San Mamiliano, patron saint of the island of Giglio, is celebrated here on September 15th every year. But the saint is revered in many other places. The "pieces" of his body are scattered throughout Italy, precious relics that are carried in procession, in the case of Giglio, the right arm!
Who was San Mamiliano
San Mamiliano lived in 400 AD. and he was bishop of Palermo, but during the persecution of the Vandals, he was sent into exile in Africa, in Carthage. From there, redeemed by some African bishop (San Paolino da Nola), he retired to Cagliari, then to the island of Tavolara and finally to the island of Montecristo where he lived in the so-called Grotta di San Mamiliano.
Today, along the slopes of the mountain of the Fortress, dominated by the remains of the Fortress of Montecristo, there is still the cave that popular devotion has always identified as the abode of the holy hermit. A belief attested from the seventeenth century affirmed that the Grotta del Santo was the only cave on the island not to be soiled by the excrement of wild goats (Capra aegagrus). Inside the cave, numerous ex-votos bear witness to the passage of generations of pilgrims and sailors,
The cult of the saint is intimately connected with the spread of the Gospel in the Tuscan archipelago and in the lower Maremma. Mamiliano was one of the first evangelizers of Tuscany and still today the cult of him is widespread among the sailors of the Tuscan archipelago, especially on Elba and Giglio, and there are many legends born around this saint.
The winged dragon and its treasure
When Mamiliano landed on the island of Montecristo (at the time called Monte Giove), this small island was jealously guarded by a huge winged dragon. A fierce battle ensued from which Mamiliano emerged victorious. The killing of the dragon produced two effects: a source of pure water (still existing) and the discovery of a fabulous treasure which in turn became a legend ... and more!
In fact, the popular legend that told of the presence of a treasure under the altar of the monastery of San Mamiliano in Montecristo, inspired Alexandre Dumas where in the famous novel “The Count of Montecristo” tells of his discovery.
Yet there really was a mythical treasure, but not the one that Abbot Faria had given to Edmond Dantès and it wasn't even on the island of Montecristo. It was well hidden in one of the many monasteries that Mamiliano would have founded. In Sovana in 2004 the archaeologists of the Superintendency of Siena found under the altar a "treasure" consisting of 498 gold coins minted under the emperors Leo I and Anthony, both in power in the fifth century AD. and therefore dating back to the period in which San Mamiliano lived.
The right arm of San Mamiliano
A last legend, the most "crude", concerns the body of San Mamiliano.
It is said that on 15 September 460, when he died, a column of smoke rose on the highest peak of the island as a signal to rush to recover the body. The first to arrive were the Gigliesi, but immediately afterwards Elbani and Corsi arrived. All fighting over the body of the saint who, pulls, pulls, is dismembered into many pieces. In fact, the relics of the saint are today scattered between Palermo, Rome, Pisa, the island of Elba, Sovana and the island of Giglio.
… And the legend, or rather the miracle, continues. On 15 September, the day of San Mamiliano, at Giglio, the right arm of the patron saint (the "piece" that touched her!) Is venerated in procession in memory of 18 November 1799, when the islanders were saved from the assault of the Tunisians . The Gigliesi were few and almost helpless, but they did not give up and continued to resist praying to San Mamiliano, who made appear on the walls of the fortress of the Rocca, the likeness of a multitude of soldiers, so many as to frighten the besiegers by pushing them to flee.