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Eremo (Hermitage) di San Galgano

South West Tuscany


Link to Large Photos of the Abbazia di San Galgano

Link to earlier page on San Galgano


Italian Cistercian Abbey Pages



San Galgano's hermitage (left) on the hill called "Montesiepi" overlooking what was to become the site of the first gothic abbey in Italy, built by the Cistercians in the 1200s (remains of the abbey church facade can be seen on the right) .  San Galgano (Galgano Guidotti 1148 - 1181 (33)), reformed high living Sienese knight, lasted only a couple of years as a hermit in his twig hut in this dank and cold part of Tuscany before he caught a bad cold and died.  Before this (in 1180) it is said that he plunged his sword into a rock to have a cross and altar to pray at (see below).  A beautiful little beehive chapel with Etruscan style layered bricks and stone was built at the site to house Galgano's remains, which shortly after his death had become a magnet for pilgrims seeking miracles.  The inside of the domed roof is constructed with 24 concentric circles of alternating white stone and terracotta - a different and very beautiful small "neo-Etruscan" space.


The Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano started life in 1181 perched beside the hermitage on the hill, but things became a bit cramped and prone to slippage, and the lads naturally graduated down the hill to the dank and boggy field below, because draining swamps was what Cistercians did.  Then between 1224 and 1288 they built their monastery, including the first Gothic (abbey) church in Italy, now a roofless but well kept ruin.


These gold, silver and enamel artefacts were exhibited at the blockbuster Duccio exhibition in Siena in 2003.  On the left is a panel from the reliquary containing Galgano's head, and on the right a crozier showing the Saint after he had excalibured his sword (now under the Perspex bubble below).

And, not shown here, in the little chapel at the back of the main one you can lift up the curtain covering the glass case to see what the wolves did to anyone who tried to make off with the sword.  More peacefully, on the facing wall is a sinopia of a Lorenzetti Annunciation.

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