Monday, December 12, 2016

12/12 -- Via Francigena and a Pilgrimage Hike

We got to sleep in today, and headed out at 9:15 to learn about the Via Francigena and to walk a portion of it. Like our Spanish trip in September, we are roughly following another pilgrimage route from a thousand years ago. This one starts in Canterbury, England and ends in Rome. The first official documentation of it documented 79 days of hiking to cover 1,100 miles, half of which are in Italy. Being on the route brought fame and fortune to the villages along the way and other locations were interested in attracting pilgrims and their willingness to spend money on food,  lodging, and religious donations. Pilgrims were especially interested in seeing relics, like the 'True Face of Jesus' in Lucca.

One story that arose in this area was about a soldier named Galgano. From Wikipedia: "Galgano had two visions, both involving Archangel Michael: in the first vision the Archangel told Galgano that he was going to be protected by the Archangel himself. In the second vision, Galgano was following the Archangel and they arrived to the hill of Monte Siepi where they met the twelve Apostles and the Creator himself. After the visions, it is said that Galgano's horse refused to obey his orders and led him on top Monte Siepi where his vision happened. Convinced that this was a sign, Galgano decided to plant a cross. Since he had no way to make one of wood, he planted his sword in the ground. The sword is said to have immediately became one piece with the ground so that nobody could remove it. A story says that in one of the visions, he was told to renounce material things. He, stating that it would be as hard as splitting a rock, decided to make his point by attempting to plunge his sword into one. The story goes on saying that the "stone yielded like butter"."

After Galgano died, he was sanctified within four years. Three thieves tried to steal the sword and were each punished: one was killed by lightning, another drowned, and the third was attacked by wolves. He prayed to San Galgano for forgiveness, and he was saved, but lost his forearms in the attack because he couldn't get off scott free. His arms are the relic in the circular church that people came to see, along with the sword in the stone.

This could have been the origin of King Arthur's sword in a stone because even though the events in the books occurred hundreds of years earlier, the first book was about him was written in the early 1400s, well after the time of San Galgano.
The Church of San Galgano -- it was very foggy most of the

Interior of the church

A side chapel that was added  later. Under the
red fabric on the right is the relic.

Lodo showing us the relic of the arms lost to the wolves. It
doesn't pay to ask how they were recovered from the wolves...

The sword in the stone.

From there, we visited a nearby abbey that fell into disuse and lost its roof in the 1700s and is now a charming ruin.

The Abbey in the fog
Abbey interior

Jim in the abbey interior

Pigeons are nesting in these little gaps in the
exterior walls, which there are many of.

Abbey after the sun came out

View of the area after the fog lifted.
San Galgano Church minus the fog.
Next was lunch in the hill town where San Galgano was born, Chiusdino. We walked up to the top of the town and on the way down, stopped at his birthplace. His mother donated the first floor of her house to the church and it is now a small chapel. It also has a relic, the knee of the horse Galgano rode that dropped to its knees to force Galgano off to respond to his vision.
Entrance to the town

Santa's mailbox

We saw this in Lucca too -- need to check with
Lodo on the significance. Is Santa going in or out??

View of the valley from Chiusdino
Steep streets

Well head for the village

Relic of San Galgano's skull in a church near
the top the village.

San Galgano's birthplace

San Galgano Chapel interior

Relic of San Galgano's horse's knee

After lunch, we drove to a point about 2.3 miles from a pilgrimage stop and walked the route to Monteriggioni, the hill town that marked the end of a day's hike. It was pretty flat most of the way, until the uphill part, which was as steep as the hill from our bus stop at home only two to three times longer.  That marked the end of our day and we returned to our Villa for dinner and collapse. Compared to the last three days, this one was pretty easy -- only 12,000+ steps vs. almost 18,000 each of the last three days.
Where we started our walk on the Via Francigena

Our objective: Monteriggioni

Welcome sign in Monteriggioni, letting you know you only
have 300 km (188 miles) left to walk.

Moonrise over Monteriggioni

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