This blog post is based off an entry in the book Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Most Peaceful and Powerful Destinations.
This abandoned abbey lies in the idyllic Tuscan countryside about 20 miles outside of Siena. We made a pit-stop on our drive over from Assisi when we spend part of winter break in Italy a few years back. I had seen gorgeous pictures of the ruins; an abandoned abbey, roofless, but still with strong walls, arches, with glassless windows. It was originally built towards the end of the 12th century to honor Galgano Guidotti, a saint canonized in 1185 (never heard of him? me neither!).
What still remains of the abbey is the main church and parts of the cloister courtyard next door. The style is very French Gothic, lots of pointed arches with tall windows; not very common for the heart of the location for the (future) Italian Renaissance. Apparently the local town suffered devastating losses during the Black Death of 1348 and it lost its importance as a pilgrimage site. The building itself started to crumble from disuse in the 16th century and the roof collapsed in 1550. But now people come specifically because it is a ruin. Ironic twist of fate, huh?
To be perfectly honest I was disappointed. Odd considering the story I just relayed is my cup of tea: a lost catholic saint, medieval architecture, and a connection to the plague. I don’t think the site itself was disappointing; it was a bitter cold day with no sunlight and I just simply was not dressed warmly enough. My original plan was to walk up the hill to the chapel, but after about 30 minutes I was ready to go. Will was not, he thoroughly enjoyed taking haunting photos of this lost church.
If you are planning a visit to Siena, it is an easy trip via a bus or better yet, rent a car like we did an meander about the countryside. Be careful though of experienced and impatient Italian drivers!