TheAbbazia di San Galgano is a Cistercian abbey located approximately thirty kilometers from Siena, within the city limits of Chiusdino. It is comprised of the hermitage (called Rotonda di Montesiepi) and the large abbey, which now, in complete ruins with only the walls remaining, is a tourist site.
The lack of a roof in this abbey is shared by those in Melrose and Kelso in Scotland, in Cashel, Ireland, and Eldena, Germany. The floor, replaced by packed earth, in the springtime is transformed into a blanket of grass.
The church has a Latin cross layout 69 meters long by 21 meters wide and also features a spacious transept. The interior is divided lengthwise into three aisles of 16 bays of cross-shaped pillars.
Only towards the end of the 1800s was restoration considered. Following a survey of the architectural structures, the entire building became the focus of a massive historical study which was accompanied by a photographic campaign carried out by Fratelli Alinari of Florence. In 1926 a conservative restoration began, which was carried out without resorting to arbitrary reconstructions or additions: it was decided to simply reinforce that which remained of the monastery.
The church perfectly adheres to the canons of Cistercian abbeys. These canons were established by the rule of Saint Bernard and they provided for precise regulations as far as location, floor plan and building distribution were concerned. The abbeys were to be built along the most important roadways (in this case the via Maremmana) in order to render communications with the Mother House easier. Furthermore they were generally located near rivers (here it is the Merse) in order to take advantage of hydraulic power. Lastly, they were to be built in wooded or swampy areas in order to reclaim these lands and then utilize them for cultivating. From an architectural point of view the buildings were to be portrayed as considerably plain and formal.