Matrimonio napoleonico

This article is been writen for the magazine of touristic promotion Elba Per2 e non solo… (Edition 2021/2022) by the archivist Gloria Peria who wrote the screenplay for the short film “Un Amore ai tempi di Napoleone” (Love at the time of Napoleon) that I created and made together with my precious collaborator Alessandra Tozzi.

Looking out of the first-floor window of an old building, Maria arranges the candles in two glass beakers and lights them while a young soldier from the patrol passing in the street gives her a furtive look. Their gazes meet for an instant just as the girl blows out the cauldron. He is Giovanni, a soldier from Longone who belonged to Napoleon’s Elban battalion. The two young people saw each other in passing over the next few days and one day, as the girl was going to Mass, he approached her and asked her name. From that meeting an immediate liking and attraction were born. There are not many occasions to see each other but the young man manages to confide in Maria his fear that Napoleon is planning an escape from Elba with his soldiers in tow. So, it may happen that he too has to follow the Emperor in his crazy project. In order to avert this event, Maria decides to ask the Virgin Mary for grace, and to make the sacrifice more onerous and effective, the girl chooses the Marian shrine furthest from her village: she goes with her nursemaid to the Madonna del Monte sanctuary in Marciana. Reassured by his military superiors as to Napoleon’s intentions, who seems to be busy on the isle, and showing no desire to leave, the young man decides to ask for Maria’s hand. Giovanni and Maria were married in the Sanctuary of Monserrato on 8 September, the very day in which the birth of the Madonna was celebrated, in the presence of the Mayor of Longone himself, Maire Massimo Gasperi, and the Polish Colonel Jermanowski, who had just been appointed Commander of the Spanish Fort by Napoleon. After the ceremony, the wedding celebrations take place at a family friend’s house on the Chiusa estate, in Magazzini. At the end of the festivities, Maria, in honour of the grace received, goes up on foot, this time with her husband, to the Madonna del Monte Sanctuary. Here he lays his beloved Elban coral bracelet on the wrist of the statue of the Virgin. It is, as tradition would have it, an ex voto, a sincere sign of gratitude to the Virgin of the Mount for allowing his dream of love to come true.

Soldati napoleonici
Un Amore ai tempi di Napoleone

«In the year of our Lord 1814, on the 8th of September, I, Francesco Sclan, provost of this church of the title of San Giacomo Maggiore, having made the three usual complaints on the three feast days, the first of which was the 31st of July, the second on the 7th and the third on the 14th of August, and not having discovered any impediment, having come to the Church of Monserrato, I have received their mutual consent and have joined in holy matrimony Giovanni  son of Rocco Bianchi with the girl Maria Assunta daughter of Vincenzo Cinganelli, both natives of this parish, in the presence of Mr Maire Massimo Gasperi and Mr Colonel Jermanowschi,Witnesses.» (1)


Un amore ai tempi di Napoleone

It all started when I found this document in my notes in the parish archives of Porto Azzurro. When I reread it, I immediately thought of Rossella Celebrini – a native of Elba, editorial director of the tourist promotion magazine Elba Per2, project manager and organiser of events and weddings since 2004 – and how much she would have appreciated knowing about this event which took place in the beautiful and evocative Sanctuary of Monserratoon 8 September 1814, the day dedicated to the nativity of Mary.  Reading it, I imagined that Napoleonhimself might have liked to attend it and, unable to do so because of some other unavoidable commitment, had commissioned the faithful Polish Colonel Jermanowski, who arrived with him on Elba in May and was immediately appointed commander of the Spanish Fort, to preside over the ceremony. Coincidentally, the day after I found the document, I received a phone call from Rossella, who suggested that I write a script about a wedding that took place during the time of Napoleon. Curious! One should not go against destiny, especially in this case, since with Rossella I share the desire to enhance the history of our island in a rigorous way but declined in various ways, including the less classic and obvious ones.  The screenplay therefore came about very naturally, starting with the historical document and imagining an outline that was as inherent as possible to the purpose of the video itself: to tell in a few minutes a love story at the time of Napoleon.  With great passion, Rossella herself and Alessandra Tozzi , a close collaborator of Rossella Celebrini with whom she collaborates in the realisation of the magazine Elba Per2 as editorial coordinator and public relations officer, have worked to ensure that every detail is observed and that the narrative is plausible, even if imaginary, as well as events and weddings, Luca Bellosi and Ilaria Petrucci, respectively President and Vice-President of theAssociation Petite Armée Isola d’Elba, its re-enactors (2) and other valid participants, including Diletta Paoli and Tommaso Pozzetto in the guise of Maria and Giovanni, ensured the excellent production of the video. Video maker Daniele Fiaschi (3)and photographer Matteo Migliozzi have captured the events and the landscape with great skill and artistic sensitivity. The sites chosen were Forte Falcone in Portoferraio and, above all, those where the island’s two most important and evocative Marian shrines are located, Santa Maria del Monte in Marciana and Monserrato in PortoAzzurro. Finally, in the overall context, I was keen to include the figure of the painter – enthusiastically played by Belinda Biancotti, a truly talented artist – with the aim of emphasising that in the European cultural panorama, in the first decades of the 19th century, women had finally carved out a role for themselves in the contemporary art scene.

1) Parish Archive of Porto Azzurro, Book of marriages from 1794 to 1840.

2) Daniele Bellosi (Napoleon),Luca Bellosi, (Napoleonic Captain), Ilaria Petrucci, (Napoleonic Lieutenant), Franco Bellosi(Napoleonic veteran), Antonio Braschi (Private), Patrick Pacini (Napoleonic soldier on horseback, Tommaso Pozzetto (Groom and Private), Roberto Frangioni (Maire) Marzia Maselli, (Maria’s nurse), Diletta Paoli (Bride), Belinda Biancotti (Painter), Sara Fabiani, Cristina Corsi, Marina Rossut, Tommaso Montauti, Carlo Rizzoli, Donatella Bartolommei, Marco Pozzetto (Priest), Gregorio Esposito, Chiara Rebua, Guglielmo Bonifati, Lola and Maya Conte Lazaro (Children). Special thanks go to Angelo Cardone as Colonel Jermanowschiand to Marzia Maselli for their valuable cooperation.

3) Special thanks to Michael Monni and Francesco Bruschetta.

Santuario della Madonna del Monte
Santuario della Madonna del Monte Marciana
Ginestra dell'isola d'Elba
Santuario della Madonna del Monte