While traveling around Italy, I met a store owner in Tuscany. After I explained I was a novelist, he asked,
"Have you seen the Sword in the Stone?"
He went on to explain the site was only 15 kilometers away. Thoroughly jazzed, I drove to San Galgano with my husband the following day. Wow!
Even if the story had proved to be false, the Chapel of San Galgano and the fabulous ruined Abbey were spectacular.
However, the story is real...
In 1178, a wayward knight was challenged by a heavenly vision to leave his destructive style of life.
The violent man responded, "That would be as easy as plunging my sword into this stone." He thrust his sword at the stone and was recorded as saying, "It melted like butter." For centuries, pilgrims arrived to view the miracle.
(Keep in mind this event occurred one year BEFORE the sword in the stone story appeared in the King Arthur tales.)
Galgano became a hermit and stayed atop Montesiepi until his death in 1181. Five years later, a chapel was erected to protect the miracle.
Not a believer yet? A few years ago, vandals broke off the hilt, but were caught and the piece of sword recovered. This permitted a scientific study, which confirmed the sword was indeed twelfth century!
Now, how does a suspense writer leave a scene like this without using this extraordinary event in a novel? She doesn't!
I am pleased to announce my latest novel, "The Proof." It will not be released until next month, but please enjoy a peek at the story through the video trailer HERE, and please, don't be shy about sharing it.
See more beautiful photos of San Galgano HERE.
“The men are restless to spend their spoils, El Capitan. We should go ashore soon.”
The Spanish captain stood on deck, scanning the horizon. His first mate spoke truly. They had been at sea too long. Stilling his spyglass, he focused. And smiled. A ship lay in easy reach. They could come upon her before she made Boston harbor. He gave the order and his men swung into furious activity.
Bearing down on the passenger ship, the captain’s heart pounded. He could see the men scurrying around the ship, helpless. The women disappeared below deck. “Leave no one alive,” he ordered. He wanted no witnesses at his hanging, if he were ever caught for pirating.
Shouting, screaming, crying—all chaos broke loose when they boarded. Overrun, and facing certain death, the captives fell quiet. The captain raised his sword above the vanquished ship’s leader, but stopped his downward thrust when a baby’s loud wail broke the silence.
“Bring me the child,” he ordered the hostage captain, who returned from down below with a newborn baby girl. Distracted from his destructive intent, the captain ordered. “Who is the mother?”
The woman, still trembling from childbirth had climbed her way above board to save her child. “Don’t harm her, she’s mine,” she pleaded.
The captain’s hard eyes softened when the child quieted in his arms. “Si, she is. And I will not harm her--if you obey my orders.”
Fearful, the woman nodded. “What sir?”
“Name the child Mary, after my mother who died this year, and I will let her, and everyone else live.”
The mother fell to her knees and reached for the child. “Yes, sir. As you say.”
Whispering to his first mate, the captain handed the child back to her mother. “There is one more thing.” The hostages waited, holding their breath. Soon, the first mate returned with a large parcel and handed it to the captain, who removed the wrapping and exposed a roll of glorious sea green silk brocade. “When she marries, she will wear a dress made from this fabric.” The mother nodded, vigorously this time.
Tense looks of disbelief stared at him from both crews. “Back to the ship,” he ordered his men. Once they pushed off, he watched a crowd surround the woman. Now he would have to deal with his own men, lest they think he had grown a soft heart.
The baby was named Mary, wore the silk on her wedding day, and bore five children. Though this much of the story is true, the legend expanded, and now includes the pirate returning to wed the widow Mary, and Mary haunting their house.
Read more about Ocean Born Mary.
Clues to the next story: The road to the coldest town on the planet is paved with the bones of a million men.
Where in the world did this occur?
Be the first to comment with the correct answer and win a $5 Starbucks gift card.
“NO,” she screamed, as the car skidded and plowed into a snow bank.
She moved each limb. They all worked, but her car was another story. She turned the key, but only a sick groan sounded from under the crumpled hood. “Now what?” she said into the frozen night air.
The heater had not kept up with the cold.
The last radio update indicated it was 25 degrees below zero in her hometown of Lengby, Minnesota.
She checked the empty road. “This isn’t good.” Getting home was impossible, but perhaps she could make it to her neighbor’s house.
Cracking open the door, the chill hit her cheeks like a million razors. She stepped out and pulled her wool scarf up. Wanting to cry, but afraid the tears would freeze her eyes, she heaved a shuddering sign and climbed up to the road.
It was so dark. She shut her eyes and opened them again. The minor contrast between the road and fields kept her on course, but how far to his house? Incredible pain bit at her laboring body. Looking ahead at nothing, panic swelled in her tightening chest. I won’t make it. She wanted to run, but with each step, her legs seemed to solidify.
Her arms, wrapped around her body in a protective hold, were nearly frozen in place.
Every step brought sheer agony, but she kept pushing. At last, she could make out a farm light in the distance, but fear screamed it was too far. Even her heart seemed locked in the process of succumbing to the extreme temperature gripping her body.
Her neighbor’s mailbox. Moving only inches with each step, she shuffled down his driveway. Her mind strained against the numbing cold, and only the tiniest bit of recognition pierced through her frosted eyelids. Where’s the house? Fear caught her throat. She squinted harder. A dark shape loomed close. The door should be here. She groped for it, feeling like her arm cracked at the movement. The doorknob. But she could not reach it.
Vertigo tumbled through her confused mind and she crashed sideways. She could not move to get up. No, her mind whispered, too numb to scream.
On the morning of December 20, 1980, Jean Hilliard was found just outside her neighbor’s door. Frozen solid.
Though this is not the actual experience that Jean encountered, the story is true. She was rushed to the hospital, where Dorothy Killian commented, “She was so cold, it was like reaching into a freezer, like picking out a frozen stick of wood. Her face was absolutely white. Just this ashen, death look. We did hook her up to the monitor, and we got this agonal rhythm—like one beat. It was just like one and nothing. Then two. We knew that we had something, but that's a death rhythm.”
The medical team worked with her, but a staff worker, Rosie Erickson, knew a miracle was needed. She says, “I called the pastor of our church and I stated simply that Jean Hilliard from the Lengby area was brought into the hospital in a frozen condition, very critical, and that she needed prayer.”
A prayer chain started at 9:00 a.m., reaching over 30 people who began to pray. By noon, the impossible happened: Jean awoke with full mental capacity, but her legs were black with frostbite. Yet, as her family watched, the black disappeared inch by inch, turning to white. After 49 days in the hospital, Jean left, completely recovered.
Jean credits the doctors and nurses, and also the friends and neighbors who prayed for her. “There are other people across the nation that same night that were found in the same condition I was in. And they died. I just think without all those people that I might not have survived.”
Read more of this miraculous story.
For clues to the next mystery, visit http://www.facebook.com/cherylcolwellauthor
Connect with me:
Look under RV Adventure tab for more pics and recipes
Travel & Mystery blog:
Get fascinating glimpses into Cheryl's travels and the historical facts that infuse her stories. Click Subscribe