|How to get there||You get to the hermitage by following the track that connects the towns of Marciana and Poggio.|
The hermitage of San Cerbone is very near Poggio, and sits on a flat piece of land at the foot of Monte Capanne, at a height of 530 metres above sea level. There are beautiful woods full of century old chestnut trees all around the church, and the greenery is so thick that if you stand back you can barely make out the church.
In August, a time when the chestnuts are ripe and ready for picking, the surrounding environment is breathtaking: the colours of the woods go from pale yellow to rust and to orange.
Legend has it that this is where the Bishop of Populonia fled to when he arrived on the Island of Elba in 569 in order to avoid the Barbarian invasions on behalf of the Lombards led by Gummarith; the minimal layout of the church, thought very likely to be a commemorative shrine or "tropaeum" after San Cerbone's death in 575, shows that he lived here. As you can read on the plaque on the wall outside the church, and according to the legend, "[...]this hermitage is the oldest place of worship on the Island of Elba".
As with other archaic, religious buildings in the Archipelago, it was rebuilt and enlarged in Romanic times. A monastery was established in 1421.
Interesting factAt the time when the monastery was built, Marciana and Poggio were two, separate municipalities, and the "border" between the two was right where the church of San Cerbone sits. The part of the building to the west belonged to Marciana while the part to the east belonged to Poggio. This immaginary division gave rise to the harsh saying born in Marciana: "Santa Caterina è nossa, di San Cerbone ce n'avemo mezzo" (Santa Caterina belongs to us but we only have half of San Cerbone).
The monastery however didn't last very long. Because of the severe weather conditions and the difficulty to actually reach it, the monks soon gave it up and it was then made into a hermitage.
In the nineteenth century, when the Island of Elba was under the Grand duchy of Tuscany, the existence of the hermitage came to an end. The building was given a new lease of life thanks to the Danish noble Viggo Dimitri of Wichfeld, with the help of Paolo Ferruzzi and Franco Segnini. The renovation work was finalised in 1993 and a plaque was put on the wal of the church in commemoration.
It is very difficult to see inside the church because it is almost always closed, but if you want you can glimpse in through the window.
The actual structure of the church is very simple and minimal: one nave only, wooden beams on the ceiling, terracotta tiles on the floors, but no friezes or frescos on the walls.Inside there are two side altars dedicated to San Giacomo and the Madonna della Neve.
There is an absolutely beautiful nineteenth century painting hung up over the main altar of San Cerbone "in cathedra" with the geese of miracles.
The facade has a square main door made of granite that came from the local quarry with a pointed, arch shaped tympanum above it, and an oval shaped blind oculum at the top. There are two small, stone windows with iron grids at either side of the entrance. A small, bell tower stands at the top of the facade. Behind the church you can still see what used to be the home of the hermits.
Interesting fact: in the past a fig tree used to grow next to the church, and was called The Fig tree of San Cerbone which had an unusual characteristic: despite the area being so high up plus the fact that the surrounding territory is very damp the figs ripened very late on in the year, to be precise they were ripe for the Patron Saint's day on October 10th.
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