A visit to the Abbey of San Galgano and its precious reliquiary


The fascinating ruins of an Abbey

The Abbey of San Galgano is one of the most terrific places to see in the Province of Siena. A visit to the ruins of the Abbey will offer you an evocative experience for the knowledge of the territory, as well as the nearby village of Chiusdino.

The Abbey is located in the Val di Merse, forty minutes by car from Siena, but the ancient monastic institution had known since its foundation a privileged relationship with Siena, in particular with the Cistercians Order that settled there from the end of the 12th century. This order of monks was particularly required in the city of the Palio for the important offices of Gabella and Biccherna.

The links with Siena

The important relations with Siena are also demonstrated by the commission to the Sienese goldsmith Pace di Valentino of the precious Reliquary of the head of San Galgano.

Much has been written about this artifact and there have been many scholars who have dealt with it, such as Enzo Carli and Elisabetta Cioni – this last author of a very thorough study of the object. It is undoubtedly one of the most important artifacts of the Sienese goldsmith tradition, which in both typology and execution style demonstrates important influences of French Gothic Art.

The work represents the different moments in the life of San Galgano. Son of Guidotto, a man-at-arms who was in the service of Galgano Pannocchieschi, bishop of Volterra, Galgano was born in the village of Chiusdino in a very wealthy social condition.

abbey san galgano
The Reliquary of San Galgano’s skull, Chiusdino

According to what the first hagiographers report, what changed the life of the young knight was the apparition in dream of the archangel Michael who indicated to Galgano the new road to follow. The moment when the knight changes his life is the beginning of the representation of the reliquary scenes.

A precious artefact

The artefact is a masterly making in gilt silver. Pace di Valentino created the hagiographic scenes with the embossed technique. The different compartments of the scenes are divided by small pillars that turn into elegant gothic shrine in which the figurines of Prophets are placed.

While waiting to return to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, the reliquary is temporarily exhibited in the Civic Museum of Chiusdino, a place that absolutely deserves a visit to learn about the history of the area, besides the same Abbey of San Galgano ⟣