Sunday, November 15, 2009

San Galgano Abbey

About forty kilometers (25 miles) south-east of Siena towards Grosseto in the isolated valley of the river Merse (Val di Merse) among the Siena hills, are the ruins of the mediaeval Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano.
The community of Saint Galgano became the point of reference for all the territory and of interest of the Siennese Republic. The Abbey (Abbazia) of San Galgano was built along the classic gothic forms of all Cistercian constructions, as a daughter house of Saint Bernard's Clairvaux. It was Tuscany's first pure Gothic church, and later the model for Siena Cathedral. It has the typical Cistercian plan based on a latin cross with three aisles, rich in carved capitals and rose windows, with a cloister, halls, and, atypically, a bell tower. The richness of S. Galgano and its good relationship with Siena attracted the incursions of the Florentine armies which, together with other political events, resulted in the rapid decline of the abbey beginning in the first half of 15th century. By 1550, only five monks were in the abbey and they sold off any remaining treasures plus the lead roof, sealing the fate of the building. At the beginning of the 17 C only one old and poor monk still lived between its already ruined walls. On 6 January 1786, the 36 m bell tower collapsed, sweeping away a great part of the roof of the church and in 1789 the great Abbey was definitively abandoned and become an enormous quarry of stones and columns for the builders of the area. Fortunately, from the beginning of the last century, much restoration and maintenance have been undertaken. Today it hosts nightly musical shows and concerts... visit this undiscovered jewel with us!

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