Siena and Massa Marittima lies the spectacular remains of the Abbazia
di San Galgano, which was once one of the most important monasteries
After becoming a Cistercian monk, the former knight Galgano Guidotti had
a chapel built on Monte Siepi in about 1180, and he later died there a
hermit. The Cistercian monks later managed to build an oratory and a building
in honour of Galgano (who had in the meantime been sanctified), thus giving
birth to the Monastero di San Galgano, a splendid building and
one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic-Cistercian architecture.
The power of the monastery quickly grew, and it soon absorbed the surrounding
The abbey was attacked and devastated in the 14th century by troops under
the command of Giovanni Acuto, and a century later a period of decline
began which culminated in the decision to abolish the monastic orders.
In 1816 the monastery was used for the construction of a farm.
Anyone visiting the ruins of the abbey nowadays will be overwhelmed by
the imposing walls of the now-roofless building; built in brick
and travertine, they have remained standing over the centuries and are
tangible evidence of the economic power of the community.
The light coming in through the gaps in the walls, the clear view of the
sky where once there was a roof, and the floor which is nothing but grass
give the place an incredible atmosphere, especially at sunset.
Picture by Sandro Santioli