Pilgrimage to the Mont

19 08 2011

Mont Saint Michel is on the west coast of France on the border between Brittany and Normandy. One of the most recognisable built landmarks in France, I have always wanted to visit it. It didn’t disappoint.

The sand flats that surround the island are notoriously dangerous, with sudden tides, fogs and quicksand. It is easy to imagine how religious pilgrims travelling to this sacred Abbey atop a rock “close to God” would have considered this last stretch of their journey, where the earth might at any moment open up to swallow them or their fellow travellers. Truly a test of faith and courage!

Today a causeway with a sealed road and a carpark makes access much easier and safer.

looking upwards from the base of the town ramparts

Narrow roads wind around the base of the rock. The quaint town of stone and tudor-style houses is now restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops but the charm remains.

Atop the island, built onto the base of rock, is the Abbey of Saint Michel – the Archangel Michael. It is the golden statue of the Archangel defeating a dragon that is on the highest spire.

stone replica of the statue of the Archangel defeating the dragon. A gilded version catches the sunlight atop the highest spire.

The final ascent to the Abbey.

Centuries ago, part of the old Romanesque Abbey fell away. By the time the church had raised enough money to replace it, styles had changed and hence the missing part was replaced in Gothic Style (above and below).

the exterior of the gothic end of the Abbey

Courtyard within the Abbey, surround by double row of intricately carved cloisters

detail of the stone carving decorating the cloisters

This human-powered wheel was used to lift heavy rocks building supplies and other supplies up the steep sides of the island to the Abbey. Monks walking inside the wheel wound up the long ropse to which the supplies were attached.

Mont Saint Michel has had a long and varied history. As well as being an Abbey (and having been under seige during the 100 year war, hence the rampards), it has also been a state prison, and during World War Two it was used as a resort for the occupying German forces. As a result it received relatively little damage in WWII, but was badly damaged during its period as a prison.

Au revoir, et bon journee, a Mont Saint Michel.




6 responses

19 08 2011

Great post! Magnifique! Reading this brought back memories. I visited there myself last year and it was amazing. The tide was low and we walked out a bit in the clay-like sand.

Your photos look very professional too. Thanks for sharing!

19 08 2011

Thanks – very brave of you to wander out onto the sand!

19 08 2011

Did you see Shrek and Donkey there? hahaha
Seriously – awesome photos and awesome place!

19 08 2011

Thanks Janet!

9 11 2011
Tom Tom abroad « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] pretty good. We managed to get ourselves from Gare de Lyon in Paris, where we picked up the car, to Mont Saint Michel on the west coast, down a little to Carnac and Brest, then across to Lascaux, up to Chenonceaux and […]

16 02 2012
Chartres « Mud Map to Life in the Modern Age

[…] is a city located 96km south west of Paris. We travelled through Chartres on our way to Mont Saint Michel on the west […]

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