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San Galgano Abbey remains amazingly intact today

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 21st, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Abbey of San Galgano was founded by Cistercian monks from Casamari Abbey in the 13th century. Dedicated to St. Galganus, the abbey was constructed around 1224-88. While most of the surrounding grounds have suffered decay, the abbey remains amazingly intact in the present day.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The monks of San Galgano were very powerful and played a major role in the affairs of the neighboring cities. Among their many duties included resolving disputes between the cities of Siena and Volterra, even overseeing the construction of Siena Cathedral.

However, the abbey swiftly declined in the 16th century due to a long period of corruption. The most notorious episode involved an abbot who sold the lead from the church roof, which soon collapsed. The monastery was eventually abandoned and the church has long since been deconsecrated. While the roof is still missing and the cloister has mostly disappeared, the abbey remains remarkably intact today.

Picturesquely located in the rural fields of Tuscany and modeled on the mother house at Cīteaux, San Galgano Abbey is a prime example of Cistercian architecture. As is with most Cistercian abbeys, it is austerely Romanesque in style, other than the graceful pointed arches which 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 Cistercian style, with a flat facade rather than a round apse. The east end has round windows above and small pointed lancet windows below.

The walls of the abbey church are also 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.

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