One hundred posts! How can it be?! Thank you for reading, for visiting, for commenting, for following! One of the motivations for starting the blog was to provide an outlet for reminiscing about and preserving some of my favorite memories of a special trip we had to Italy the previous summer. To celebrate the 100th post, I am sharing one of my favorite lesser-known sites of Tuscany — the ruins of the Abbey of San Galgano.
The Abbey of San Galgano was founded by Cistercian monks and constructed in the 1200’s, in dedication to St. Galganus (whose story is told later in this post). During the 16th century, the abbey declined and the monastery was abandoned. Given its age, the ruins are remarkably intact and it remains a stunning piece of architecture nestled among the Tuscan sunflower fields.
Click on any of the photos in the gallery to view the full-sized slide show.
Can you imagine attending an opera or concert in this beautiful open-air setting with stars twinkling above you on a warm summer night? Some day I hope to return and enjoy one of the many such events these ruins host during the summer. But, first, continue on the path to learn more about San Galgano and the sword in the stone.
On the hill a short walk away from the abbey ruins is an interesting chapel.
Contained in the chapel is a sword in a stone, which reportedly was tested to verify its age from the 12th century.
The story of the sword in the stone is relayed on San Galgano’s website:
It’s towards the end of 1100 A.D.. The story that we are about to tell centers around a round chapel, a knight and a sword in the stone. But instead of the mythical kingdom of Camelot, we are in Montesiepi, in the heart of Tuscany.
The sword in the stone is not Excalibur and the knight is not King Arthur.
Its mystery is kept in a book that has been sealed for more than 800 years. A book that could reveal many of the secrets that surround the search for the Holy Grail.
Galgano Guidotti was born in Chiusdino in 1148, the only son of Guido and Dionisia. From his youth, Galgano leads rather a dissolute life, until, at the age of 32, the Archangel Gabriel appears to him in a dream and tells him to follow him. In the dream, Galgano receives an order from the 12 apostles to build a round chapel at Montesiepi and to retire there to live. His mother and friends try to convince him to desist, but his horse takes fright and takes him to Montesiepi.
At Montesiepi, Galgano thrusts the Sword forcefully into the ground to make a cross and miraculously the Sword gets stuck in the stone. This situation causes quite a sensation and Montesiepi becomes filled with many pilgrims asking Galgano to outperform Miracles. Before his canonization in 1185, 19 such miracles occur.
When Galgano died in 1181, a round chapel was built — the Montesiepi Chapel. Additional history surrounding the sword in the stone and San Galgano’s speculative link to King Arthur and the search for the Holy Grail can be found here. A charming herbalist’s shop is located near the entrance of the chapel.
We had planned to spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring Siena, but needed some sustenance before then (particularly with two teen-aged boys in tow). As we drove along the winding Tuscan roads from San Galgano toward Siena, we saw a sign directing us up a hill to a restaurant in the little village of Chiusdino. We still talk about the Ristorante Vecchio Frantoio as one of our favorite restaurant experiences during our week in Tuscany. While we had not planned on a full menu for our quick lunch, once viewing it, we could not resist. My husband spent months trying to reinvent the wonderful cinghiale (boar) ragu over noodles he enjoyed there, and my butter-sage sauce was the perfect accompaniment to perfectly prepared gnocchi. As the rain came down, we enjoyed our leisurely lunch, eventually meandering on to Siena.
Map to the Abbey of San Galgano:
Map to the Ristorante Vecchio Frantoio in Chiusdino:
The San Galgano website was the helpful resource for planning our day visit to this interesting sight, as well as the source of much of the history and interesting facts I shared with you in this post. The website is in Italian, with translations available in English, German, Dutch and French. The Sacred Destinations website has useful information on San Galgano, also, some of which I shared with you in this post.
Ciao! ~ Kat