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Chiusdino, Italy

Abbey of San Galgano

These gutted monastery ruins still stand proudly in the middle of the Italian countryside. 

Italy’s Abbey of San Galgano was once a thriving hermitage, but a lack of protection from roving bandits soon saw the monastery fall into disrepair and eventually be decommissioned, leaving the stunning ruins that stand to this day.  

First built in the 1200s, the Abbey of San Galgano was established on the site of the former hermitage of San Galgano. According to Catholic legend, Galgano’s horse carried him to the top of Monte Siepi, without prompting from Galgano. Seeing this as a sign, the saint looked to plant a cross on the mountain top, but had no wood with which to make one. So he drove his sword into the ground, the handle and hilt forming the crucifix. As the story goes, the sword immediately fused with the rock in a miraculous transmogrification. 

The abbey saw a healthy number of pilgrims in its early life, but within a century, the abbey’s attendance had petered out and the church began to fall apart. It managed to hold onto life for centuries, just barely skating by. But then in the late 1700s, the roof of the church caved in, and the site was looted for materials.

The haunting ruins were left generally untouched after the abbey was abandoned, and by the 1800s, restoration efforts had begun. While the abbey would never be rebuilt, steps were taken to make sure that it did not crumble to nothing. It stands to this day like a ghostly specter in an Italian field. Galgano’s sword in the stone is also preserved in a nearby church, should any visitors want to see just exactly what made Galgano so special as to build him such a sturdy abbey.