Arts & Culture
Travel In Italy
Episode 2: Sword in the Stone
In Episode 2 of our Italian Life Podcast, Riccardo shared his story about visiting the Sword in the Stone when he was a child on a school trip. Yes, the Sword in the Stone is real and you can visit it. Andrew rode his Vespa on a four-day adventure just to see it for himself!
South of Siena near the Abbey of San Galgano you will find the sword in the stone. Unfortunately, you will not be able to try and free it from the stone, but you will be able to look closely at it and take as many photos as you would like.
The history behind the sword in the stone
Galgano Guidotti was visited by Archangel Michael who told him to give up all his worldly desires. The knight and nobleman then renounced war by stabbing his sword into a rock. He then fled to a cave and became a hermit where he lived out the rest of his years. In the year 1185, Galgano was declared a saint because of his opposition to war, hence the name Abbey of San Galgano.
You might not be too familiar with the historical version, but there is also the Disney tale. “As an orphaned child, Arthur, who was then known as Wart, wants to help his foster brother, Kay, succeed in becoming a knight.” But here is the important distinction. King Arthur pulled Excaliber from the stone and went headlong into war to bring about Camelot. Galgano thrust his sword in the stone swearing off violence of all kinds.
Whichever story you prefer, it is still an amazing experience to see it in real life.
Did you listen to the podcast on San Galgano Abbey and The Sword in the Stone? Don’t miss it. Click here to enjoy now and don’t forget to share it with your friends!
The church without a roof at San Galgano Abbey
On your visit to to see the sword in the stone, you must explore the architectural ruins of the Abbey. Set on top of a rolling green hill the atmosphere looks angelic, but the missing roof tells a different story. In 1786, after centuries as the prominent cultural center for this Tuscan region, the campanile fell and the roof of the church collapsed with it. Locals building materials from the fallen debris and for a time, the abbey risked being demolished forever. Some restorations occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries and eventually, the beauty of this place, and the magical sword nearby came to be enshrined and protected as it is today. Somehow, the walls continue to stand, without the roof to hold them together, giving visitors a spiritual experience of and outdoor/indoor place where anything is possible if one welcomes the universe into their soul.
Travel Like a Local Tips:
- It’s not easy to visit the remote San Galgano via public transportation, so plan a day trip or overnight and rent a car (or as Andrew suggests, a Vespa!). The drive is beautiful along mostly unbusy roads and rolling hillsides. After you’ve visited head to the nearby coasts or the amazing wine region of Bolgheri.
- Respect the spiritual energy of this location. Too many tourists tromp through this historic chapel and abbey failing to feel it. Go slow. Consider the mythology and the sentiments it stands for. Consider for the moment, the idea of the miraculous, be it a sword thrust in the stone in the name of peace of a church without a roof that lets the stars accompany the worship. The world is a mystical place and if you pause, you can feel it here.
- Not sure where to go on your dream vacation now that the world is opened up again? Click here and find out in 1 minute!
Click here to listen to the podcast episode.