|Name: Mont St. Michael
Location: Normandy & Brittany
|MONT ST. MICHAEL is included in our 15 days Great Castles
tour and 10 days Historical Explorer Tour. Visit our site:
Le Mont-Saint-Michel, rocky, cone-shaped islet
France, in the Gulf of Saint-Malo, connected by a causeway with the
mainland. The islet, celebrated for its Benedictine abbey, has small
houses and shops on its lowest level. Above these stand the monastic
buildings, many of which date from the 13th century and are considered
outstanding examples of Gothic architecture. The entire islet is crowned
by the abbey church, about 73 m (about 240 ft) above sea level.
The first chapel on this site was founded in 708 by Aubert,
Bishop of Avranches , after the Archangel Michael has appeared to him in a
dream. The Archangel Michel appeared here in the year 708. The Abbey takes the name
of Mont saint Michel. The oratory, consecrated in 709 was served by a community
of canons. It apparently survived the Norman invasions, but the observance of
the rule became very relaxed. In 966 Richard I, Duke of Normandy, established
there the Benedictine monks from St. Wandrille Abbeyunder the direction of Abbot
Maynard, who began the reconstructions of the church and other buildings. The
church was burnt in 922 and rebuilt on a larger scale by Abbot Hildebert II from
1023, at the time of the monastic reforms in Normandy carried out by Richard II
and William of Volpiano
During the Hundred years War the fortifications of Mont St.
Michel were reinforced (1420) and the Romanesque choir collapsed Construction of
the present clever began in 1448. In 1622 the abbey became part of the
Congregation of St. Maur; three western nave bays and the facade were destroyed
and replaced with large terrace. The abbey was dissolved at the Revolution
(1789-95), and it was used as a prison in the 19th. century. It was severely
burnt in 1856, but thorough restorations were not undertaken until 1874.
The buildings of Mont St. Michel are constructed of granite, but
there is some limestone in the cloister.
The village that grew up and around the abbey lies huddled
within the fortifications and includes a Romanesque parish church, remolded in
the 15 century. The fortifications include crenellated ramparts, towers and a
14th century barbican, which reinforce the abbey's own defenses. The tower
Claudine protects the monastery entrance.
Mont Saint-Michel was built in a strong rock that measures 84 meters height.
It is pure granite and is so hard that has resisted the passage of time.
Mont Saint Michel was built as a medieval castle. It has two large
towers to defend the entrance to the castle.
St. Michael is a surety for freedom and thus this sanctuary also became a symbol of the allied landing in Normandy during the
Second World War.
POEM WRITTEN BY ONE OF OUR TOUR PARTICIPANTS IN JUNE 2001.
It rises up in the deceiving distance
Like a beacon to the wretched and weak
As the lighthouse at Alexandria once opened the seas
To weary travelers, drunk on sea salt and night.
The waves crash on its forgotton stones
Slowly washing away one thousand years
But Mount St. Michael is eternal.
The spirits in the catacombs sleep silent
Remembered in the chants on the monks.
As the ghostly brothers wander the halls
Drinking secrets from the ancient chalice
And tending the grapes for their moonshine wine.
So sacred a place, the stairs need guard it,
Winding in dozens up steep narrow passages
Up and up to the nearing warm skies
‘Til you reach a breezy gothic chapel
So high you can hear the prayers in the walls
And echoing in the lulling lowly waves
Tamed and bowing seemingly a mile beneath.
Is it a house of God or a fortress of war?
Candlelight of hope or dimness of despair?
No matter, for the people still come
The devoted, the curious and above all the lost
Searching for answers in the carvings,
A lost soul within the tombs
Or inner peace through the stained glass windows of time.
