San Galgano and Siena’s Legendary Sword in the Stone


Siena’s legendary sword in the stone is just one of the many tales of San Galgano, the knight who later became a hermit. Such Medieval legends are set in one of the more unique places in the world, small and isolated in the splendid countryside of Siena, so dense with mystery that it rivals even Stonehenge in England and the Cheope Pyramids.

Here you will find the original, legendary Medieval sword thrusted so deeply into a stone that it is impossible to extract. It is a perfectly positioned metallic enigma, which is housed within the enchanting Church with its significant circular layout. This church was built by San Galgano and is decorated with an abundance of mysterious and detailed symbols which relate to the solar calendar. It also features a beautiful Cupola of concentric circles made from alternating layers of local stone and brick. There were 12 circles of each substance as the number 12 was a significant number during the Medieval ages, as it is made of the numbers 3 and 4 which were also sigficant during this era as they represent the Trinity and the World and also because there were 12 disciples.

The church features a side chapel, which is attached to the main circular body of the church and is decorated with beautiful 13th century frescoes painted by the extremely famous painter, Ambrogio Lorenzetti. As he was involved in the decoration of some of Italy’s most sumptuous buildings, the significance of this building is reinforced by the fact that he took the time and effort to paint frescoes on the walls of such a tiny, isolated building, hidden away in this desolate corner of Tuscany. These frescoes, which at first seem to be just yet another serene representation of Virgin and Child, actually present something rather unique and somewhat puzzling. In one of the frescoes, the Virgin Mary actually appears to have a third arm, with which she is cradling her Son and which seems to have been, even more strangely, added later on. This is because in the first version of this frescoe the Virgin Mary was depicted holding a walking stick, which was in those days a symbol of power. This is a very rare representation of this famous holy scene, as the usual depiction of the Madonna is almost always that of her cradling her Son. The image was so different to most other representations of the Madonna that it was actually abbandoned immediately as it was considered to be too deeply human, only to be uncovered many years later, hence the appearance of her having three arms rather than two.

However, there are even more discoveries to uncover in this mysterious chapel. All you have to do is turn slightly and you will see the remains of a blackened, chewed arm which, legend has it, belonged to a would-be assassin who, sent by the devil, was killed by wolves who lived with San Galgano during the final years of his life which he chose to live out as a hermit. San Galgano’s choice to live in solitude following a visit from the Archangel Michael who he claimed had shown him the way. Later as a result of the dismayed reactions from family and friends at his decision to take up residence in a cave and live as a hermit, he decided to pay his fiancée one last visit. However, on the way, all of sudden his horse reared and as he fell he experienced a feeling which he later described as being lifted to his feet and led by an angelic voice to Monte Siepi. This holy voice ordered him to look up, and as he obeyed his eyes were met by the sight of a round temple, next to which stood Jesus and Mary surrounded by the Apostles. However, as he ascended the hill this holy image disappeard but he was greeted once again by the voice which presented him with the idea of a life of devoid of all life’s pleasures. San Galgano pleaded that although he liked the idea, to give up such luxuries would as impossible as casting his sword into the stone at his feet. Whilst saying this, the knight did in faxt thrust the sword down onto the stone and was amazed to find that the sword was in fact cast halfway into the stone. Therefore, after having previously led an unholy life on Earth, San Galgano made the choice to continue his existance as a hermit and so the sword belonging to the former nobleman remains the symbol which links the many old legends relating to Galgano, telling of knights, wizards and the round table.

The knightly hermit died at the age of just 33 years old. He was found dead on his knees in front of the sword which he had once miraculously thrusted into the stone with a little help from the heavens. A truly enigmatic figure, Galgano died in 1181 and his body was sanctified in 1185. During this year, the Church previously built by San Galgano, which still stands today, was actually visited by the Emperor Federico Barbarossa and so only a few decades after, this isolated place became a place of importance. As a result, not far from San Galgano’s church an incredible Gothic church, along with a Cistercian monastery, was built and this stunning Cathedral actually went on to become one of the most magnificent and powerful monasteries in Tuscany. By the beginning of the 16th century, however, it had decayed immensely, by this point having neither its ceiling or floor intact. In this way the memory of Galgano had also diminished with the knight’s head, which was previously conserved and kept within the church’s other side chapel, having been moved to another church outside of Siena.

The walls of magnificent church are still intact today, but they now have a very crumbled appearance. Despite its dishevelled appearance today, this incredible structure continues to fascinate visitors with its Gothic facades, adorned columns and great windows. But perhaps most fascinating of all is the church’s remote location hidden in the middle of a huge expanse of deserted, luscious green countryside. In fact, so hidden amongst the many tall trees of this green area, you have to look closely in order to make out the vague pink and white outline of the church.

Commenti (1) | March 15, 2010

One Response to “San Galgano and Siena’s Legendary Sword in the Stone”

  1. Olivia Says:
    May 30th, 2011 at 19:09

    Hello, just browsing for information for my website. Can’t believe the amount of information out there. Not quite what i was looking for, but cool site. Have a great day.

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