The Montesiepi Hermitage and the San Galgano Abbey, two unique places in the world, stand in the Val di Merse, in the province of Siena. The hermitage, built before the abbey, hosted San Galgano in 1170 and houses what was his sword, stuck in a rock for centuries.
San Galgano and the sword in the stone
The Montesiepi Hermitage therefore guards the sword in the stone. This is not the best-known one associated with the legend of King Arthur, but it is connected to real events. It belonged to a young knight, Galgano Guidotti, born in Chiusdino in 1148, as still existing documents attest. After a life of debauchery, when he was 32 years old, after the Archangel Michael appeared to him twice in a dream, Galgano converted and began to preach the word of God in Siena and its surroundings. Also in a dream, the 12 Apostles appeared to him and ordered him to build a roundabout in Montesiepi and to retreat there.
The young man therefore decided to take refuge in a hut that would become his hermitage, right above Monte Siepi. To definitively close with the past he performed a miracle: he stuck his sword deep into the rock so that the hilt formed a cross. In 1181 he met Pope Alexander III who encouraged him to build an abbey near the hermitage. The Rotonda di Montesiepi was the first tomb of the saint, who was buried north of the sword.
The sword is still visible today, kept in a display case. For years it was considered a fake, but recent studies have shown that it dates back to a historical period between 1100 and the early 1200s. Over the centuries there have been several attempts to extract the sword but none have been successful. In the hermitage the mummified hands of a thief who - it is said -, in an attempt to steal it, was torn to pieces by wild wolves are still visible.
The Abbey of San Galgano, about 20 kilometers from Siena, is a place of great spirituality. Deconsecrated since 1789, its construction began in 1218. The works lasted until 1268, when it was officially consecrated by the Bishop of Volterra Alberto Solari. One hundred years of great splendor followed until 1364, then a slow decline due to the unfortunate practice of the Commandery.
Despite some attempts to restore the convent eventually in 1789, the abbey was deconsecrated and abandoned. Today the walls and the few vaults still remain standing in a highly evocative complex of open-air ruins.
(Photo: Montesiepi Hermitage; San Galgano Abbey, Facebook Pages)