Near the village of Montalcino, travelling along a panoramic road between vineyards, green hills, olive groves and farmhouses that tell the story of the ancient and wild land of Tuscany, stands the Abbey of Sant'Antimo, an example of Romanesque construction and most ancient in the region. Founded in 781 by Charlemagne, the Abbey was documented in the 9th century. A small building known as the "Carolingian chapel" seems to date back to this period.
The Benedictine abbey was started in 1118; the date is found in an inscription engraved on the steps and on the shelf of the main altar. The text tells us about a donation made by Count Bernardo degli Ardengheschi to Ildebrandino di Rustico as a bequeathal for the Abbey. The date is also confirmed on one of the columns of the deambulatory.
The abbey is built entirely of travertine rock extracted from the quarries located in the area of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, a material considered among the most precious at that time.
The interior of the church is divided into three naves by columns alternating with cross-shaped pillars. The base is completed by a deambulatory with three radial semicircular chapels of French origin. Abbot Guidone, who was following the works taking place at the Abbey at that time, wanted to use the Benedictine abbey of Cluny as a reference. The ceiling of the central nave has a wooden trussed roof, while the lateral naves are covered by cross vaults.
There is a 13th century wooden crucifix on the main altar and under the altar there is access to a very ancient crypt that preceded the construction in the 12th century.
The Abbey was suppressed in 1462 by Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Pope Pius II and who, by incorporating the monastery in the village of Montalcino, elevated it to a diocese. Towards the end of the 19th century, the abbey fell under the protection of the Fine Arts Authority, thus launching numerous important renovation campaigns, such as the complete refurbishment of the roof. In 1970, a decision was made to recreate the monastic community of Sant’Antimo, by entrusting it to a group of monks from France, who reinstated the liturgy of hours spent on Gregorian chants. Unfortunately, after just a few years the monks returned to their hometown, and he monks from the nearby Abbey of Monte Oliveto took over. Even this community suffered a decline in vocations and left the abbey in 2017, which is therefore without a monastic community inside it today.