Abbazia di San Galgano-Road Trip

Things to Do, What's New — By katiegreenaway on September 27, 2011 at 10:40 am
The legend of the sword and the stone originated in a small town called San Galgano. If you ever caught yourself watching the Walt Disney version you might have noticed that the movie was loosely based in medieval England. Alas they got it all wrong.
The legend of the young noble son was looking for no good. Galgano Giudotti was born in 1148. Archangel Michael appeared before him and showed him the way to salvation. Galgano went into seclusion thereafter in a cave contemplating life. On his way to pay his last visit to his fiancee, his horse was spooked and threw Galgano to the ground. He then felt himself being lifted up by an invisible force. A voice spoke to him which he couldn’t resist. The momentum of this powerful force took him to Monte Siepi, a hill close to his birth town of Chiusdino.

The abbey without a roof

This voice carried him to the top of the hill where he envisioned a round temple with Jesus and Mary surrounded by the Apostles. Once there, the voice told him to give up his easy living. Galgano replied that it was easier said than done, as easy as splitting a rock with a sword. With grace, Galgano’s sword sunk into the bedrock. He got the message and decided to take on a life of poverty. He made friends with wild animals and occasionally a peasant wandered to the hill looking for Galgano to give him a blessing.

The Round Temple on the hill

Galgano died in 1181 when he was just 33 years old. He was declared a saint four years after his death. The Bishop of Volterra gave Monte Siepi to the Cistercian monks to build a shrine to Galgano. They broke ground in 1185, creating a round chapel that is known as Cappella di Monte Siepi (Monte Siepi Chapel). It is located on the hill above the abbey, with the sword in the stone as the centerpiece. The Chapel shows off a marvelous view of the Abbey from above. Galgano’s body was lost for some reason after his funeral took place. His head, surprisingly was found. His head also was said to have grown golden curls for many years following his death. It was placed in the side chapel. Saint Galgano’s head is currently preserved in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Siena.

The original sword in the stone

In 1218, The order of the Cistercian monks built the Abbazia di San Galgano (Abbey of San Galgano). With the influence of Gothic-Cistercian architecture, the building is impressive and shows what a strong following Saint Galgano had. In the 14th century, the abbey grew to incredible power granted by various emperors. The wealth and power reached the 16th century that in the end set off a disagreement between the Republic of Siena and the Pope. In 1506, Pope Julius II forbid priests to perform liturgical functions at the abbey.

Gorgeous light with the blue sky

After that the Abbey of San Galgano slowly started to disappear. The Abbey became a place to collect building materials. There was looting going on and people started selling pieces of the abbey. The lead plates on the roof where one of the first things to be sold. The roof finally collapsed in 1768, which now enhances the spirituality that was once spoke of by Saint Galgano. With clear view of the Tuscan sky above it can bring one to a state of complete contentment.

Photo Op

When visiting Abbazia di San Galgano, remember to bring your camera. The way the light streams through the windows, the grass grows wildly inside the abbey and how magical it is to not be covered by a roof; your camera is a must. As the sun sets would be a perfect time to visit this magnificent site. The Cappella di Monte Siepi is open to the public to view the original sword and the stone. A very magical place where you can feel the energy of the land paired with the sun shining through each window.
Tags: Abbazia di San Galgano, Cistercian monks, monte siepi chapel, photography, road trip, san galgano, travel, tuscany