The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone exists: it is in San Galgano, Tuscany

The sword in the stone is a well-known Walt Disney animated film first released in 1963 in London and despite being based on a novel of the same name by TH White, not a lot of people know that that sword really exists. About 45km southwest of Siena is it possible to reach the 13th century Cistercian Abbazia di San Galgano.

The Cistercian abbey’s true wealth and influence in the Middle Ages cannot be fully captured by its physical boundaries alone. While it was sanctified by San Galgano in 1185, its decline and eventual abandonment by monastic orders began in 1470, following partial destruction by the troops of Giovanni Acuto in 1380.

Photo via Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

On the hill overlooking the Abbey, one can find the oldest hermitage, Montesiepi, which houses the mysterious Excalibur, the sword that St. Galgano thrust into a rock when he, who once was a soldier, renounced his life as a wealthy gentleman. Galgano’s act of peace and his brief yet impactful life greatly impacted those around him. According to legend, after a lifetime of fighting, he decided to change his life. He abandoned his weapons to live as a hermit, first thrusting his sword into the rock.

Unfortunately, today a case protects the sword from attempts to extract it, the last of which had caused the centuries-worn iron to crack.

Inside a chamber adjacent to the chapel, there are three early 14th-century frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, a Sienese artist, that illustrate events from the life of the saint but are now in poor condition. Close to the entrance of the abbey, there is a farm with a cafe perfect for a break.

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