San Leo is one of the most beautiful and unusual places of the Montefeltro where the military architecture of the handsome Fort seems to merge with the rock on which it stands. The climb up to the top of the mount is impressive. According to legend, a hermitage was founded on the mount by Leone, a Dalmatian stonemason who, after leaving his job in the port of Rimini together with Marino, who moved to Monte Titano, and Agata, who went to Sant’Agata Feltria, began his evangelical work in the area of Feretrio, during the 4th century; he gave his sermons at the temple dedicated to Giove Feretrio on Mons Feretrius – the mount where San Leo now stands – and became the first Bishop of Montefeltro. Due to its dominating position, San Leo was a desirable place and much contested over the centuries; between 961 and 963 it was the capital of the Italian Kingdom under Berengario II. After the year 1000, San Leo was donated to the Roman Church and the town took the name of San Leo, while the Diocese retained the name of Montefeltro. San Leo was then at the centre of the disputes between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines and became a feud of the Montefeltro, who created the fortifications of the impregnable Fort at the end of the spur. Evidence of the importance of this small town in relation to the political geography of the time is San Francesco’s first visit to receive Monte della Verna as a gift from Count Orlando di Chiusi, and then also the visit of Dante Alighieri. The importance of the centre is evident today, too, in the form of its magnificent monuments like the Duomo, the Parish church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Bell-tower, the seventeenth century Church of Madonna di Loreto, and, of course, the Palazzo Mediceo and the Palazzo della Rovere, among others. In 1631, San Leo came into the possession of the Papal State and its Fort was used as a prison. There are many legends surrounding this remarkable fort; the most famous is undoubtedly that of the Count of Cagliostro who was imprisoned here and whose body, when he died, disappeared mysteriously without a trace. Fresh flowers can now always be found in what was his cell…

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