The Towers of San Gimignano
In the rolling Tuscan countryside, beauty speaks for itself. Like all of Italy, the pulse of history beats alongside the rugged loveliness of the land. The natural interplay of past, present and beauty is no more apparent than the long approach to “The Manhattan of Tuscany,” the remarkable town of San Gimignano.
Far away, one sees towers rise high above the rounded hill and it’s famous, medieval town. These skyscrapers of the Late-middle Ages stand as a reminder of both the ingenuity of human engineering, and our innate desire to be looking down on the rest of us.
From our earliest beginnings, we humans have wanted to be rise above creation. The assumption, many reason, has been to connect with the sacred on high, to become closer to heaven, to get in touch with God. High places hold some kind of special spot in the human psyche.
In Genesis 11, and our Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel, we witness the same. Growing up, I always thought that these builders on the Plain of Shinar were building this tower so that they could be closer to God. Read closely, though, the story reveals the opposite. Those building the Tower of Babel were actually placing themselves in competition with God. Their purpose, according to scripture, was to “make a name for themselves…” In other words, pride, not desire to worship, served as the primary motivation for construction.
So it is and was with the mysterious and noble towers of San Gimignano. Today, 13 of the original 72 towers remain. First begun in the 1300’s, they represented the possibilities of exciting new wealth, though quickly evolving into competition of the rich and famous for the highest and most lavish tower in Tuscany. As with those in other places across the world and throughout history, fascination with bigger, better and higher remains. And yet, as Genesis 11 reminds us and as the Bible teaches: “Pride cometh before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
Lord, guide me today, in the paths of righteousness, for your name’s sake and not for our own glory. Lead me in the ways of humility, wisdom and love; and may I be a blessing even as I have been blessed. Amen.
 This phrase designates the skyline of this medieval gem of a town, the 13 remaining towers give the feel of something much bigger, more impressive and “Manhattan-like.”