The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista, located on the road leading to Monte Perone, is among the largest of the Romanesque churches built on the island of Elba. The church built in the countryside as often happened for the Pievi erected in that historical period, was built with robust granite blocks from the nearby San Piero quarry. The supporting structure is still in excellent condition. The roof was supported by wooden trusses, destroyed after a fire, the consequence of the Turkish assault of 1553. The partially repaired parish continued to officiate until 1837. Adjacent to the church there was a hermitage and a vineyard.
The church faces east, so that for the summer solstice, the sun illuminating the interior, together with the frescoes and the narrow single-lancet windows, gave maximum splendor to the Pieve. Drawing depicting the Church of San Giovanni.
Not far from the church there are two other monuments, the Tower of San Giovanni and the Romitorio di San Francesco.
Directions on the Pieve poster
The Pieve di San Giovanni Battista was built around 1150, during the Pisan rule.
The building is mentioned in the Rationes decimarum of 1298; in 1553 it was set on fire by the Turks allies of the French against the Habsburgs and the roof was partially rebuilt in correspondence with the presbytery. The Pieve was officiated until 1837. A hermitage documented from the eighteenth century existed against the southern flank.
The plan reflects the precepts of the First Council of Nicaea (325): the semicircular apse faces east (towards Jerusalem) so that on June 21 (summer solstice) the rising sun illuminates the interior.
The interior of the parish church, formerly frescoed and covered by wooden trusses, was illuminated by narrow single-lancet windows and two cross-shaped openings located under the bell tower and above the apse.
In 1343 a vineyard belonging to the parish is documented “… in vinea plebis Sancti Iohannis de Campo …”
How to reach the Church of San Giovanni
The Pieve di San Giovanni is easily reachable from the road that from Sant’Ilario and San Piero leads to Monte Perone. About 3/4 km after passing these villages, we find the Church of San Giovanni on our left, about 30 m from the road. The Torre di San Giovanni precedes it by about 300m.