Mont Saint Michel is a small rocky island about 1 km from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River in Normandy. It is best known for the medieval Benedictine Abbey and steepled church that occupies most almost 1km-diameter territory.
This is the most famous landmark in France outside Paris. The Abbey dates back to the 8th century when the archangel Michael appeared to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, who then founded a monastery. He built it on the rocky island that stands just off the coast of Normandy and Brittany, accessible in the past only by boat through the stormy sea. The granite blocks for the construction of the abbey were brought from the nearby Chausey Islands and from Brittany. It was built on ground that was steep and uneven.
Constructed in 1877, the Mont-St-Michèl abbey rises out of the shifting tides of the sea. The buildings on this isolated island date from the 11th century. During the Revolution the abbey was closed and converted into a prison, initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime. But by 1836 influential figures, including Victor Hugo had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure. The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874.
Mont Saint Michel is connected to mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide, giving the mount a mystical quality. The Couesnon River has been canalized, reducing the flow of water and encouraging a silting-up of the bay. In 1879, the land bridge was fortified into a true causeway.
It is very hard to climb the abbey. There are near 900 steps in the Escalier de Dentelle (Lace Staircase) to climb. Halfway up Grande-Rue is the medieval church of St-Pierre, which features a richly carved side chapel with its dramatic statue of St. Michael slaying the dragon.
- Location: BP 22, 50170 Mont-Saint-Michel
- Nearby hotels: Hotel Gabriel, Le Relais du Roy, Hotel Mercure Mont Saint Michel
- Nearby sights: Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel, Fortifications du Mont-Saint-Michel, Terrasse de l’Ouest
- Phone: +33 2 33 60 14 30
- Work time: fom 9:00 to 19:00