The Abbey of San Galgano
Villa Ducci is a Hotel in San Gimignano from which it is possible to visit all of Tuscany. From here you can easily reach the famous Abbey of San Galgano, not far from Siena, located in the municipality of Chiusdino. Every year many tourists come to see it despite being reduced only to the walls.
It is said that San Galgano, after a disordered youth, retired to a hermit life to give himself to penance and died in 1181.
The salient moment of the conversion took place on Christmas day 1180, when Galgano arrived on the Montesiepi hill and stuck his sword in the ground, to transform the weapon into a cross. The remains are still present today.
Furthermore, a relationship has always been sought with the "sword in the stone" of King Arthur, between the mythology of the Round Table and the story of the Chiusdinese saint. In fact, in many biographies of San Galgano, there is mention of contacts that the saint would have had with the hermitage of San Guglielmo di Malavalle, both knights having links with Arthurian matter. The results of scientific investigations carried out on the relics of St. William make the Nordic origin of the character highly probable.
History of the Abbey
By the will of the bishop of Volterra Ugo Saladini, a chapel was built on the spot where St. Galgano was found dead. The bishop who succeeded him, Ildebrando Pannocchieschi, instead promoted the construction of a real monastery. In the last years of his life Galgano had come into contact with the Cistercians and it was they who were called to found the first community of monks which was already active in 1201.
Thus it was that in 1218 the construction works of the abbey began. Thanks to donations, bequests and ecclesiastical concessions, in the mid-13th century the Abbey of San Galgano was the most powerful Cistercian foundation in Tuscany.
The abbey was consecrated in 1288, assuming considerable economic and cultural importance thanks to its enormous wealth, which allowed it to forge strong relations with the Republic of Siena.
In the second half of the 14th century the abbey, like all the Sienese countryside, was sacked several times. These events led to a profound crisis in the monastic community.
In 1503 the abbey was entrusted to a commendatory abbot, a choice that accelerated the decline and ruin of the whole complex. It was a nefarious government.
Restoration works were started in 1577, but they were useless and could not stop the progressive deterioration.
In the first half of the eighteenth century the complex had now collapsed in several parts and in 1786 the bell tower also collapsed.
Interest in the monument resumed at the end of the nineteenth century.
The restoration began in 1924 thanks to Gino Chierici who simply decided to consolidate what remained of the monastery.
Description of the Abbey
The church respects the canons of the Cistercian abbeys; these canons had been established by the rule of San Bernardo and provided for very precise rules regarding the location, the planimetric development and the distribution scheme of the buildings.
The abbey church has a Latin cross plan, oriented to the east, from where it is possible to see the transept with four side chapels and a rectangular apse. The church has three naves.
The facade is characterized by two pointed arched windows.
The lateral sides have pointed mullioned windows and buttresses in the upper part. The lower part, on the other hand, has only single-lancet windows with pointed arches and some slits.
Observing the interior of the abbey we see that it has a temperate Gothic style, widespread during the thirteenth century.
You may also be interested in: The Collegiate Church of San Quirico d'Orcia