The Mont Saint Michel
The Mont-Saint-Michel is an international place of pilgrimage as well as a major tourist centre.The different stages of its construction have created a unique architectural ensemble which was classified as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1979.
Read on to find out more about its history and also the big plans for its future...
It is believed that Aubert, Bishop of d'Avranches, founded a sanctuary on Mont-Tombe, after 3 successive appearances by the Archangel Michael. Consecrated in 709, the church has attracted both the curious and pilgrim from all over the world ever since.
After having been made into a prison from the time of the French Revolution up until the time of the Second Empire, the Abbey became the responsibility of the Historical Monuments Department in 1874. Since 1969 the Abbey has been home to a monastic community, ensuring the continuation of a spiritual presence.
Rightly called "The Wonder of the Western World", the Mont-Saint-Michel is surrounded by a magnificent bay, which is the theatre of the greatest tidal ranges in Europe, a grandiose spectacle.
Situated between the Point of Grouin (Cancale) in Brittany and the Point of Champeaux (towards Granville), in Normandy, the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is also included on the UNESCO list of World Cultural and Natural Heritage sites.
A place of history and legends, today's site has been subject for thousands of years to the vagaries of natural forces whose power can be judged by the difficulties of the Bay. Today work is under way to restore to the sea its rightful place around the Mont.
Worth a visit
- The forward defences of the town, the main street, the ramparts, and the abbey gardens.
Grévin Museum: at the foot of the Abbey, this great wax museum brings the construction, life of the monks and the history of Mont-Saint-Michel back to life.
- L'Archéoscope: a multimedia show which retraces the history and the legends of the Mont from its origins to today.
- Le Musée Maritime (Maritime Museum) - Rue Principale: it displays curiosities from the Mont and the Bay from the 16th to 20th centuries (models, ecosystems and the sand-removing project).
- Logis Tiphaine - In the house of Bertrand Du Guesclin (1320 -1380), the story of the life of the constable of France and his wife Tiphaine de Raguenel. The 14th century interior is open to visitors. Furniture, tapestries, curiosities.
- The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and The greatest tides in Europe: the spring tides in the Bay have the highest range in Europe: the rising tide advances as a wave over 50 cm high, covering a distance of over 15 miles at the speed of a galloping horse. The natural assets of the bay have led scientists to "classify" the different centres of interest : the Tombelaine nature reserve, a site of ornithological interest, a classified land site...
The Association for the Heritage of the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel aims to contribute to the promotion and preservation of the Bay. Among its activities, it organises various discovery packages : "On the trail of pilgrims of old" leads you in the footsteps of the pilgrims of the middle ages who went to the Mont via Genêts, where they reached the Abbey by crossing the bay at low tide with a guide. Today it is still necessary to make the crossing barefoot and wearing shorts, accompanied by a guide, to cross the rivers between Genêts and the Mont (nearly 4 miles, 7 1/2 miles there and back). The return journey takes 4 hours, with 1 hour on the Mont.
Dates for your diary:
- The Mont is floodlit every evening throughout the year at nightfall.
- During May : Religious feast and traditional events for the Spring feast of Saint Michael.
- Festival "Music under the wings of the archangel" on the weekend of the feast of St Michael.
- Pilgrimage across the bay, at the end of July, depending on the tides.
- Autumn pilgrimage of St Michael, end of September.