Val d'Orcia

The Abbey of Sant’Antimo near Siena

The Abbey of Sant’Antimo: from the legend to the gregorian chants

The benedictine Abbey of Sant’Antimo is considered one of the most important romanesque monuments in Tuscany.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo
Abbey of Sant’Antimo

The history of the abbey

The origins of the Abbey are shrouded in myth. According to the legend, it was founded by Charlemagne in 781. What is certain is that we find it documented since the first half of the 9th century and that among his main benefactors there is Louis the pious, son of Charlemagne.

The Abbot of Sant’AntimoIt was one of the main landowners of the area and exercised his authority over a vast territory from Grosseto to Pistoia. Under his jurisdiction there were not only dozens between churches and churches, but also numerous castles, farms and mills.

During the XIII century the abbey started to lose power and the control over some of his possessions. At the end of the 13th century the monastery is assigned to the order of the hermits of Saint William, and in 1462 Pope Pius II decides to incorporate in the diocese of Montalcino and Pienza.

In the 15th century the Abbey was abandoned so much so that its stones were reused in the construction of the village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate.

The date that marks the rebirth of the Abbey is that of 1870. This is the year when it was started the first restoration of the Church.

Finally, in 1979, the Archbishop of Siena decided to recreate a monastic community in Sant’Antimo.

The church

Although the Abbey was founded previously, the present Church dates from the 12th century when it was rebuilt in larger sizes.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo
Abbey of Sant’Antimo (Photo by Lucawood / CC BY)

The exterior of the Church

The facade, that is incomplete, leaves appear signs of four arches and a porch enclosing the rich portal, decorated with elegant sculptures. On the architrave of the portal, decorated on the outside with the depiction of a vine plant, there is the name of one of the architects of the Church, the monk Azzone dei Porcari.

On the bottom of the left side of the church stands the mighty bell tower (27 meters tall). The bell tower that is older than the Church, was in fact part of the previous complex, is open by single and double-arched windows in the upper part.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo Bell tower and apse
Bell tower and apse

The interior

Sant’Antimo is a church with three naves with travertine masonry.The naves  are separated by arches supported by columns alternating with cruciform pillars above which are the women’s galleries. Deserve special attention the capitals of the columns, especially the one depicting Daniel in the pit of the Lions attributed to the Master of Cabestany.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo Master of Cabestany - Daniel in the pit of lions
Master of Cabestany – Daniel in the pit of lions (Photo by Sailko / CC BY)

Particularly worthy of interest is the area of the apse crowned byan ambulatory with three radial chapels.

Inside the church are conserved frescoes and other works bysculptor dated between the 12th and 15th centuries.

Gregorian chants

Sant’Antimo is famous for the tradition of the gregorian chants. At the Abbey are regularly organized both sacred music and classical music concerts.
It also organized courses to learn gregorian chant and also tolearn the technique of miniature.

Opening hours

November-March: every day 10.00- 17.00
April-October: every day 10.00- 19.00

Guide tours

There are two types of tours:
1) with the video-guide: 3 euro
2) video-guide + the route called “La Via della Luce” (the way of light): 6 euro

For more informations about the abbey, the visits and the gregorian chants, please consult to the Official website.

How to get to the Abbey of Sant’Antimo

By car: from Florence you must take the Firenze-Siena motorway link to Siena, from there continue on the Strada Regionale 2 Cassia to Buonconvento, shortly afterwards you must turn onto the SP14 Strada Provinciale del Brunello and follow the signs for Montalcino. Reached the town you must continue on SP55 in the direction of Sant’Antimo and Castelnuovo dell’Abate.
Those coming from the south must take the A1 to the Chiusi / Chianciano exit and then continue on the SP146 towards Chianciano Terme, then follow the signs for Campiglia d’Orcia, Castiglione d’Orcia and finally Sant’Antimo.

By bus: by bus you can get to Castelnuovo dell’Abate which is just one kilometer from the abbey. The Siena Mobilità 0P1 line connects Castelnuovo and Montalcino.