The story of Mont Saint Michel !!!

I have come across one of my fav magazines Detours en France and saw an older article on the Mont Saint Michel. Even thus, written couple posts on it and lots of pictures, I decided to translate and do this post from the historical, architecture perspective of the magazine. Of course, this one will be on my black and white series, no pictures. Hope you enjoy this wonderful post on the story of the Mont Saint Michel as I.

And even thus it has gotten lots of attention from me, you, and others over the years and can be crowded at times and more pricey, the place is a must to visit at least once in your lifetime. We have been 3 times and even my boys have gone in school trips. A wonder of our world indeed.

At the very beginning of the 8C, Saint Michael had to appear three times in the dreams of Aubert, bishop of Avranches, for him to agree to build an oratory on what was then called Mont Tombe or tomb hill , In 709, according to tradition, Saint Michael appeared in Aubert’s sleep, asking him to establish a place of worship on Mount Tombe. Clearly visible in the middle of the bay that Avranches overlooks from the top of the cliff, this large rock accessible at low tide was deserted, occasionally sheltering hermits. But Saint Michael returns to him in a dream, a few nights later. The bishop, alarmed, sees in it a manifestation of the Evil One. He prays and fasts, hoping to find peace. In vain: the archangel appears to him again. This time, the dream turns into a nightmare since, while reiterating his request, the saint presses his index finger very hard on Aubert’s head. Awakened by the pain, he finds that his skull is sunk. The message, we will have understood, has passed! The skull of Saint Aubert, preciously preserved in a golden shrine in the Saint-Gervais Basilica in Avranches, has a spectacular feature: it is pierced with a hole 2 centimeters in diameter. In 2019, carbon 14 precisely dates this skull. It is that of a person who lived between 662 and 770. Is it Aubert? There is no formal proof, of course, but then the hole?

At the top of the rock he will find a bull tied to a stake, and the area he has trodden will determine the location and size of the church. On the spot, indeed, a bovine drew the plan of the church. There is also a huge pagan cult stone. How to clear it? A divine force then manifests itself, and the stone rolls down the slope to collapse at the foot of the mount. It is on it that the Chapel of Saint-Aubert will be erected. Not far away, moreover, is a fountain, which appeared by a miracle, it is said. It is for this reason that it is dedicated to the bishop… The church, capable of accommodating a hundred faithful, was consecrated in 709. Before that, Aubert took care to send monks to Italy, and more precisely in the Puglia region, to bring back precious relics from Monte Gargano, the oldest sanctuary in the West dedicated to the Archangel Michael. In turn, Mont Tombe will become a destination of pilgrimage… Thus was born Mont-Saint-Michel, at the same time as a chapter of twelve canons settled there.

Indeed, 20 km from Mont-Saint-Michel, in the middle of the polder created from the Middle Ages, stands Mont Dol. A legend attaches to this hill: the Homeric duel between the Saint and the devil. On the rock, to the left of the chapel, we can see the mark left by the buttocks and the claws of the devil struck down by the archangel. This would then have dug a fault (known as “Devil’s Hole”, on the other side of the chapel), where he would have precipitated his opponent. Which, sinking into the bowels of the earth, would have reappeared… on Mont Saint-Michel! With a jump, the archangel would have thrown himself on him. The imprint, left by his foot while propelling himself, appears in a rock, near the tower which bears the statue of the Virgin.

It should be understood that, from century to century, the buildings were added vertically, on the sides of the rock. They leaned on the older ones, as if they were trying to reach for the sky. Hence these crypts, whose pillars support the abbey church. Thus the Notre-Dame-sous-Terre Church, which is the old church where Aubert officiated; or the Gros-Piliers crypt, each of whose 10 columns measures 5 meters in circumference. The other originality of the sanctuary is to have adapted the traditional Benedictine architecture to the relief of the mount. Instead of occupying the center of the monastery, the cloister is at its summit: one meditates there between sky and sea. It communicates with the refectory, which constitutes the third floor of the rooms where the guests of the abbey ate. Below are the Guest Room, reserved for pilgrims of noble ancestry, and the chaplaincy (on the first level), which welcomed the poorest. Not forgetting the cellar and the Salle des Chevaliers, serving as a scriptorium. We call it “Merveille” or Wonder, the set formed by these six places.

The Benedictine Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most remarkable examples of religious architecture from medieval times. Both homogeneous and composite, the famous abbey is made up of several buildings from different periods and styles, the oldest of which ,the Church of Notre-Dame-sous-Terre dates back to the 10C. In addition to its gigantic abbey church, whose summit culminates at more than 150 meters in height, the jewel of the architecture of the abbey is certainly the so-called building of the Merveille or wonder, on the northern flank of the rock. This masterpiece of Norman Gothic art, built in the 13C, has 3 superimposed levels, the last of which notably houses an extraordinary cloister.

