The Sword in the Stone
Many grew up hearing about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Arthur was said to have become King of England by pulling a sword from a rock. Historians however, tend to view the tale as more folklore than truth. There is little to document he ever existed. The legend of Arthur seems to have been born out of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s imaginative 12th-century book about British kings completed in 1138.
But what about the sword some say was named Excalibur? There may actually be such a sword, but it’s not in England. And there may have been such a man as Arthur, but that wasn’t his name. The entire King Arthur legend may have its roots in Italy. But it came from a real historical figure that lived in Italy during the second half of the 1100s. His name was Galgano Guidotti.
Mario Moiraghi, an Italian engineer and university professor has written several books on the subject. His research suggests the sword in the stone story originated in Tuscany, Italy. Galgano was born in Chiusdino around 1148 and died in 1181, which was well before Robert de Boron’s account of the sword. Robert de Boron was a French author of the late 12th and early 13th century,
As the story goes, Galgano became a knight whose armor was less than shiny. Let’s just say, he loved to engage in worldly pleasures and his exploits weren’t so noble. However, one day the Archangel Michael appeared before him one day and encouraged him to repent. Sir Galgano took the advice. He decided to become a hermit and live in a cave.
But as he was searching for just the right cave his steed reared up and Sir Galgano was unceremoniously deposited onto the dusty road. An angelic voice spoke to him and he was helped to his feet by an unseen force. The voice led him to Montesiepi, a hill near Chiusdino. Sir Galgano was shown a vision of a round temple, Jesus, Virgin Mary and the Apostles.
When he reached the top of the hill the voice advised him to give up his life of sin, but he was certain that would be impossible. Galgano told the voice it would be as likely as him splitting a rock with his sword. To illustrate his point Galgano took his sword and plunged it into a nearby rock. Amazingly it buried itself to the hilt.
Galgano gathered quite a number of followers during his short life, especially knights. He was canonized four years after his death. A round chapel, the Rotonda of Saint Galgano, was built where he had spent his last days. Later, a Gothic cathedral was built close by. All that remains today are the walls. Tests conducted on the sword at the University of Pavia have confirmed the sword was made in the 12th century.
Whether or not one believes the story is a personal choice. However, skeptics have one gnawing question to answer. How did the sword get buried in the stone?