Who doesn’t know the extraordinary adventures of King Arthur and the circumstances which led to pull out the sword in the stone, the legendary Excalibur? Not so many people.

San Galgano Sword

Above: public domain

However, not many people know that right in Italy, specifically in an area called Montesiepi, in the province of Siena, there is actually a sword that dates back to the Middle Ages stuck in the stone, impossible to pull out. The Tuscan sword though, has an opposite meaning to Excalibur: the first sword represents in fact the surrender to an existence as a noble knight, while the second one is the means through which Arthur demonstrate his right to be King of England.

The Italian sword is kept inside the Rotonda of Montesiepi, chapel built in the spot where Galgano Guidotti retired to hermitage. The man, a medieval knight from the 12th century belonged to a noble family from the area; he decided to renounce to his debauchery after having incurred in two apparitions form the Archangel Michael.

The Rotonda chapel of Montesiepi

Above: public domain

Galgano was born in the nearby Chiusdino around the 1148, after his parents had almost given up on the idea of having a child.

San Galgano

Above: picture by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Galgano lived in an epoch of political disorder, characterised by a violent power struggle; the knight did not live any different from the other noble scions living in the area, in a sense that in order to show off the strength of their own house, they did not hesitate to commit violence, even just as a form of self-entertainment.

Galgano stuck the sword in the stone

Above: picture by Combusken via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

Galgano, destined since his birth to become a knight expert in the art of war, was an arrogant and violent young. This up until he decided to follow an existence of atonement and hermitage after the apparition of the Archangel Michael. The archangel supposedly showed him the way and guided Galgano in Montesiepi, where the former knight decided to stop by. It was December 1180.

Abbey of San Galgano

Above: public domain

First thing he tried to chop some wood with his sword to create a cross but he didn’t succeeded. he then threw his weapon on the ground and, by itself, it got stuck in the stone (or perhaps in the rocky ground), creating this way the religious symbol he was trying to replicate. The nobleman turned his coat into a tunic and remained in that place for the rest of his short life. He died in his 30, on the 30th of November 1181.

Above: picture by Vignaccia76 via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

There, after his death, a chapel was erected, the Rotonda of San Galgano, on that same place where the hermit, canonised after 4 years from his dead, had his own shed. The sword of Galgano is still there, in the same spot where it got stuck in that far away 1180.

Above: public domain

For a long time the sword was thought to be a false to the point that no one cared to remove it from the stone, even though that might have been possible. Until 1924, when the priest of the area decided to secure the blade in the stone by pouring over liquid lead. In 2001 though, the analysis conducted to the metal have  demonstrated that the sword does belong to the 12th century. At least that’s what science can tell us.

Above: public domain

There is so little known about Galgano’s life yet the character after his death assumed the significance of redemption which went beyond his real life. He became increasingly more a symbol for all those who were looking for salvation.

The Rotonda chapel itself is extremely symbolical and not only because guardian of his own sword; its circular plan, that some associate to the Templar Knights, resemble the shape of an upside down cup. Here, hidden in  the underground there could be the Holy Graal, protectedby a stone that no one has yet identified.

Who can believe such a theory, way more fitting an Indiana Jones plot?

Not so many obviously, but whoever gets to see the ruins of San Galgano Abbey, sanctified in 1288, perhaps in a time frame when the sunset approaches,  won’t be able to get inspired by the magical atmosphere that enchants this place.

Above: picture by Simon Matzinger via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 4.0

Because it could be not so random the idea that in 1190 it was written the first (unfinished) book referencing the Graal, where the main character was Parsifal, heroe with a very similar story to Galgano’s. Furthermore it doesn’t appear so strange that some years after the death of the saint man, the first narrative about Arthur pulling his legendary Excalibur out of a stone came out, written by the French poet Robert de Boron.

Above: picture by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons – licence CC BY-SA 3.0

All these suggestions could perhaps induce to imagine Saint Galgano inside his retreat continuing to defend his Holy Graal (…).

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