Tuscan Sword in the Stone

This short article appeared in Renaissance, volume 8, number 5, issue 33.

It has long been assumed that a sword embedded in a rock at a Gothic abbey in Montesiepi, Italy was a forgery made to echo legends about the sword that Arthur withdrew from the stone to prove his right to be king. In June of 2003, however, Italian scholar Mario Moiraghi published The Enigma of San Galgano, in which he argues that the legend of the "sword in the stone" originated in stories about the Tuscan sword and a violent, lusty, Italian knight, who was later cantonized as Saint Galgano.

To support his conclusion, Moiraghi cites scientific metal dating tests conducted in September 2001, which date the Tuscan sword to the mid 12th century, long before the first literary references to the sword of Arthurian lore, as well as subsequent research by medieval historians, including a Vatican inquiry about Galgano, which described how Galgano plunged the sword into the rock in 1180, after being visited by the Archangel Michael and shown a vision of Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles. Galgano then renounced his worldly life to become a hermit.

Moirgaghi believes that medieval trubadors embellished upon the story of Galgano as it spread from Tuscany, eventually becoming part of Arthurian legend. Moiraghi also concludes that many elements of Arthurian lore--including the presence of exotic animals, such as ostriches, lions, and mongooses--were brought to the west by merchants from Persia (modern-day Iran).

--Judith Kane

Myth's Notes

The article also contains a photo of the Italian sword in the stone, apparently from Moiraghi's book.

For another reference of folklore swapping between Tuscany and England, please see the story The Sleeping Queen.

Go to index page