The church of Santa Maria alle Piane al Canale is part of a group of small sacred buildings (San Frediano and San Bartolomeo a Chiessi, San Biagio a Pomonte), built during the Pisan domination on the impervious mountains of the western Elba, which were the crown to the large rural parish churches of San Giovanni Battista a Campo, San Lorenzo a Poggio and Santa Maria del Monte a Marciana.
Perfectly oriented along the canonical axis that from the east (altar facing Jerusalem and the rising sun) extends to the west, the church of Santa Maria is located at an altitude of 532 m on the vast plateau of the Piane del Canale, formerly cultivated with “marzolino” wheat (i.e. wheat sown in the spring to avoid winter frosts), at a probable settlement today called La Galera or Le Prigioni.
Church structure of Santa Maria
The church of Santa Maria, has significant affinities with the church of San Quirico in Bisinchi in northern Corsica, consists of a small rectangular apsed hall, while the walls are made with the usual cement mixture covered with rows of roughly worked granite drafts, according to the “sack” masonry method, already used in Roman times; a good part of the perimeter remains for an average height of about 1.50 m.
The four corner sections of the classroom and the entire front wall have disappeared, while building completion interventions have been noted over time by the shepherds to adapt the goat fence structure (caprile); other modifications can be attributed to them, such as the closure of the apse by means of a whitewashed wall and the creation of a small “dry” (ie lime-free) compartment with a square plan, leaning against the southern side of the building.
In the internal thickness of the classroom there are 6 lamp-holder niches, 3 on both sides, according to a frequent use found in various Elban Romanesque churches (San Bartolomeo and San Lorenzo) and in Corsica.
Inside the structure there are numerous fragments of roof tiles and reddish clay tiles; removed from its original location, one of the two monolithic jambs that made up the front door is visible.
The external longitudinal development is 11.30 m, while the external width is 5.80 m; the wall thickness is about 60 cm.
The ruins of the church of Santa Maria delle Piane al Canale, built in the 11th-12th century, are located on the Island of Elba in the Monte Capanne area and can be observed along path no. 107.
In May 2003 the church of Santa Maria was the subject of an excavation campaign by the UNESCO Forum.