Legends of Elba Island: beato Leonardo and the “nomen sacrum”

blessed leonardo

Those who had the fortune to visit Portoferraio (and obviously also the ones who live there), have surely noticed them. Instead, the ones who visit this city for the first time, should keep their eyes open. Because on many walls of Portoferraio there are three letters, I.H.S., and just few people know that they were incised by the protagonist of one of the many legends of Elba Island.

And the main character is beato Leonardo monk. Who, in 1792, went to Portoferraio to preach against the deplorable practice of curse, which was so widespread on the island. His preach was convincing, incisive and vehement. The monk started making proselytes who followed him on the road and helped him in his mission.

Beato Leonardo advocated Portoferraio’s citizens to live a life inspired by the canons of the Christian moral. Many families of the city greeted his message. And the monk wrote these three letters, I.H.S., on the walls and on the doors of these houses.

In accordance with the popular interpretation, they mean Iesus hominum salvator (“Jesus Savior of Men”). In accordance with another interpretation, they should mean In hoc signo (vinces), or “you’ll win with this sign”. Whatever is the right translation, in this way beato Leonardo indicated that he accomplished his work.


Image source: Flickr.com/photos/fabiodilupo

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