The Sword in the Stone of San Galgano, between myth and reality

February 25, 2014

At about 30 km from Siena, near a Cistercian monastery now reduced to only walls, is the Rotonda di Montesiepi, a sacred building of the twelfth century that houses the famous sword in the stone of San Galgano. He was a knight named Galgano Guidotti, who converted to the religious life after a youth devoted to vice and lust, spending the rest of his existence as a hermit. According to tradition, San Galgano thrust his sword in the stone in the year 1180 as a sign of his renunciation of worldly pleasures.

The sword is located within the Rotonda di Montesiepi, protected by a Plexiglas dome because it has suffered serious damage from a couple of vandals in the past. It's set in a rock and, judging from the visible protruding from it, its style seems to be exactly the same of a true cruciform sword of that period. Obviously there are many arguments about the authenticity or otherwise of the relic: in fact anyone doubts of his actual historical dating, finding it much more recent than the period when the saint lived. Others argue that the sword in the stone of San Galgano is only the result of an optical illusion, as it would miss the rest of the blade.

It's impossible to dispel those doubts with absolute certainty: some studies on small fragments of the sword, however, have revealed the presence of cadmium, copper, nickel and lead, all of which are compatible with a medieval object. Other tests have also confirmed the actual presence of the blade inside the rock.

But beyond all, the spectacle of the sword in the stone of San Galgano is absolutely charming, even for the inevitable lure similar to the legends of the Breton Cycle with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and well worth the steep climb to the hermitage of Montesiepi.

The Rotonda di Montesiepi is located on a hill a few hundred meters from the Monastery of San Galgano, a short drive along the SS 73 that runs through the province of Siena in the direction of Massa Marittima.

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