San Galgano and the Legend of the Sword in the Stone

By 11 Novembre 2011 Traveling in Tuscany

I wish to dedicate this post to one of the most suggestive and mysterious places of all Tuscany: San Galgano Abbey; an outstanding roofless church located near the charming village of Chiusi, south west of Siena. I’ve been there many times; the place is unique and absolutely perfect to take fantastic photographs and admire the enchanting Sienese contryside:-)

This ancient Gothic abbey, dating back to the 13th century, is full of charm and very romantic; once you get there you are soon surprised by the magnificence of an imposing church having the sky as its roof, grass as its pavement and patches of frescoes hidden behind the vegetation.

The abbey was built during the 13th century by the Cistercian order and soon became a powerful monastic center in Tuscany. The monks dedicated to manual activities, mainly land cultivation, but also to study and prayer. San Galgano became quickly a small flourishing center. However, by the end was the century the abbey became to gradually decline until the monks abandoned the place and the building decayed.

But what about the name “San Galgano” and its legend?

Galgano Guidotti was a noble knight that had conducted a life of violent battles, dissipation, and pleasures of any kind. After a vision of St Michael, however, he decided to change life embracing Christian faith and living as a monk.


Legend has it that during the visit from his family he stuck his sword into a rock and a sort of miracle happened! The sword stuck so deeply and strongly into the hard rock that we can still admire it today 🙂 The legend soon calls to mind the legendary King Arthur’s sword!

After the death of Galgano in 1811, the place where he had lived as a hermit, was transformed in the beautiful and circular Cappella of Monte Siepi, located on the hill right looking over the Abbey. The structure of this Romanesque Chapel is something unique and very interesting at the same time: the sword in the stone is located right at the center of the chapel, whose bicolored vault is absolutely amazing.

The Abbey of San Galgano in Tuscany

At one side of the chapel you can admire beautiful frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, while many Templar symbols decorate all the structure.

If you happen to visit the abbey, I recommend you take the path up hill leading quickly to the Caphel; the views are lovely, as you can see from my photo above with cypress trees.

Needless to say that this special place does inspire a great sense of peace; the atmosphere is so suggestive that one can still imagine the noble knight in the act of sticking his sword into the mass of stone…


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