Coat of Arms

The Coat of Arms of Ronco sopra Ascona represents Saint Martin as a soldier dividing his cape  with a sword to donate one half to a pauper. The choice of Saint Martin as patron of Ronco and later on as the icon for the village’s coat of arms seems to be tied to the religious history of the Islands of Brissago. On the Isola Maggiore, in fact, there was church Sancti Martini de Insula. At the beginning of the Eleventh Century, some nuns called “Umiliate” (the “Humbled” ) settled here and founded a convent. As their patron saint, however they chose Saint Pancratium instead of Saint Martin, to whom the church on the island had been dedicated until that time. Ronco thus decided to adopt Saint Martin as its patron and to dedicate the parish church to him; later on, he was also chosen as the icon for the coat of arms, in occasion of the 150° anniversary of the entry of the Canton of Ticin (in 1803) into the Swiss Federation. Today’s portrayal of Saint Martin that may be found both on the Municipality’s banner and on the official coat of arms was inspired by a drawing by a famous artist Richard Seewald, who lived and worked in Ronco. 

Saint Martin – The Biography

Martin was born as son of a roman military officer in Pannonia, modern day Hungary, in the year 316 and even as a child showed great interest in Christianity. At the age of 15, his father obliged him to enrol in the Roman Guard. At 18, having obtained exemption from military service from the emperor, he went to Poitiers and under Bishop Hilarius, completed his religious training and was baptized and ordained a priest. His humility and charity have given rise to various legends, among which the episode of the divided cape that, it is said, occurred even prior to his baptism. Until 371, year in which he was appointed bishop of Tours, he lived like a hermit and even later continued to conduct a simple life based on austerity and sacrifice. Among the works that he was able to complete the following are worth recalling: the Monastery of Ligugé, that of Marmontier and the Convent in Tours. Martin died in Candes on November 11th 397 and was buried in the Tours Cathedral. His fame became so widespread that France adopted him as the nation’s patron saint.

Saint Martin – The Legend

It is the 11th of November and it is a cold and rainy day. Martin is galloping on his horse, wrapped in his soldier’s cape. At a certain point along his path, he encounters a poor, freezing old man covered in just a few rags. Martin would like to help him, giving him some money, but has none so he decides to cut his cape in two, offering the other half to the old man. Not long afterwards, while he is galloping happy for his charitable deed, it stops raining, the wind dies, the air becomes mild and the sun comes out from behind the clouds. This is where the expression “Saint Martin’s Summer”(Indian Summer) derives from. At night, Martin dreams Jesus who, holding the cape in his hand, thanks him for his act of compassion. 

Saint Martin – Torch-light Procession at Ronco

Even today in Ronco, on November 11th, the feast day of the patron Saint Martin is celebrated as in many other European cities like Venice, for example. The tradition is that at sunset, the children of the village participate in a torch-light procession holding torches that they themselves have made out of coloured paper. Accompanied by parents and relatives, the children parade through the historical centre, singing rhymes. This small “procession”, consisting in many coloured lights and made even more pleasant by the songs of our little “Ronchesi” is truly a very suggestive moment (see also Permanent Events in Ronco sopra Ancona).