tiny republic. The country’s motto, LIBERTAS, is said to have been developed from the alleged last words of Saint Marinus.
Today, the Republic of San Marino is a thriving country laying claim to be the oldest surviving state in the world, a true bastion of the Faith with over 90% of the population being Catholic. The feast day of Saint Marinus on September 3rd is also a national holiday in San Marino, where they celebrate their rich history and fierce independence from those who have tried to conquer them throughout the years.