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Romanesque churches on Elba Island

A journey to discover medieval parish churches in the Tuscan Archipelago

A holiday on Elba Island is always a good idea. During the summer, the perfect itinerary includes the bays overlooking the sea and loads of food and wine events; in the winter, an excursion to the mountains and the vineyards to see where the Aleatico grape is grown are a must.

For those in search of an “alternative” route for exploring Elba Island, check out the granite Romanesque parish churches. The churches all vaunt a similar structure: a single nave, semi-circular apse facing east, a few single-lancet windows and small bell gables. Many of them have been long abandoned but they still preserve their unfinished and evocative façades, making them priceless treasure chests.

Contents
  • 1.
    Church of Santo Stefano
  • 2.
    Parish Church of San Michele
  • 3.
    Parish Church of San Lorenzo
  • 4.
    Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo
  • 5.
    Church of Santi Pietro e Paolo in Campo
1.

Church of Santo Stefano

Church os Santo Stefano a Trane (Elba Island)
Church os Santo Stefano a Trane (Elba Island) - Credit: Niccolo Rigacci

The Church of S. Stefano, previously known as "alle Trane," is now the most important example of Romanesque religious architecture on Elba Island, and is where Roman-era artefacts were once discovered. The building dates to the second half of the 12th century, its façade decorated with even rows of ivory-coloured alberese stone. It’s layout its simple: a single nave with an apse that was once covered with wooden trusses.

The Church of Santo Stefano alle Trane is located in Magazzini, near Portoferraio, and is the only Romanesque parish church still active today.

1.

Parish Church of San Michele

Parish Church of San Michele
Parish Church of San Michele - Credit: Aisoladelba

This parish church near Capoliveri, dating to the early 12th century, is the oldest work of Romanesque architecture on the island. The few ruins that remain attest to how the church was the most “artistically complete” of all Elba’s Romanesque buildings. Thanks to the outer walls, façade and apse, scholars have been able to reconstruct what the church would have originally looked like, which is assumed to have been a simple, single-nave building with an apse like the other churches on the island. The perfection of the exterior decoration is impressive, which was made with rose-hued local limestone. The parish church is located in S. Rocco, near Capoliveri.

1.

Parish Church of San Lorenzo

The building was designed according to the typical structure of Romanesque churches on Elba, with a single, rectangular nave ending in a semi-circular apse. The stylistic and structural similarities to the Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo are impressive. The wall decoration both inside and outside boasts rows of rough granite that get smaller as they go up. The façade is topped by the ruins (two pillars) of an imposing bell gable. The Parish Church of San Lorenzo is located along the road between Marciana Marina and Marciana.

1.

Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo

Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo
Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo - Credit: Etiene

The Parish Church of San Giovanni in Campo, located halfway up Monte Perone overlooking the villages of San Piero and Sant’Illario, is the largest Romanesque church remaining on Elba Island. The building, whose architectural characteristics dates it to the late 12th century, is decorated with rows of roughly-chiseled granite (the quarries are still active and located not far from the church) that gets smaller as they go up. The façade is interesting, framed by two angular lesenes and topped by a bell gable that is still mostly intact.

1.

Church of Santi Pietro e Paolo in Campo

The Church of Santi Pietro e Paolo in Campo, in San Piero, is one of the most important Romanesque religious buildings on Elba Island. The stylistic similarities to the parish church in Mensano have led scholars to date it to the late 12th century/early 13th century. The unique architecture of the building is particularly interesting, as it is divided into two naves, each with an apse.

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