The Rusty Key

A ratatouille of History, Museums' bits and Interesting Facts. A site for those who like the smell of Old Times.

San Galgano and the legend of the Sword in the Stone

“Dell’Abbazia di San Galgano, monumento ragguardevolissimo del secolo tredicesimo, non si avevano che poche e incerte notizie sparsamente registrate […] Trovandomi nell’agosto 1887 a Siena, città a me carissima per tanti ricordi di famiglia, volli visitare i ruderi di quest’abbazia, e fui così profondamente colpito dalla loro maestà e grandezza, che subito fermai nell’animo il pensiero di intraprenderne uno studio di storia e di arte.”

Source: Arch. Antonio Canestrelli, L’Abbazia di San Galgano, monografia storico-artistica con documenti inediti e numerose illustrazioni, Firenze, Fratelli Alinari, 1896.

The Abbey was built in 1218, after the hermitage of Montesiepi began too small to contain the monks and the pilgrim. It was built in the classic gothic forms of all the other Cistercian constructions, with plan at Latin cross with three aisles, rich of carved capitals and rose-windows, cloister, halls, bell tower.” (Source:

The legend says that “The sword in the stone has been plunged  by San Galgano into the rock emerging on the top of the hill in 1180. To honour the Saint, around it has been built a lovely round church (the Montesiepi Hermitage includes also frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti painted around 1340!)
The sword has been considered a fake for many years, but a metal dating research in 2001 by the Siena University has indicated it has medieval origins. The composition of the metal doesn’t show the use of modern alloys, and the style is compatible with that one of a 12th century sword.” (Source:


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