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Abbey of San Galgano

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HISTORY

Abbaziadi San Galgano was a Cistercian monastery situated in the valley of the River Merse, between the towns of Chiusdino and Monticiano, in the province of Siena, in the Tuscany region of Italy. The history of the Abbey is intrinsically linked to the history of Galgano Guidotti. Born in Chiusdino in 1148, Galgano was a noble, wealthy and arrogant knight. Legend has it that during a trip he received a visit from the Archangel Michael, who touched him deeply and led him to abandon his violent and lustful lifestyle. From then on he lived as a hermit in the hills of Montesiepi and in 1180, as a sign of repudiation for his past, he stuck his own sword in a rock, thus forming a cross with his fist. It is said that the story of King Arthur of England was inspired by this episode. A year later Galgano died and in 1185 he was declared a Saint by Pope Lucius III. After his death the chapel of Montesiepi was built on the site where he prayed. At the end of the 12th century, a first group of Cistercians took shelter in this chapel, but due to its small dimensions, in 1218 the construction of the Abbey of San Galgano began, consecrated in 1288. In 1348, a strong epidemic of plague reduced the number of monks, marking the beginning of the decline of the abbey, which was completely abandoned in 1474.

WHY THIS PLACE

Useless attempts at restoration were made over the years until, in 1786, the belfry collapsed, taking the roof of the church with it. The ruins were looted for building material and, in 1789, the church was definitively deconsecrated and turned into a farm. Only in 1926 were the first restorations made, trying to preserve what was left of it. The first Cistercian abbey in Tuscany, its architectural importance is enormous, for having introduced in the region the construction methods and the design of spaces typical of the Gothic style, which had already established itself in territories beyond the Alps.

CURIOSITIES

Currently, the roofless walls of the church's long and high central nave remain standing, with its windows and a rose window apse, the Sala Capitolare, which was the place of community meetings, the Chiostro (Claustro), the Scriptorium (a place where the monks copied the books) and the Cappella Rotonda (Round Chapel), which was restored in 1924 and retains its peculiar medieval shape, vaguely reminiscent of ancient Roman mausoleums.

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