04 April 2011

Saint Marinus - A Little History

We found something very interesting, completely by chance, as we were walking home from a long hike in the castello (the state-like municipalities in San Marino are called "castelli") of Aquaviva. The road we had walked on in the morning seemed too sunny for the late afternoon, and so we decided to cut up and under this cliff face, where it looked cooler.
In the shade, we spotted this long staircase. It scaled the rock in a series of sharp switchbacks and seemed to end at a small dark spot in the rock. We weren't too excited about it - it had been a long day of hiking, and stairs weren't especially appealing. As we passed by, though, we saw a sign. The dark smudge up on the cliff, it turns out, is the cave of Saint Marinus. We had to go up.
First, very quickly, a little history. San Marino is - improbably - the oldest surviving sovereign state in the world. It was founded by a stonecutter named Marinus of Arbe on the third of september in the year 301. The stonecutter became a hermit on mount Titano, having fled his homeland because of attacks against christians there. Later, he became a deacon and founded a monastic order on the mountain. This order eventually became a political entity and became the basis for the country's constitution, enacted in 1600. Interestingly, the constitution of San Marino is the world's oldest surviving constitution. In a strange, ironic twist, the country was allowed to remain independent when Italy was unified (150 years ago this month!) because it had provided refuge for pro-unity supporters. Giuseppe Garibaldi, who led the unification movement, agreed to let the little republic continue to exist, and thus a strange little political quirk was created.
And here, high up on a shoulder of Mount Titano, was the hermetic cave of Saint Marinus (the stonecutter deacon was canonized, of course)! There isn't much to see, which is perhaps why there weren't any people there and the stairs were overgrown with grass and weeds. A few plastic flowers and icons were tucked into two nooks in the rock. It is surprisingly shallow and small - a good hideout, but not somewhere I would want to live.
Here is the view from the cave. It is much changed, I would guess, from the days when Marinus slept here. Industrial buildings on the outskirts of the town of Aquaviva dominate the valley. Higher up, a dirtbike course winds its way around the hillside. It was a still Sunday afternoon, and the roar of motorcycles and sportscars wafted up from the highway below.

1 comment:

  1. so glad your curiosity and sense of adventure brought us here....thanks for making that extra effort, it is most appreciated and enjoyed!