The Sword in the Stone in the San Galgano AbbeyMysteries & Legends
The Sword in the Stone in the San Galgano Abbey
A venerable knight and a sword stuck in the rock... Let’s be honest, the first thing that comes in mind is the Breton legend of King Arthur! However, we want to tell you about an Italian legend, linked to the Abbey of San Galgano of Chiusdino, about 30 km from Siena, and to the little treasure it preserves. Whether the two legends are connected or not... will always remain a mystery.
This is the intriguing story: Galgano, a young knight born near Siena in 1147, once had a mystical vision in which the Archangel Gabriel led him through a rough path up to the Montesiepi hill, where he was welcomed by the Twelve Apostles surrounding a round temple. This apparition greatly disturbed Galgano, who interpreted it as a sign of divine will, as much as to choose that place as his new and definitive residence as a hermit. Once he reached this desolate place, he removed his knight’s cloak and thrust his sword into a stone, so as to make it look like a cross: his sword has been there for more than eight hundred years, as a symbol of incorruptible conversion.
After the death of Galgano, which occurred in 1181, a circular church was built on what remained of his hut, now known as the Montesiepi Chapel, destined to treasure the famous 'sword in the stone': the chapel houses frescoes dating back to the 14th century that depict the sword in great detail.
The Great Cistercian Abbey located in the valley, was built much later, apparently between 1218 and 1220; it is currently deconsecrated and dilapidated but still remains the destination of a large flow of tourists thanks to the amazement and splendour it instils in its visitors, together with the hermitage.
But let’s focus back on the true protagonist of the legend, the sword in the stone, and the fact that not only can it be connected to the Arthurian saga, but that the myth was born in Tuscany and spread to France, inspiring the Arthurian legend. Albeit this seems ridiculous, there are several elements that strengthen this theory: first of all the fact that the Cistercian Monastery of San Galgano and the discovery of King Arthur's alleged tomb - that aroused huge uproar across Europe - date back to the same historical period. It should be added that it was precisely the Cistercian monks who promoted the Arthurian legend with particular enthusiasm: it remains unknown who was the first to disclose this legend. Must it have been our Galgano who, incited by religious leaders, wanted to emulate King Arthur, or did the whole story indeed originate from Britain, then making its way to Tuscany thanks to the Cistercian monks?
The mystery remains impenetrable... and in the end, so it should be, otherwise… what would we narrate?
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