a geographical, spiritual and symbolic journey
Sr. Maria Gloria Riva

The journey, for the Judeo-Christian tradition, is a sign and metaphor of a transformation, of a change. The external path corresponds to an inner journey, deeper. Therefore, every journey involves not only the knowledge of new faces and new places but also and above all a surprising knowledge of oneself. Daily life with the plurality of commitments and relationships often prevents the possibility of descending into one's interiority and really knowing oneself. The journey, as the unsurpassable book of the Russian Pilgrim teaches, is above all a journey into one's own soul, a journey that precisely starting from this greater self-knowledge leads to being stronger and more capable of facing choices, the multiplicity of relationships and the future. Precisely for this reason, following in the footsteps of a Saint - who was also, by divine disposition, the founder of a State - offers the possibility of development, passing from fragmentation to inner unification; from instability to solidity.

Step 1: Going towards yourself

1. Rab and the Sea

San Marino leaves Rab for little-known reasons, certainly due to job instability, and probably due to a painful political situation that involved the persecution of minorities, in the case of Marino – as still in many parts of the world – the Christian one. At the beginning of its journey, therefore, San Marino must face the sea, symbol throughout the Bible of evil, of apparently indomitable adverse forces. So our journey starting from the sea, from the coasts of Rimini, comes to be configured as the place where we become aware of our inner fragmentation, our instability, uncertainties about the future. One sets out on a journey, therefore, to go towards oneself, towards the truth of oneself.

2. Rimini and the Arch of Augustus

The journey starts from the church of Saints Bartholomew and Marino – now known as Santa Rita – in Rimini. A few minutes walk and you reach what is the great portal of the city: the Arch Augustus. The door of a city is its badge, a sort of business card. Rimini, despite being a seaside city, therefore exposed to the threat of possible invasions and characterized, already in ancient times, by an ethnic pluralism, opens towards the sea with an arch, a sign of welcome and openness. Self-knowledge passes through the encounter and comparison with other cultures. Even if you undertake a pilgrimage alone, you are never alone on the journey, but every step marks the encounter and exchange with others who walk with and like you.

3. Poggio Berni and the oldest effigy of Marino

The walls of the ancient city of Rimini were built with stones extracted from Mount Titano. To build a city, a community, even a family, it is necessary to climb upwards. Even San Marino da Rimini was forced, for work, to climb in search of the stone. The passage of the Saint is attested by a fresco, present in the church of Poggio Torriana, depicting one of the oldest images of Marino. The hill is an elevation of the ground, not comparable to the hill for height, but already sufficient to be able to see from afar. Normally the hill has rounded shapes and a gentle slope. The fatigue of "climbing" has already been experienced and the first fruits are being enjoyed. From the first steps of a journey you move away from your habits and begin to see better within yourself.

2nd stage: A path of freedom

4. Acquaviva and the baptismal font

According to tradition, Marino was faithful and generous towards his fellow stonemasons. Thanks to the example offered by his friendship with Leo, he was able to lead many on a path of truth and freedom. The first stop of the second stage is, in fact, Acquaviva, where a generous spring represented, for San Marino, the ideal place to baptize those who, dragged by his example and his virtues, wished to become Christians. Baptism is being buried in the waters to emerge to new life. A life is new when it is free from bonds that could suffocate it; Therefore, baptism expresses above all a path of freedom. In the Bible, to be free is to be a servant of God. The servant of God, as was Marino, is free from the vices and conditioning of others, he is loosed from binding bonds; it is free even from itself, yet decidedly oriented towards a true and authentic good, capable of consigning it to self-realization.

5. The Baldasserona and the 160 steps

We are in the territory of Città and we meet the cliff of Baldasserona, probably the locality of the Titan where the Saint stopped for the first time. In the cliff there is in fact a large fissure considered the first refuge of the founder of San Marino. It was at this point that the history of the San Marino family began. A symbolic staircase of 150 steps - the 150 Psalms-, plus 10 - the ten commandments-, accompany the place of the Saint. On one side the cliff symbolizes refuge, custody, as the psalm sings: Be for me the rock that welcomes me, the shelter belt that saves me. On the other hand, the ascent of such a steep staircase is a test. Follow a law (the 10 commandments); Embracing fatigue and supporting oneself with prayer (the Psalms) are the indispensable means to dissolve oneself from useless bonds. At Baldasserona Marino he had to defend himself from a woman who claimed to be his wife and it was through this experience that he learned to distinguish true and disinterested love from possessive love dictated by purposes that are not primarily the good of the other.

