Tuscany and The Sword in the Stone

San Galgano Abbey

As a kid, my favorite Disney cartoon was The Sword in the Stone and I couldn’t believe it was just 30 minutes away from my hometown in Tuscany. When my parents took me there and I could see the sword in the stone, I was astonished.

Obviously, it wasn’t the sword in the stone related to the King Arthur legend but was definitely a sword set in a stone. Since the first time I went there with my family, I visited the Sword and the Abbey nearby many times and that place cherished some of my best memories.

Just 30 minutes away from Colle di Val d’Elsa on the way to Follonica, a city on the Tuscany coast, there is this particular hermitage, which preserved a sword set in a stone. And just under the hill, there is a Cistercian Abbey which is in ruins but it still keeps its beauty.

Entrance of Montesiepi Hermitage
The Sword in the stone
Montesiepi Orathory


Maybe some of you know the San Galgano Abbey, but the story begins on the hill of Montesiepi. Here, on the Christmas night of 1180 Galgano set his sword in the stone to consecrate his conversion. Galgano was a man from the nearby city of Chiusdino who found his faith after a very troubled youth, when he decided to consecrate his life to God, became a hermit, and devoted all his life to the Cristian God.

Today on Montesiepi Hill there is a little church where it is possible to see the famous sword set in the stone and much more. In fact, inside the church on the left side, it is possible to admire Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescoes in the adjacent oratory. Moreover in the oratory, a reliquary contains the hands of a thief. Rumour has it, in the reliquary there are the arms belonged to one of the envious men who in 1181, while San Galgano was absent, tried to extract the sword from the stone. A wolf, friend of San Galgano, torn off the hands of the envious man. In 2001, there were doing some analysis with the Carbon-14 method that has dated these arms back to the XII century, contemporary to San Galgano.

Abbey of San Galgano
Sky of San Galgano


The San Galgano Abbey was built around 1218 on the site where the Hermit Galgano died. Nowadays, of the Abbey remains the wall and a building that goes along the right side of the Abbey. This building was home to the sacristy, the library, the archive, and, above, the dorms and the chapel.
Back in time, the abbey was rich and the center of economics. Unfortunately from the XIV century, the Abbey began to decay. First, the starvation of 1348, then the pestilence of 1348 decimated the monks; then, in the second half of the century, mercenaries sacked the abbey many times. In 1474, the monks abandoned the abbey to move to Siena.
Since then during the centuries, the abbey started to fall down and in 1789 the abbey was deconsecrated.

Today the skeleton of the Abbey stands out in the plain of Val di Merse, like a beautiful Gothic mystery.

Bifore chiostro
Chatedral b/n

Fun Fact

Today the Abbey is mostly famous due to his roof that is missing. In the middle of the 1500, an abbot had the lead roof removed and sold. Due to this fact, the rest of the structure took little time to decay.

reliquary with the hands of a thief
The centre of the church
the roof of the hermitage


The Abbey and the hermitage are situated on SP 441; you can reach the hermitage by car since there is a small car park just in front of it. To visit the Abbey it is necessary to leave the car in the near car park and then walk down a long three-line street. It is also possible to reach the hermitage on foot since there is a footpath that departs from the Abbey.

the sword

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