The Hermitage of San Cerbone is located on the slopes of Monte Capanne, at a height of 530 m asl, overlooking the villages of Marciana and Poggio, submerged by centuries-old chestnut trees.
The origin of the Hermitage of San Cerbone dates back to the escape of the bishop of Populonia to the Island of Elba due to the Lombard raids. Cerbone chose the valley of Monte Capanne as a refuge. According to tradition, the church was built immediately after the saint’s death, in 575, but is explicitly mentioned only in 1421, in relation to the Franciscan Observance convent built on the site. The friars soon abandoned the convent which was later transformed into a hermitage. The façade has a granite portal with a projecting frame and interrupted arch and two small windows with railings on the sides. The interior with a single nave with a gabled roof preserves the ancient altars and terracotta floors. A nineteenth-century canvas on the high altar depicts “San Cerbone”.
There Cave of the Holy
In a rocky wall 300 meters from the hermitage is the There Cave of the Holy (with a negligible depth), the place where Bishop Cerbone lived for two years.
The Hermitage of S. Cerbone
Founded by S. Cerbone between the year 573 and 575 this hermitage is the oldest place of worship on the island of Elba. rebuilt in 1421 by the prince appiani at the suggestion of S. Bernardino di siena, it fell into disuse during the second half of this century. it was emptied of its original furniture, vandalized and covered in graffiti and left in complete abandonment. A group of international friends, who chose the quiet and peace of the island after the Second World War, wanted the restoration of this historic church as a thank you to the people of Elba for the happy years they spent here. The work lasted 14 years and was finished in 1993.
Who was Cerbone bishop of Popuonia
San Cerbone, a native of Africa, was bishop of Populonia at the time of the barbarian invasions, in the sixth century. Pontiff St. Gregory the Great speaks of him in his Dialogues, calling him a “man of venerable life, who gave great proofs of holiness”. The most famous of these tests was given when Totila was looking for some Roman and Christian soldiers. The holy bishop of Populonia hid them and for this incurred the wrath of the barbarian king, who decreed his death by means of wild beasts. He sent Cerbone to the so-called Campo del Merlo, where a ferocious bear would have to tear him to pieces, in the presence of the king himself. The show seemed to promise great emotions, but Totila had not foreseen a fact that astounded him: when the bear came in front of the bishop he was almost petrified in the act of aggression, with his front legs raised and his jaws wide open. Then, slowly, he fell back on his claws, closed his mouth and began to lick the saint’s feet with unexpected meekness. Totila released Cerbone, but after the Goths of Totila the Lombards came to drive out the bishop of Populonia, who then took refuge in the island of Elba .
San Cerbone and Elba
Legend has it that, now old and close to dying, the bishop had asked to be buried in Populonia, still in the hands of the Lombards, recommending his followers to immediately return to the sea after having provided for his burial. When the saint died, the followers crossed the Piombino Canal without being miraculously seen by the enemies because of the clouds and mists. At Poggio on the island of Elba the oral tradition is still alive which tells of an imposing south-west wind that when the boat passes by Cerbone’s body subsided, creating a flat sea route from Marina di Poggio towards Baratti. His parents were thus able to bury the body of Cerbone in the Gulf of Baratti, in which still today stands a small building dedicated to the saint, the Chapel of San Cerbone.
The body of San Cerbone, however, was later transferred to the cathedral of Massa Marittima, when this was chosen as the new seat of the diocese.
How to reach San Cerbone
The Romitorio is 2 km from Poggio , the first 500 m can be done by car, then around the height of the Napoleon Fountain you have to continue on foot for another 1500 m, the road is comfortable, but uphill, about 200 m the difference in height. It is located on the path n. 101 between Poggio and Marciana , at an altitude of 530 meters above sea level on a small plateau on the slopes of Mount Huts.