~Robyn Schwartz~ (10/23/01)
|Arija Gifford, 31, from
Bremerton, WA, tour member on our Castles Tour 2000 September 15,
|Mont St. Michel is one of the most
spectacular places that I have ever been to! I had never heard of the
island of Mont-Tombe (Tomb on the Hill), before I went on the Castle
Tour but once I saw a picture of it, I knew that it would be one of the
best places of my entire trip and it fully lived up to all my
expectations. The town is like a maze with staircases going up behind
the shops and walkways leading to yet another place. I could spend a
week walking thru the town and still never see every bit of it. Then
there is the church itself high above the shops. The abbey is so
simplistic yet such a grand site that it takes your breath away just to
think of how old it is and how many pilgrims (known as miquelots) have traveled
from so far away to come to the island for protection and salvation. The
architecture is spectacular and to see it lit up at night is the most
amazing sight. If you stand still and listen closely you can almost hear
the voices from the past speak to you. Mont St. Michel is truly one of
the greatest wonders of the world. No one should go to France without
visiting the this grand place.
Becker, 47, from Pennsylvania, wrote:
|My husband and I
visited Mont St. Michel while visiting my daughter in France. This
is so breath taking beautiful that is so hard to put into words. The
feel as you walk up the narrow "streets" towards the monastery
allows you to imagine that you are back in the 16th century. Be
sure to try the cider wine that produced in the area and sold here.
While here we purchased a christening outfit to bring back to our
granddaughter in the US because we felt that it would be a perfect heir room.
A definite visit for anyone planning to visit the area!
|Tom West, 29, from Midwest, wrote:
| I have actually visited Mont St.
Michelle twice: once in 1990 and again in 1995. Mont St. Michelle
is located near the French town of St. Malo near the intersection of two
Northern Province in France: Normandy and Brittany. The castle
itself was built upon a site where, according to legend, a vision of
Saint Michael was witnessed. The land surrounding the Castle is
largely flood plain with a raised road leading to the castle (which
itself sits atop a small mountain). Mont St. Michele's proximity
to the Atlantic coast is apparant, if subtle, in the structure of the
Castle/abby itself; the roof itself looks like an overturned boat and in
fact, local ship-builders were employed to construct it. A steep,
winding road leads to the actual castle at the top and one starts to
realize that this castle was also a medieval town. Vendor shops
line the narrow street and nearly everything there is constructed of
stone. Part of the castle has been carved into the rock of the
mountain itself, though that part was under excavation during both
visits, so hopefully it is completed and can be visited now. If
you are ever on the French coast, I strongly recommend a visit to Mont
St. Michelle to get a taste of what medieval life might have been like.
|Elsa, 19, from Rims, France, wrote:
|Bonjour a tout le monde, J'habite a
Reims, en France, Je m'appelle Elsa Costezen, J'ai visite le Mont St
Michel cette ETE en AOUT et Je l'ai adoree. Ce Chateaux est un Chateaux
tres speciale pour tout le monde, si beau, si incroyable.
|Ashley, 17, from Ohio, wrote:
| I visited Mont St. Michael on a
trip with my school last year. Its magnitude and beauty were
overwhelming. The sight of it simply took my breath away.
|Marissa Sinclair, 19, from Northeast
|When I was a junior in high school, I
visited France and on our trip, we went to Mount St. Michel. It
was one of the most memorable places I have ever visited. I am
studying abroad semester, and the first place I look into visiting again
was Mount St. Michel. I cannot wait to go back, for it is unlike
any other place on Earth!
|Ashley, 25, from South Korea. wrote:
|When I visited this castle I was part
of a city from long ago. I could see the beggars and knights and
bell-ringers...just around the corner were kings and queens. What
a journey through history.
| My wife and I just got back from
our first trip to France. Mont St. Michael has to be the most
amazing site I've ever seen! If you're going to France put this on
the list of sites. Pictures do no justice. It's about 3 hrs
from Paris and the D-Day Beaches are close by. You can also go to
St. Malo to spend the night. Well worth the time and energy.
I can't wait to take my children there once they are old enough to begin
to appreciate it.
|Michael Ambroch, 29, from Philadelphia,
|Truly one of the seven wonders of the
world. This castle is one to be seen in the evening, as well as a day
stop, because of the magical appearance the castle takes when lit up.
