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While riding, Galgano is unseated and guided by St. Michael to his vocation...
Galgano Guidotti was born into a noble family in Chiusdino
near Sienna in the year 1148. He became a knight who was famous, sad to
say, for his fierce temper, violence and worldly life.
One night the Archangel Michael appeared in a dream to Sir
Galgano, who was 32 years-of-age, and beckoned to him to follow, for the
Archangel would show him the path to God. The knight, surprised but
fearless, followed him down a narrow difficult path to Monte Siepi.
Eventually they stopped before a circular-shaped church, outside of
the Twelve Apostles were standing. They greeted Galgano and told him
what he should do and where he should go.
At first Sir Galgano ignored the vision. It was not until some days
later when he was out riding that he changed. As he went along his way,
his horse suddenly reared and he fell. As he struggled to rise, he felt
as if he were being lifted to his feet by invisible hands and then,
guided by a seraphic voice, he made his way to Monte Siepi, a rugged
hill near Chiusdino.
The voice bade him stop and look up. There, at the top of the hill, was
the circular church with Our Lord and Our Lady surrounded by the
Apostles. As he climbed the hill, the vision faded. When he reached the
top, the voice spoke again, commanding him to renounce all worldly
Galgano replied, "Indeed, I would gladly follow your order, but doing so
for me would be as easy as splitting rocks with a sword."
The sword of St. Galgano can still be viewed in Montesiepi Chapel
To prove his point, he drew his weapon and struck a nearby rock with all
his force, fully expecting the blade to snap. Instead, the weapon
penetrated the rock like a hot knife through butter. Galgano never left
the hill again. To this day pilgrims can see the cross-shaped sword of
St. Galgano – proven to date to the 12th century – embedded to its hilt
in a jagged rock that protrudes from the center of the tile floor in the
circular end of Montesiepi Chapel.
Stories spread throughout the area of the hermit knight Galgano who used
the rock with the sword as an altar where he prayed. It was said the
wild animals were his frequent companions. The local farmers trekked up
the hill to talk to him and ask his blessing. Soon, miracles were
reported that were worked by his intercession and prayers.
The Devil, who never sleeps and was jealous of the good his former
servant was doing, sent an evil man disguised as a monk to kill Galgano.
The wolves who had befriended the hermit killed the would-be assassin
and gnawed at his bones.
One year after sinking his sword into the stone at Monte Siepi, Galgano
died on December 3, 1181 at age 33. By that time, the fame of Galgano
was so great that Bishops and Abbots attended the funeral. The next year
the Bishop of Volterra gave Monte Siepi to the Cistercian monks to
build a shrine to Galgano's memory over his small circular rock
The canonization process for Galgano started in 1185, only a few years
after his death. The acts of his canonization process are the oldest to
have survived, and in them are sworn testimonies of the miracles
performed by the Saint, both during his lifetime and after his death.
After Galgano's death, his scalp continued to grow blonde curls for a
long time. The miraculous head was placed on one side of the chapel, and
the gnawed bones of the arms of the evil man on another. The crowds of
pilgrims were so numerous that in 1218 the Cistercians were authorized
to build another monastery named after the Saint a short distance away
in the plain below the Hermitage.
They built the Abbey of St. Galgano, one of the most beautiful Gothic
buildings of Italy. The monastery rapidly became powerful and respected:
Monks from San Galgano were appointed to high offices throughout
Sadly, by the 16th century the once famous Cistercian Monastery stood in
ruins. However, the semi-circular Montesiepi Chapel survived, still
housing the famous sword of St. Galgano, a symbol for all ages of the
conversion of the wayward knight, and the gnawed mummified hands of the
assassin, a warning to all who would do evil to holy men – or to any who
might be tempted to steal St. Gaglano's sword.
There are some who say that it is this sword in Tuscany that led to the
myth of the sword in stone in the King Arthur’s legend. The first
stories of King Arthur appear decades after Galgano’s canonization in a
poem by Burgundian poet Robert de Bron. It has been suggested tales of
The Round Table may have been inspired by the round chapel and the name
Galgano was altered to become Gawain.
Although Britons are loathe to admit it, it could be that the stories of
King Arthur are really based on the true history of an Italian
The round chapel that houses St. Galgano's sword at the top of a hill in Montesiepi