We all know of cities, towns and villages in Europe named after their local Orthodox saint. Here in England, we are honoured to live in one - Felixstowe, named after St Felix. In Europe, however, there is a whole country, albeit a very small one, named after an Orthodox saint: San Marino. Who was this saint who gave his name to a country?

Born of Orthodox Christian parents on an island off the Dalmatian coast, Marinus became a stone-mason. Hearing that the coastal town of Rimini in Italy was being rebuilt, he travelled there with a devout companion. He was astonished to find among the workmen there many Christians of noble birth who had been sentenced to hard labour on account of their faith and refusal to sacrifice to the demons. Together with his companion, Leo, Marinus sought to comfort and help the Christians as far as he could. After three year St Gaudentius, Bishop of Rimini, ordained Marinus deacon, so that he might be able to baptise the many converts he was making.

In his old age Marinus withdrew from the world to a hermitage in the heart of a wood about ten miles from Rimini. There in 301 he reposed. On the site of his hermitage a town was built and called after the holy man. It is this town which today forms the centre of the Republic of San Marino and the holy relics of St Marinus are honoured in its principal church to this day. Feast: 4 September.

Fr Andrew

4 September 2002