The group of historical buildings in San Galgano is located about 30km west of Siena, on the border of the Province of Grosseto, between Monticiano and Chiusdino, in a wild and uncontaminated area rich in natural beauty. Two roads of great historical and economical importance pass through the area: the “Massetana” which links Siena with the coast, passing through Massa Marittima and the Colline Metallifere (Metalliferous Hills) and the very ancient “Strada Maremmana” which unites the heart of Tuscany with Grosseto. The Abbey at San Galgano has, over the centuries, represented an important road junction and reference point for travelers, pilgrims and people of all kinds, in the Val di Merse (Merse Valley) area which is densely populated, rich in parish churches and castles, hamlets, churches, convents and monasteries and extends over the districts of Chiusdino, Monticiano, Sovicille and Murlo where there is one of the most beautiful Etruscan museums in Tuscany.
Galvano Guidotti, son of Guido and Dionisa, was born in 1148 in Chiusdino (Siena), a small village located on a hill not far from the Abbey, in that period of the Middle Ages full of violence, injustice and rape, which was also considered a game, a demonstration of vigor and vitality, but always with the aim of affirming one’s power and increasing one’s sphere of domination. And, like the other knights, Galgano was proud and arrogant too and his adolescence was carefree and frivolous. With the passing of time Galgano became aware of the uselessness of his lifestyle, and suffered the torment of not having a goal in life.
In this mood he matured the desire to change and decided to retreat to the Montesiepi hill, not far from Monticiano. Galgano abandoned his world, disgusted by the past atrocities and those which he saw being continuously committed, in order to dedicate himself to a life of hermitage and repentance in the search for that peace which his epoch did not consent and for that desire and contemplation of God that could only be reached through an ascetic life.
As a tangible sign of eternal renouncement of any form of violence he took his sword and thrust it into a stone protruding out of the ground, with the intention of using it as a cross to pray in front of instead of as a weapon to offend with. A great symbolic gesture of extreme force. It was the year 1180. Galgano died on 3 December 1181. In 1185 he was declared a saint by Pope Lucio III. In the years following his death a small church was built on his hermitage, better known as la Rotonda or Cappella di Montesiepe.