Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Italy’s take on Excalibur

The legend of King Arthur pulling a sword – Excalibur – from a stone to claim his crown has been passed down through generations, even if it is nothing more than a fable. But 20 miles south-west of Siena in Italy, there is a very real sword in the stone to admire. At the heart of the gothic chapel of Saint Galgano, the hilt of a sword is clearly visible protruding from a rock.

The story goes that knight Galgano Guidotti, born in 1148, was visited by Archangel Michael and shown the way to salvation. During a vision, the angel told him to climb a hill and on reaching the top, he was asked to give up his rebellious lifestyle. In response he cried ‘that would be as easy as penetrating a solid rock with my sword’ and to show the difficulty, he struck a nearby boulder with his weapon. To his surprise, the sword went straight through the rock, its blade completely stuck inside it, with just the hilt sticking out.

With a newfound faith in religion, he gave up his past life as a knight to live as a hermit, blessing passing peasants and befriending wild animals. Legend has it a pack of wild wolves even defended him when the devil sent an assassin to kill him.

On his death, the story of his faith travelled far and wide, and as a result, a shrine to him was built on the hill where he lived, surrounding the very sword he plunged into stone all those years ago.

Today, whether you believe in legends or not, a visit to the chapel is sure to bring the story to life.