The Abbey Church at the top and Gothic choir dated 15-16C , The spire 32 meters with a statue of the Archangel Saint Michael in wood and embossed copper covered with gold which weighs 410 kg for 4.5 meters in height posed on August 6, 1897, The Grand Degrée, a monumental staircase leads to the Saut Gauthier platform in front of the south portal of the church. As soon as you pass the gatehouse and the guard room, it becomes the interior Grand Degrée and runs along the abbey dwellings, beginning in the 13C, it was completed three centuries later. The Abbatial Logis built at the end of the 14C enlarged two centuries later they serve as the residence of the abbot. They comprise a central body, two square towers with crenellated terraces and a raised wing with an apartment at the top planned to be on one level with the abbey, The Monteux staircase offers a less frequent access route to the abbey with superb views of the shore, The Salle des Gardes has become access to the abbey since the 13C its name for visitors should deposit their weapons before penetrating further, it has a beautiful 15C fireplace.

The Gothic heart of the abbey is a marvel of finesse begun in 1452 and finished in 1521, It has three levels; the ambulatory which deserts five chapels; the triforium with mullions finally the high windows with small columns, some of which climb 25 meters in height, the radiant chapels, among others a 16C altarpiece in Nottingham alabaster depicting scenes from the Passion, The Châtelet built during the Hundred Years War, embedded between two towers, it completely blocked access to the abbey, reinforced by a barbican and the Claudine tower. The soldiers housed for the defense of the abbey were housed in the Perrine tower. built in the 15C they made the mount impregnable during the Hundred Years War, access to the village is done by three doors: the King’s gate protected by a barbican and a drawbridge gate of the advance equipped with a barbican and added at 16C; the gate of the Boulevard seven towers built mostly at the level of the walkway, reinforce the ramparts and facilitate the movement of the defenders. The Buildings of Fanils erected in 1828 on the site of the shops and haylofts of the abbey to house the guards of the prison, The Grande Rue main access to the abbey lined with shops and remarkable Renaissance buildings in pains de wood like the Maison de l’Arcade and the Auberge de la Siréne or in stone like the Hôtellerie de la Licorne, and restoration efforts like the Saint Pierre hotel, The Saint Pierre Church built in the 15-16C offers a modest interior but rich in the testimony of the many pilgrims who visit it, the cult of Saint Michael was transferred there in 1866.

The plan of the Merveille or wonder, has the Chaplaincy it serves as a defense for the pilgrims divided into two naves by a row of round columns this room is the oldest vestiges of constructions in the 12C, The guest room same dimensions as the previous layout of the two naves much more elegance reserved for visitors of high rank , kings etc. has three fireplaces two for roasting meats and the other for the comfort of visitors, The refectory located on the upper floor has a wooden paneled ceiling, the side walls leaving good the light the higher you go the closer you get to God and light, the refectory planned for 300 less never accommodated more than 60, Le Chartrier installed in a tower it housed the archives and the charters hence its name monastery, transferred to Saint Lô which disappeared in a fire in 1944 (WWII), The Cloister, a place of meditation and the only space of freedom for the monk, it is placed between heaven and earth on the top floor of the Merveille, The interior of the galleries is richly decorated, the current interior garden dates from 1965, The galleries of the Cloister decor recounts the story of creation by following the course of the sun just north, we can notice a nice symbol of heresy which refuses the divine light, The Scripterium or Knights’ Hall is divided into four naves by columns with capitals decorated with foliage, The light penetrates through the vast circular bays, two chimneys allow to fight against humidity to keep the books, The Cellar divided into three naves by two rows of square pillars it was connected by a staircase to the Saint Aubert fountain for a long time the source of drinking water on the mount.

in 1204: Bretons, allied with the King of France Philippe-Auguste, took the Mont Saint Michel, looted the houses and burned the abbey. In 2017, the rehabilitation of pipes in the main street revealed the foundations of a 13 village wall and gate, which were thought to have disappeared forever. As well as, to everyone’s surprise, a medieval necropolis. It contained about thirty bodies, probably related to the attack of 1204. And the Couesnon river and the arguments between Normans and Bretons continues….

In Normandy, the high tides of Mont Saint-Michel are an impressive phenomenon. Several times a year, during periods of full moon, the English Channel is the victim of these bewildering variations in water level. The advantage with these high tides of Mont Saint-Michel is that they offer unsuspected perspectives to many visitors. During the full moon, when the water level is very low, tourists and curious people can indulge in many activities such as crossing the bay or collecting shells. The spectacle is all the more impressive when the seabed is flat, as in the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. The tidal range can reach 14 meters and the water recede about 15 km. At Mont Saint-Michel, it is well known that the tide rises at the speed of a galloping horse.

The official Mont Saint Michel tourist office : https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/discover/visit-the-mont-saint-michel/

The official Mont Saint Michel tourist office on the relics St Aubert at Avranches: https://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/en/discover/extend-the-discovery-of-the-bay/the-bay-of-mont-saint-michel-normandy-side/avranches-its-treasure-and-the-scriptorial/

The transports Transdev site on the Mont Saint Michel: http://www.bienvenueaumontsaintmichel.com/en

The Manche dept 50 tourist office on the Mont Saint Michel: https://www.manche-tourism.com/mont-saint-michel-normandy

The Normandy region tourist office on Mont Saint Michel: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/the-mont-saint-michel/

The magazine Detours en France: https://www.detoursenfrance.fr/

There you go folks, fully documented, and glad it is now in my blog. Mont Saint Michel ,one of the wonders of our world, and need to be visited on any account. Again, hope you have enjoy the post as I.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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