The ancient Romanesque church of the Saints Peter and Paul inSan Piero, named as "Ecclesia Sancti Petri de Ilva" in the Ecclesiastical list from the XIII century, was given the name of San Nicolò in 1500, when the new parish church dedicated specifically to the Saints Peter and Paul was built.
According to documents dating back to the XIV century the original name of the village of San Piero, Sancto Petro de Campo
, was thanks to the church. Many alterations have been carried out over the centuries, and although it is considered simply one of the many Roman churches in Elba, both its characteristic two naves of the same width and its two apses date it back to the XI and X centuries.
It was built in the VII century on top of the remains of what had been a pagan temple dedicated to Glauco (the god of the sea), and in fact some ceramic fragments in black paint have been found there.
Inside, today little more than three of the initial five bays, you can still see the two columns from the Romanesque period that separate the two naves and come to an end in two capitals. Both the arcades above the supports and the arches that crown the apses, filled with tiny stone chippings and bricks, date back to the Romanesque period. The two apsis are unique and make the church unicum in all of the Tuscan Archipelago;it is also quite likely that in the years the church was still dedicated to the Saints Peter and Paul, the apses too were dedicated to them, because there are remains of a fresco of Saint Peter holding the book and the keys.
The interior walls are decorated with frescos from the XIII and XIV centuries, and although experts believe the paintings were done by a Catalan artist from the XV century, they could be described as "somewhat Pisan". The three frescos are of the Cruxifiction, the Trinity and Saint Michael, Saint Niccolò and Saint Sebastian.
In the XV century the Appians, Lords of Piombino, had two towers-ramparts built (one facing the west and the other facing the east), as an attempt to strenghthen the original building to protect it from the pirate attacks on behalf of Dragut the pirate This meant the two apsis had to come down and the facade brought further back, so much of the side walls had to be rebuilt.
Since the original floor stood on underground vaults, seemingly up to the early 1800s the Church was also used as a cemetery, but when the floor was redone the tombs were closed for good, and a marble emblem in memory of the dead was placed on top.
Piazzale Belvedere (known as Facciatoja in San Piero) is opposite the church, which proves the church was also used for defense, and from here you can admire the breathtaking view of the gulf of Marina di Campo with the islands of Pianosa, Montecristo and Giglio in the horizon.
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