When in the area, it is also worth while to travel west down the coast
to St. Malo, and even a little further, to Fort La Latte
|Fernand Bourque, 49, from Sudbury,
Ontario, Canada, wrote:
|Father Andre, Father Bruno and all
other who work with him are the firefighters and paramedics of this
blessed site. Because my Pen pal Richard is a firefighter and told them
two years in advance that his Fire Fighter pen pal was going to visit
him from Canada, they invited me to share a day of visiting, praying and
touring. On June 8, 1991, the Monks locked the church at 10:00 am sharp
and celebrated a special mass for my family and my pen pals (Richard
Brionne) family, from Flers France, while over 500 visitors waited
outside. It was so cold in this massive stone church that you could see
your breath. I was served wine and bread during mass and my family was
given a special blessing. I will never forget the Old Monk ringing
the large bell while holding the rope causing him to rise 20 feet above
the altar. WOW, only once in a life time. At 12:00 sharp, we escaped via
a special private door for diner. Only then was the church re-opened. I
had the privilege to dine with the Monks and the Carmelites Sisters at
their private table and share some good wine. My fondest memory is the
Medal they presented to me during Dinner. It was the first time they
awarded any medal to anyone, let alone this Fire Memorial medal and I
was to have this honor. I cried like a baby. I was blessed to have been
given a full day of private touring of the rarely visited original
church foundations, access to the ramparts inaccessesible to the general
public, the Monks private residences, gardens and work areas, the fire
station and back doors to many specialty stores. I have traveled to many
parts of the world, seen some very remarkable sites, but none is
imbedded in my memory as this holy site and of the kindness of its
inhabitants. Bless the Brionne family, Richard, Jocelyne, Samuel,
Anne-Claire, Pierre ( my god-son) and Marion, for allowing my family
this once of a life time visit. I returned 3 years later on June the
8th, 2 days after receiving another medal from the French government honoring
my still living 80 year old Father's bravery on Juno Beach at
Berniere sur mer, 50 years to the day on June 6, 1944. WOW again
|Fawn Lerner-Gilli, 29 from Florida and
|Of all the places that I have
visited, Mont St Michel is one of the most memorable. I took some
of my high school students from Carey High School in Ohio there and they
were amazed as well. We took a tour bus & I can remember the
feeling of butterflies & my stomach sinking as we approached Mont St
Michel. I have never seen any place as breathtaking or as
unforgettable. It was more beautiful and awesome than I could have
ever imagined. As I walked through the narrow winding streets to
the top of the abbey, I could imagine how this place was so revered in
the middle ages.
|Eduardo Lobo, 19, from Brazil
|Visiting the Mont St. Michel was
one of the greatest experiences I've had. It is one of the most amazing
places I've been. Walking on those medieval streets feels like going
back many centuries. Also going through the abbey and dungeons gives you
a feeling of mystery, specially when you know that it was also used as a
prison. So, sometimes you ask yourself: What can there be behind this
locked door or wall? Certainly, Le Mont St Michel is one of the
most interesting places someone can know and visit.
|Pam Morier, 41, from Toronto, Canada,
|I loved visiting Mont St. Michel
because of its closeness to the sea and the beautiful architecture used
to construct it. The walk around the base of the structure if like
taking a step back in time to pre-medieval times. A certain
|Carol, from Detroit, MI, USA, wrote:
| I visited Mount St. Michel a
month ago, March 2000, and this was the most wonderful site of my tour
of France. I was privileged to spend one night on the island. The mystery of the
island was fascinating and it was breathtaking to stand on the
ramparts and take in the view. Learning the history of the site
had my imagination running. This was an experience that I will never
|Ashley, 21, West Michigan, wrote:
| I visited Mt. St. Michael in Oct. of 98. It
is awesome. The Architecture is awesome, the people friendly, the
shops neat, the food good, the history fascinating, the countryside
beautiful. The thing that impressed me most was that when we
arrived, there was a huge parking lot in front of the castle and when we
left there was just a narrow strip of land left with most of the parking
lot and a couple of cars almost submerged under the ocean. I will
never forget this visit and would encourage anyone who can to visit.
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