126: Saint Galgano Guidotti
Perhaps the real King Arthur
Born: 1148, Chiusdino, Italy
Died: 30 November 1181, Tuscany, Italy
Feast Day: 30 November
Galgano was born into a wealthy family and became a knight, known for his temper and worldly way of living. It is said that one night, Galgano had a religious vision in his dream. He tried to ignore it for several days, but once, when he was out riding, the vision returned to him, and he completed the journey he’d seen in his dream.
Once Galgano reached the top of the mountain he was said to have climbed, he vowed to put aside all worldly pleasures, but that it would be as easy for him as splitting rocks with his sword. Then he decided to prove his point by driving his sword into some rocks. However, instead, of the blade shattering like he’d expected, it sank down into the rock—and became the sword in the stone.
Galgano never left the mountain again, and today, pilgrims to the site can still see the sword, which has been proven to date to the 12th Century, still embedded in the stone.
During the year he lived on the mountain, Galgano was said to perform miracles and blessings to the locals who would come to visit with him.
Galgano was canonized four years after his death. The process for canonization for Saint Galgano, including the sworn testimonies of his miracles by those who knew him, are the oldest church canonizations records to survive to this day.
The mountain top chapel where he’d performed his miracles became so famous and popular, the monks who took it over had to build a new monastery at the bottom of the hill. Today, the Abbey of St. Galgano still survives, and is one of the most beautiful of the Gothic buildings remaining in Italy.
While the first King Arthur tales did pop up before Saint Galgano’s lifetime, possibly as early as the 6th Century, the aspect of Arthur pulling a sword from the stone only appeared after Galgano’s death, leading some to believe part of the Arthurian Myth was incorporated from this real-life tale.