San Marino Government and Politics

San Marino’s defense

San Marino has no military service, but its citizens between the ages of 16 and 55 can be called in to defend the country if necessary. The country has a small militia that performs ceremonial and police duties. San Marino’s defense is taken care of by Italy.

San Marino Country Flag

Flags and weapons of San Marino

The flag

The flag has two equally wide, horizontal fields in white and blue (calculated from above). It was put into use in 1797, officially assumed in 1862.

The weapon

The weapon shows a heart-shaped, gold-edged shield coated with three white towers with ostrich feathers on a blue base; the towers stand on Mount Titano’s three peaks. Despite the fact that San Marino has always been a republic, the shield has a crown at the top, which in this case symbolizes the sovereignty of the people. The shield is flanked by an oak branch and a laurel branch. At the bottom is a text line with the motto Libertas (‘Freedom’). The weapon has been in use since the 1300s.

San Marino’s political system

San Marino is a parliamentary-democratic and unified state republic. Formally, it is independent, but in practice quite integrated into the Italian political system. The country is the world’s oldest republic (from 301) and is characterized by its Latin roots. The Constitution dates from 1599. When the Italian small states merged in 1861, San Marino, as the only one, chose to remain independent. Heads of State and Heads of Government are two Captains Regents (Capitani Reggenti). They are elected by the Legislative Assembly, the General and General Council, and sit for six months; they can only be re-elected after three years. The council is elected in general elections for five years and has 60 members. It elects from among its members a government, a state congress, of 10 members.

Administratively, the country is divided into nine “castles”, similar to the original parish of the Republic. Each castle is run by a two-year, and one council, five-year council captain.


The judiciary is in practice part of the Italian legal system. It includes a law commissioner, who is a judge in minor civil and criminal cases, a criminal judge in the primary appeals court, who is a judge in more serious criminal cases, a two-judge appeals court and a council of twelve that is the supreme court of appeal in civil cases. There is also a magistrate who judges in minor civil cases. Only this judge is from San Marino.

History and Politics

Legendary beginnings

Legend has it that San Marino was founded by a man named Marinus (Marino in Italian). He was a stonemason and came to Rimini from the island of Rab (now Croatian).

But Marinus was a Christian and Christians were still persecuted in the Roman Empire at that time, namely under Emperor Diocletian. Marinus fled to the nearby mountain, Monte Titano, on September 3, 301. Other Christians joined him and formed a community.

After the persecution of Christians ended in 311, Marinus was even appointed a deacon by the Bishop of Rimini Gaudentius. The mountain was given to him. After the death of Marinus in 366, the Republic of San Marino was established.

Rise of the Republic and the Capitani Reggenti

The community lived undisturbed on their mountain for the next few centuries. In the 10th century the construction of three castles as fortifications began. In the 13th century, San Marino was a thriving urban republic. The population grew and land was bought around the mountain. Law books themselves regulated rubbish disposal. There was also a small army.

In 1243 two Capitani Reggenti were elected for the first time, and only for six months at a time. Translated, this means “governing captains”. They followed the example of the Roman Empire with two ruling consuls. The two Capitani are the heads of state of San Marino. This principle has been maintained to this day.

Independence struggles

In many Italian cities, the conflict between the emperor and the pope played a major role. Many clashes took place between their supporters. They are divided into the Ghibellines, who are friendly to the emperor, and the Guelphs who are loyal to the Pope.

More Ghibellines lived in San Marino, who now banished the Guelphs in the 13th century. This led to the Pope excommunicating the San Marinese several times (expelled from the Church). Although this was canceled again and again, peace did not want to return anytime soon. There were also several attempts to take San Marino, for example by the Guelfi family Malatesta, who ruled in nearby Rimini.

Although Pope Boniface VIII finally recognized the independence of San Marino, there were also subsequent attempts to take the small state – but unsuccessfully. In the 15th century there was another war, which San Marino won. Several surrounding castles such as Fiorentino and Faetano were added to the San Marino area. In 1600 a new constitution came into force.

Even during Napoleon’s rule over Italy from 1796, San Marino remained free. The Congress of Vienna put after the end of his reign found that the old state should be restored in Italy – and so San Marino remained independent now.

San Marino in the 19th and 20th centuries

Even when the Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861, San Marino remained unaffected and independent. As early as 1862 treaties were concluded with Italy, which stated that both countries had equal rights.

As in Italy, fascists came to power in San Marino in 1923. Nevertheless, they remained neutral during World War II. In 1943 the Fascist Party of San Marino dissolved shortly after Mussolini was also overthrown. The small country now took in up to 100,000 refugees. In 1944 the British dropped several bombs on San Marino, although they were neutral and the national territory was marked by large white crosses. 60 people died. German and Allied troops fought for the area again before the British finally captured it in September. They stayed until November, also to organize the repatriation of the refugees.


Tourism played an increasingly important role after the Second World War. Although only around 33,000 people live here, around two million visitors come every year. The country is debt free and has offered free medical care to its citizens since 1975.

San Marino still has two heads of state who each rule for six months. This is how power is shared. These Capitani Reggenti are elected by Parliament. They are appointed to office on April 1st and October 1st of each year. The head of government is always the country’s foreign minister.

San Marino Head of Government

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