6. Marian places in the Republic and the Gate of the Country

At this point of the journey, slightly lengthening the pilgrimage, the possibility of making a Marian journey within the Republic opens up. In any case, even those who continue without such a detour, arriving at the gates of the city meet places that tell the story of the state and its struggle for freedom and independence. They are places marked by the presence of the Saints: first of all, Saint Francis, then Saint Quirinus and Saint Agatha, patrons of the Republic. Prayer not only edifies us interiorly, but makes us meet invisible friends. Marino also had as a great point of reference an invisible friend: St. Peter, to whom he dedicated the construction of a temple on the top of the Titan.

7. The Palazzo Pubblico and the turreted city

The three patrons: Marino, Agata and Quirino, stand out on the tower of the public palace. Here you reach the halfway point: the first 40 kilometers. The number 40 is, in the Bible, highly symbolic because it marks the time of a generation and, therefore, that of a complete experience. So after ascending for 40 kilometers making a journey of self-knowledge and freedom, we find ourselves inside a fortified citadel. The turreted city gives security, allows you to see everything from above protected by walls, which before being defended, are borders. The walls are not just dividing elements, they give a shape. On the way something is built, in oneself and with others; Even in motion, something stable is erected on the rock. The Palazzo pubblico is a symbol of the motto attributed to San Marino right on his deathbed: Relinquo vos liberos ab utroque homine" or: "I leave you free from both men"; commonly understood as "I leave you free from all powers" and, therefore, more open to gestures of brotherhood.

3rd Stage: Friendship and Communion

8. The Pieve and the Sacello di San Pietro place of communion

The culmination of the San Marino stage is the Pieve and the Sacello di San Pietro. Mount Titano, must have appeared in San Marino as a highly sacred place. Almost at the top, where today stands the Pieve, or Basilica del Santo, occurred the most famous events in the life of Marino: the threats of Verissimo and the mysterious death of the same; the prayer of Verissimo's mother, Donna Felicissima; the resurrection of the Son through the intercession of Marino and the consequent gift of Mount Titano, by Felicissima. Here the Saint threw his belt to delimit the territory of his property. The belt fell on a rowan and from this fact derives the formula: damnare ad sorbum, with which exile was imposed on the unruly. The rowan is an auspicious tree, considered apotropaic and protective. San Marino built here the sacellum dedicated to St. Peter whose ceiling is now adorned with a rose window bearing the inscription: "Mons ipes signum tollitur, haec saxa tractavit faber forti Marinus dextera", that is: "The mountain itself rises as a sign, the Saint Marino worked these stones with his strong right". Located in the apse of the sacellum of San Pietro are the beds of San Marino and San Leo; the first guarded for several centuries his relics of the Saint. Marino and Leo, two friends who, despite their diversity, have made the same journey of perfection and fulfillment of their humanity.

9. The Three Towers and the number of the divine.

The mountain given as a gift to Marino culminates with 3 spurs of rock that, over time, became the unmistakable three towers, symbol of the Republic. Three, number of the divine; three like the Trinitarian Mystery, sign of the fullness of divine revelation. From the sea to the Three Towers. From the storms of life, to the safety of a divine Mountain. In this first phase of the journey a fundamental goal is already reached: by going towards the truth of oneself, one travels a path of freedom and discovers oneself accompanied by an experience of human and spiritual communion.

10. Sassofeltrio and the valley of the river Conca

Every goal of life involves a failure, a decline. The goals achieved are never a perennial security, but the balance always knows downturns and precariousness. So, after reaching the peaks of the Titan with the three towers Guaita, Cesta and Montale, here we descend towards the valley of the river Conca, a border place between San Marino and Italy, between the Romagna and Marche territories, arriving in Sant'Anastasio, not far from a well-known source of sulphurous and alkaline waters, The Source of Blessed Alberico. This place has a peculiarity: turning your back to the source, water comes out of the right cinnamon defined as "normal", while from the left one, sulphurous water comes out with the characteristic smell and taste of sulfur. Legend has it that this double exit of water represents the struggle inherent in the world between good and evil. The ancient mineral water of Sant'Anastasio is now bottled and sold on the market under the name of Mineral Water of San Marino. This place helps to focus on how one of the characteristics of pilgrimage is to be refined in the gift of discernment between good and evil, between real paths or false paths.

