Parishes and Romanesque Churches
Experiences of Territorial Culture

Parishes and Romanesque Churches

Compass in hand, go on a hunt for the mystery of the foundation of these religious buildings, amidst striking architecture and astronomical alignments.

In the Middle Ages, the Elban territory was divided into four parishes that reported to four parishes, all dependent on the bishop of Massa Marittima. Pievi, rural churches, administered the sacrament of baptism and also performed civil and administrative functions that are now the responsibility of municipalities.

The structure of parish churches and astronomical alignments. Medieval architects left nothing to chance, especially in the construction of churches, which had to adhere to precise astronomical alignments. In particular, the small window in the apse-the single-lancet window-was meant to catch the first rays of the sun at the dawn of the equinoxes, which is why Romanesque churches followed a foundation in which the longest part was aligned according to the east-west axis, with the apse to the east. This means that the church recreated on earth a transposition of the heavenly vault. If you are an avid medievalist, compass in hand, go and discover Elba's Romanesque churches, and find out if their orientation is aligned on the solstices or equinoxes...

The plover of St. John the Baptist in Ferraja. The most representative parish in this area is that of St. John the Baptist and St. Sylvester, in Ferraja, which was completely destroyed in the 16th century. Dependent on this were the church of Santo Stefano alle Trane in Magazzini, still attended by the faithful today, and the Romanesque church of San Quirico, in the territory of Grassera a Rio, destroyed in 1534 probably by Barbarossa.

The plover of Capoliveri. Represented by the parish church of St. Michael the Archangel, the area included the church of Our Lady of the Snow in Lacona, located on a knoll surrounded by Mediterranean scrub. Although showing an architectural imprint of the 18th century, this church is actually founded on an older part of medieval origin, making it one of the oldest in all of Elba.

The plover of Marciana. This area was headed by the parish church of San Lorenzo (12th century), located between the towns of Marciana and Poggio in a small flat clearing. Only ruins remain of the church today: it was probably destroyed by Ottoman pirates in 1554.

The Plover of Campo nell'Elba Concluding our list is this area, capped by the parish church of St. John the Baptist in Campo, located on the slopes of Mount Perone. Connected to it were the church of St. Nicholas, in San Piero in Campo, an important and significant Romanesque building of national importance. While all Elban Romanesque churches have a single nave ending in the apse, this church has a double nave and double apse. Dependent on the parish were the church of Sant'Ilario in Campo and that of Santa Maria delle Piane del Canale, the ruins of which are not far from the parish itself.

Visiting the pievi, striking monuments built in different eras, means immersing oneself in Elba's fascinating past, but it is also an opportunity to explore the island in its variety of scenery, amid lush vegetation and spectacular views.

Travel notes

Middle Ages

Romanesque churches

Mount Perone




Mines of Rio Marina

Strategic location for the large amount of hematite and limonite immediately identified by the emperor as soon as he landed on the island as a strategic-military axis.
Location: Rio Marina

Paolina Beach

The beach is named after the islet a few meters from the shore, itself named after Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister who, according to a legend (probably created by a tourism entrepreneur in the 1960s) loved to sunbathe on these rocks.

Location: Marciana

San Martino Villa

Designated as a summer residence, Napoleon purchased the property from the Manganaro family in 1814, with the intention of transforming it into a comfortable and refined abode that would have nothing to envy from Parisian residences.

Location: Località San Martino (Portoferraio)

Mulini Villa

Built in 1724 by Grand Duke Gaston de’ Medici, it was Napoleon’s city residence during his first stay on Elba Island.

Location: Portoferraio

Sanctuary of Monserrato

It was built as a sign of gratitude in 1606 by José Pons y León of the Dukes of Arcos, Spanish governor of Naples and first governor of the square of Longone (part of the state of principals). In September 1814 Napoleon, accompanied by Pons and Bertrand wanted to visit the sanctuary.

Location: Località Monserrato (Portoazzurro)

MUM Mineralogical Museum

While the Elban economy today is based on tourism, the fact remains that the people of San Piero and the west coast (Pomonte) have also lived and continue to live off their granite and marble

Location: San Piero in Campo

Port and Tower of Marciana Marina

Visit the harbor where Maria Walewska landed and the armed watchtower visited by Napoleon himself in 1814

Location: Marciana Marina