THE SWORD IN THE STONE
MERLIN THE MAGICIAN IN ITALY?
Near the city of Siena is a place that has something “magical”.
It takes us back in time to the days of knights and of the mystery of the Holy Grail. Here is a sword stuck in a rock that recalls the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.
Galgano Guidotti was born of noble family in 1148, in a small wild and unspoiled village near the city of Siena, named Montesiepi, and like many other young knights of that time, he was proud and overbearing, and spent his youth as libertine and thoughtless. Years later, he abandoned his frivolous world, disgusted by the atrocities committed and by what he had seen, to devote himself to a life of penance by a hermit and ascetic life.
In 1180, as a tangible sign of perpetual waiver to all forms of violence, plunged his sword into a rock outcropping above the ground, with the intention of using it as a cross to pray near, rather than as a weapon to offend. A great symbolic gesture of extreme force.
He did so on the hill where he had had his first mystical experiences and where his horse had stopped several times reverently kneeling before the apparition of the Archangel Gabriel. As a sign of faith, the rock on which many times the white horse was kneeling on, kept the lasting prints of his knees. This stone is now in Galgano’s birthplace house, in the village of Chiusdino, near Montesiepi. House where he lived until the time of his conversion, and inside the house, on a side of the altar dedicated to the saint, we can see the big rock.
Galgano (Gawain in English) died three years later in complete poverty, and in 1185 Pope Lucius III declared it holy. His beatification in 3 days and his sanctification in 4 years are surely a record. But somehow he was quickly forgotten as the abbey abandoned itself. Was Galgano an uncomfortable saint?
He was elected as patron of the city of Siena and then replaced and downgraded to a lesser saint. In this church in Chiusdino, in a showcase, now remains only part of the skull of the saint. It is said that on the skull once grew up some blond hair, and this brought locals to elect him as the protector of bald people. In the years immediately following his death, on his hermitage was built a little church, known as the Rotonda or Montesiepi Chapel. The GPR has discovered a rectangular cavity present beneath the floor of the Rotunda. What will be it?
A few decades later, in 1218, began the building of the monumental complex of San Galgano, about 30 km west of Siena, which was consecrated in 1288. The Abbey of San Galgano has been for centuries an important road center and reference point for travelers, pilgrims and people of all kinds.
From 1348 onwards began the decline, due to different misadventures the abbey was abandoned over the years, until to become a dilapidated structure, then deconsecrated in 1789. The first restoration began in 1926 with the aim of preserving what remained of the original structure, which, strangely shares similarities with the Abbey of Glastonbury.
The Chapel of Montesiepi is, however, a small church located on a hill a few hundred yards from the abbey, and in the center of the chapel emerges from the floor the “Sword in the Stone“.
Some scholars point out that there are links between the story of San Galgano, and King Arthur’s one, in fact both events took place in the twelfth century and between the name Galgano and Gawain, an Arthurian knight, there is particular similarity. But we are in the presence of situations in which history is mixed with myth and it is difficult to have certainty, although some coincidences and documentation that you will read in this post, bring us to hypothesize that Galgano’s sword is the one mentioned in the story of King Arthur and his knights.
The sword, at least judging from the visible portion protruding from the rock, seems to correspond exactly with regard to style, with a real sword of the twelfth century, and more precisely to the kind Xa. ,according to the “Ewart Oakeshott universally accepted classification”. One of the leading experts on medieval swords, adviser to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, author of several books on the subject. The analysis of small fragments indicate values that are normal for a medieval metal without the presence of alloys or steels of the following years.
Inside the hermitage of Montesiepi are also preserved a couple of limbs that, according to tradition, belong to one of three envious people that, in 1181, in the absence of San Galgano, attempted to seize the sword, but failing then they broke it. Galgano felt all this in a dream and, gone back immediately to Montesiepi, unleashed on the three traitors monks the God’s wrath. One of them drowned in the river, the second was struck by lightning and the third devoured by a wolf that tore his arms. The backdating, performed by carbon-14 method, in the course of analysis has traced that these hands, kept in the hermitage, are of the twelfth century.
Montesiepi, where stands the monastery of San Galgano, alludes to a sacred place, enclosed by hedges, hidden to outsiders because above were celebrated pagan rites and sacrifices. This tradition of fencing was typical of Celtic sacred sites. Another oddity is the old name for Montesiepi: Cerboli, reminiscent of the Deer (cervo in Italian), the sacred animal of the Celts, as the name of a near village, called Brenna, would recall the Celtic hero Bran. The same hermitage of San Galgano is an enigma. It’s built in a circle, often considered a demonic form, because linked to the ancient pagan temples. The vault is formed by concentric circles, whose center is perfectly at the zenith of the sword. The 48 circles consisting of white stones and red bricks recall the circular Celtic decorations. Stones that weirdly have been dated 150 years older than the structure.
Arcidosso, in the province of Grosseto, is dotted with ancient esoteric symbols that speak also of the Knights Templar, while in the near Mount Amiata is a rather strange cave. Grotto, whose history is lost in the mists of time, which not even the local youths know its existence. Is this the cave where, according to legend, Merlin the magician repaired? Merlin the magician was not stood still in Scotland, but is said to have traveled the world to share his knowledge and acquire other, and who knows if he has not come even in Tuscany. It’s a massive cave beneath a chestnut, now partially collapsed and drowned by shrubs, and its opening once had a broken stone now missing, which carried the inscription: “This is the ancient and memorable cave built by Merlin, the wise magician, here Peri, the natural induced muse, explained his genius portentous and vague“. Gian Domenico Peri was a local poet (1564 – 1639). By a geo-radar has been found that in the soil of the cave there are some metallic objects, with one large and circular. Who knows.
An ancient legend tells that in this area there was a dragon (Santa Fiora’s dragon). The friars of the convent of La Selva, near the village of Santa Fiora, had noticed for some time the presence of a hideous and gigantic dragon, which had established in the woods. It not only ate cows, sheep and other animals, but its ferocity came to kill a man a day, choosing among shepherds, woodcutters and friars, who were so decimated. The friars sought help from the Count Guido, belonging to the families of Aldobrandeschi and Bosio Sforza, who was unable to kill the animal and so they decided to seek help from the wizard Merlin, who at that time had taken up residence in a cave in the woods between Arcidosso and San Lorenzo. It is said that Merlin summoned the “knight Giorgio” because he had already killed vicious dragons, and for this became a saint, and subsequently patron saint of Genoa. He was immediately welcomed by Count Guido of Santa Fiora and monks in the monastery and with the help of Merlin, the knight George was able to kill the dragon, finally. It is said that the jaw preserved by the monks in the vestry of the Chiesa della Trinità, which is part of the convent of La Selva, is precisely that of the monstrous dragon.
Coincidences, parallelisms, similarities or reality and truth …. who knows!