Mont Saint Michel

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Name: Mont St. Michael
Location: Normandy & Brittany
Country: France
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MONT ST. MICHAEL is included in our 15 days Great Castles tour and 10 days Historical Explorer Tour.  Visit our site:
www.castlesoftheworld.com 

Le Mont-Saint-Michel, rocky, cone-shaped islet in  northwestern 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.

Mt. St.Michael
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, departure wrote:
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.

 

 Nancy 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 USA, wrote:
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, wrote:
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 Ohio, wrote:
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 wrote:
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, wrote:
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 breathtaking experience.
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 forget.
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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