san galgano abbey

The sky roof: visiting the San Galgano Abbey

In the heart of the Merse Valley, a few kilometers from Siena, a magical place exists, a unique abbey and small chapel which houses a sword in a rock, just like the Excalibur.

San Galgano is an abbey with its roof open to the heavens. It is the first gothic church built in Tuscany, between 1218 and 1288 by the Cistercian monks as a sign of the popularity of Saint Galgano cult. Unfortunately the nearby lands were devastated by mercenary bands and, at the end of the 15th century, the monks moved to Siena. In 1787, a lightning struck the bell tower, which collapsed onto the roof and after a few years the church was deconsecrated.

Few meters from this incredible abbey there is the Hermitage of Monte Siepi chapel which was built between 1181 and 1185 on the hill where S. Galgano had retired to live as a hermit. At the centre of the Chapel there's a rock in which Galgano embedded his sword.

According to legend, Galgano Guidotti, born in the nearest town of Chiusdino, led a dissolute life dedicated to pleasure and entertainment until he converted to Christianity. To symbolize his abandonment of his life as a knight, Galgano plunged his sword into a stone.

After Galgano’s death, in 1181, the Hermitage of Montesiepi chapel was built on the site where he had left his sword, and it was consecrated in 1185. In this place, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, peace and silence dominate. Maybe visitors are fascinated by the history of Saint Galgano, or perhaps they are all gazing up at the sky through the ancient abbey's walls. 

Furthermore, in the surrounding area, there are some places where you can relax and enjoy a foodie break.

In front of the abbey grow vines of Sangiovese used to make the delicious Galgano Montesiepi: a 100% Sangiovese grapes wine that you can taste maybe accompanied by some wild boar salamis and local pecorino cheese.

A quick stop to later start again the trip around the Merse Valley.

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Art and Culture