The Chapel of San Galgano in Montesiepi: where a sword turned into a cross
The small church of Montesiepi, in the province of Siena, is where Saint Galgano, “a knight from Chiusdino, a town not far away, withdrew into hermitage around the second half of the 12th century. This is where he is said to have stuck a sword in a stone, to turn it into a cross and object of devotion.”
With these words, Siena-born art historian Cesare Brandi (1906-1988) began describing the beautiful Gothic chapel in his “Terre d’Italia”. The cylindrical building dates back to the early 14th century and is decorated with frescoes – albeit deteriorated – by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Brandi noted, “You can still see a sword in the small church’s flooring; obviously it is not Galgano Guidotti’s, but a later replacement. However, that rock – being neither flush with the floor nor centered in the chapel’s floor plan – has caused quite a few problems in dating the church, which is like a ‘martyrium’, so round and different from any other building around Siena, with its vault – almost like a ‘trullo’ – and travertine and brick bands” (C. Brandi, “Terre d’Italia, Bompiani, Milan 2006).
The view outside offers “wide green plains and hills, in a countryside almost exclusively made up of wheat and grass”, and seems to echo the solid message of peace of a sword forever in the stone.