San Galgano - Siena - Province - Seaside - Florence

San Galgano

Heading westward to the Colline Metallifere (metal-mining hills) along the Valley of the Merse we reach the stunning and unique Abbey of San Galgano. This is a magnificent example of Cistercian Gothic architecture, where the balance and the lines are given force by the essential character of the style, and the rejection of all forms of ornament, suiting the principles of poverty and simplicity which govern the life of monks under the Benedictine rule. The work of building this complex began around 1218. The church, which is in the form of a Latin cross, is cased in travertine and brick, and was built by the monks themselves between 1224 and 1288. In the 14th century its decline began, and in the 18th century it was partly destroyed by the fall of the bell-tower and the vaults. The façade, which was unfinished, has four columns and three doorways with central arches and an ogival extrados. In the side walls there are single light and pointed double light windows. The apse has two orders of single windows. The very extensive interior has a triple nave, rhythmically broken up by 16 cruciform pilasters, with four columns intertwined at one third of the height

san galgano

Alongside the Church stands the Monastery, of which only the Chapter House and the Monk’s Hall remain, with the monks’ cells and the Choir-hall on the upper floor. Nearby we can see the small Romanesque church of San Galgano, built on the spot where St Galganus passed his years of solitude. The legend tells of the unique mystical experience of St Galganus, who was a young, valorous but dissolute knight, born of a noble Sienese family, the Guidotti. The young man, having realised the futility of his existence, decided to renounce all material goods and dedicate himself to prayer and curing the sick. Tradition has it that St Galganus sought to break his sword in two on the rock face, but it did not break and was almost entirely swallowed up by the rock. The sword in the rock can be found inside a tiny church on the nearby hill of Monte Siepi.