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San Galgano Abbey
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Quick Facts on San Galgano Abbey

Short URL
Abbazia San Galgano San Galgano Abbey
Tuscany  region
Italy  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
43.149434° N, 11.155522° E
Opening hours
Open daily during daylight hours

Historical Timeline of San Galgano Abbey

Description of San Galgano Abbey

Throughout the Middle Ages, the monks of San Galgano were exceptionally powerful and played a major role in the affairs of nearby cities. Their many duties included resolving disputes between such cities as Siena and Volterra and even overseeing the construction of Siena Cathedral.

The abbey declined in the 16th century due to a long period of corruption that culiminated with an abbot selling the lead from the church roof, which soon collapsed. The monastery was eventually abandoned and the church was deconsecrated. Although the roof is still missing and the cloister has mostly disappeared, the abbey remains remarkably intact today.

Modeled on the mother house at Citeaux in France, San Galgano Abbey is a prime example of Cistercian architecture. Like most Cistercian abbeys, it is austerely Romanesque in style, except for the graceful pointed arches that would become a hallmark of Gothic architecture.

The wide west facade, made of brick with stone cladding on the lower half, has three portals and two lancet windows. The east end is in the unique Cistercian style, with a flat facade rather than a round apse. The east end has round window above and small pointed lancet windows below.

The walls of the abbey church remain fully intact, with only the roof open to the sky. The capitals of the nave are finely carved with simple foliage designs, some of which include a small bird or human face.

The detached rectangular cemetery chapel, highly picturesque among fields on the north side, also dates from the 13th century.

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

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