San Galgano &
in the stone
The Abbey of San Galgano,
one of the most evocative places in the itineraries
of Tuscan spirituality,
We are in the municipality of Chiusdino (SI) along the SS 73, towards Massa Marittima. Here is the Rotonda di Montesiepi, as the complex of the Hermitage with the “sword in the stone” is called, also including the ruins of the ancient Abbey of San Galgano, famous throughout the world as the roofless Gothic-style church. Founded to welcome pilgrims in 1218, it was then completed by the Cistercian monks, together with the adjoining monastery, in 1262.
The Abbey has a Latin cross plan with three naves, 71 m long and 21 wide, has 16 pillars and orientation of the apse to the east.
The abbeys, which from the architectural point of view, must have been of considerable formal sobriety, stood along important communication routes (in this case the Via Maremmana) to facilitate communications with the parent company.
Generally they were placed near rivers (here the Merse) to be able to exploit the hydraulic power; and in wooded or marshy places to be able to reclaim them and then exploit the land for cultivation.
In the fourteenth century the abbey enjoyed great power and splendor, thanks to generous donations and the privileges granted by various emperors, including Frederick II, to which was added the exemption from tithing by Pope Innocent III.
Unfortunately, just a few centuries later, this fell into disrepair and even the Commendatory Girolamo Vitelli, in 1550, sold the lead roof. There were various attempts to restore the convent but, in 1789, the Abbey was deconsecrated and definitively declined. Today its evocative ruins infuse deep emotions, now you can only look at its structure, while its ceiling has become the stars, and the floor a soft green lawn.
A few hundred meters away, stands the hermitage where the “sword in the stone” is kept, which according to tradition was stuck by Galgano Guidotti, at the height of his conversion, on Christmas day 1180, in order to transform the weapon in a cross. San Galgano was famous for having retired to a hermit life to give himself to penance, with the same intensity with which, previously, he had given himself to debauchery.
In the Montesiepi site we find further elements of mystery. For example, the dome of the hermitage consists of concentric circles in which bands of white stone and bricks alternate, the same alternation with which the interior of the dome is also built, with a circular plan as in the ancient temples, all this brings back to a symbolism they pay. The same surrounding wood also reminds emotionally and spiritually, a Celtic / Etruscan area. While the structure has always been particularly linked to the Templars, it could be one of the hypothetical hiding places of the Grail. To fuel this hypothesis, the evidence of the existence of an empty room, under the floor of the church, for which authorization has never been given for the excavations. Therefore, what that room actually contains remains a mystery to this day. In the stories surrounding San Galgano, the analogies with the events of King Arthur, the knights of the round table and the search for the Grail are numerous.
What is certain is that the sword in the stone still represents an extraordinary and unknown relic of the twelfth century.
Proven fact, both from the style of the visible part of this, protruding from the boulder, and from subsequent scientific tests. It is also worth mentioning that splendid frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti are on display in the hermitage. Overall, this monumental site, amidst legends, architecture and landscape beauties, represents one of the most evocative places in Tuscany.
Therefore, it is guaranteed that a visit to San Galgano alone can be worth the trip to Tuscany, if only for the magic and suggestions that this place is capable of arousing.
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