11. The fortress of San Leo

The fortress of San Leo is at the culmination of the third stage and celebrates the friendship between two saints who, after sharing the work efforts and commitments of faith, chose two different places to live and reach the fulfillment of their destiny. A true friendship raises, does not close, does not stagnate, but a friendship like this is not improvised, it is not spontaneous, it requires preparation, asceticism and work. The harshness of the lion fortress makes in a plastic way the need to let oneself be shaped by the difficulties of life. The austere beauty of the primitive Pieve di San Leo, but even more the cathedral, tell how friendship lived in truth and in the relaunch towards the future is a great help to sail the sea of history. The cathedral of San Leo oriented towards the east, is built on the cliff, located to the west (symbol of the looming darkness), and appears as a mighty ship stranded in the rock. From there you can enjoy an incredible spectacle that embraces the infinite horizon, sign and reflection of the infinite paths offered by the future.

4th stage: the mission

12. Pugliano: the Madonna and the fair

Two features are associated with this place. The first, so strong as to give the name to the place (Madonna di Pugliano), is the presence of a Marian image (of which today there is only a copy not very faithful to the ancient original stolen) arrived here in a mysterious way. For some the sacred Image would have come from the East carried by the tide on the beaches of Romagna, for others it escaped the destruction of the iconoclastic struggle and was brought to this area by a family of Apulian horse breeders. The second feature is the cattle fair that has been taking place in Pugliano for over a century and marks an area of exchange and dialogue between Romagnoli, Marche, Umbrian and Tuscan. From the mountains of San Marino and San Leo we descend, therefore, towards the flat places where it is possible the encounter between men and the exchange of acquired experiences. The Marian story then, although marked by legend, brings us back to the initial conditions of the journey in the footsteps of San Marino, enriched however by the certainty of being supported by the mysterious help of Heaven, represented, in this case, by the presence of Mary.

13. Soanne and the announcement

Although small, (140 inhabitants) the village of Soanne has a highly symbolic role from a geographical and historical point of view. Here the path of San Marino is intertwined with the journey of St. Francis, whose preaching and example has left a deep and lasting trace throughout Montefeltro. In addition, at the center of the square of Soanne, stands a cross that, placed in 1828, recalls the passage of another great preacher: St. Gaspare del Bufalo. St Gaspar stopped here for his missions totally focused on the Eucharistic Mystery. Near Soanne there is Lake Andreuccio, also known as Lake Soanne, where sport fishing is practiced. This place refers to the Gospel image, deeply linked to the mission, which asks in life to become fishers of men. For everyone, even for non-believers, life is called to bear fruit; Each has the task of transmitting to others his own acquisitions and achievements in order to fertilize and enrich future generations.

14. Pennabilli, mission and peace

San Marino handed over to posterity a people capable of preserving freedom and peace, of initiating paths of dialogue and, while preserving its own identity, being a crossroads of cultures. In the same way Pennabilli, the last stage of the journey in the footsteps of Saint Marino, worthily crowns, from the symbolic point of view, the meaning of the whole journey. The name originates from two toponyms: the communities of "Penna" and "Billi" (one deriving from the Latin Pinna that is summit, tip; the other from Bilia, top among the trees), which refer to the characteristic conformation of the two hills. The two villages, which became free municipalities in 1350, decided to merge into a single community sanctioning a pact with the stone of Peace, still visible today near the main square of the city. Under the papacy of Gregory XIII, mel 1572, for security reasons Pennabilli became the seat of the diocese of Montefeltro and has remained so to this day. What might seem unjust, at least to the sensitivity of the faithful of San Leo, is actually the greatest sign of the fulfillment of the mission of Saints Marino and Leo, whose spiritual fruitfulness did not stop in the places where they lived but invested the whole territory. A native of Pennabilli was also the famous father Orazio della Penna (Luzio Olivieri) Capuchin in Pietrarubbia, but missionary in Tibet. Intelligent and witty, he was a translator and explorer, so much so that in his memory (and to inaugurate the peace bell) in 2005 the XIV Dalai Lama Tenzing Gyatso, Nobel Peace Prize winner, came to Pennabilli. This last stage that takes us back to Rimini, the starting point of the pilgrimage, seals the sense of the route. Every journey has as its purpose the development of one's own identity and interiority, and as its horizon the need to become agents of unity and peace.