Church of Santa Maria – Piane al Canale

The church of Santa Maria alle Piane al Canale is part of a group of small sacred buildings (San Frediano and San Bartolomeo in Chiessi, San Biagio in Pomonte), built during the Pisan domination on the impervious mountains of western Elba, which formed the crown of the large rural parish churches of San Giovanni Battista in Campo, San Lorenzo in Poggio and Santa Maria del Monte in Marciana.
Perfectly oriented along the canonical axis which from the east (altar facing Jerusalem and the rising sun) develops towards 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 spring to avoid winter frosts), near a probable settlement today called La Galera or Le Prigioni.

Church structure of Santa Maria

The church of Santa Maria, has notable affinities with the church of San Quirico in Bisinchi in northern Corsica, is made up of a small rectangular hall with an apse, while the walls are made with the usual cement mixture covered with rows of roughly worked granite blocks, according the “sack” masonry method, already used in Roman times; a good part of the wall perimeter remains for an average height of approximately 1.50 m.

The four corner sectors of the hall and the entire front wall have disappeared, while wall completion work carried out over time by shepherds to adapt the structure to a goat enclosure (caprile) can be seen; other modifications can be traced back to them, such as the closure of the apse using lime masonry and the creation of a small “dry” room (i.e. without lime) with a square plan, placed against the southern side of the building.
In the internal thickness of the hall, 6 lamp holder niches are visible, 3 on both sides, according to a frequent use found in various Romanesque churches in Elba (San Bartolomeo and San Lorenzo) and in Corsica.
Inside the structure there are numerous fragments of roof tiles and reddish clay tiles; removed from the original location, one of the two monolithic jambs that constituted the entrance door is visible.
The external longitudinal development is 11.30 m, while the external width is 5.80 m; the wall thickness is approximately 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.