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Mont-Saint-Michel


Mont-Saint-Michel
Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay is characterized by the rocky tidal island that holds a 11th century Benedictine abbey and a fortified medieval village. The complex was built at a unique natural location, resulting in an unforgettable silhouette.

The tides in the Bay can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres (46 ft) between high and low water marks. The coastal flats have been polderised to create pastureland.

The monastery was an important place in medieval Christianity. It was dedicated to the archangel St Michael. The first monastic establishment here dates from the 8th century.

The mount is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, which commemorates the 1066 Norman conquest of England. Norman ducal patronage financed the spectacular architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries.

The core zone also includes the Old Windmill of Moidrey, which is located on the top of a hill adjacent to the Bay. The Mill was built in 1806 to produce flour.

Visit December 2013

I saw this iconic pyramid for the first time about 12 kms away, from the small road that leads from the motorway to the entrance of Mont Saint-Michel. Its visible impact on the horizon was exactly the same as I had experienced a few years ago at Uluru in Australia: it’s like a magnet, you want to get there as soon as possible. As the thing has been there for ages, there’s no need to rush though.

When I arrived (at about 9.50 a.m.) the car park had already some 100 cars in it. This is just a fraction of what it can hold – facilities are gigantic, a bit similar to parking at a large airport. One can take a free shuttle bus from there to the foot of the hill, but I decided to walk the 3km so I would be able to take pictures. I looked in envy to the group and a few individuals that were hiking the surrounding mud flats: they must be able to enjoy the natural surroundings more ànd have views of the Mont Saint-Michel from different angles.


The whole visiting experience is in the process of being changed: a dam has been built a few years ago to prevent the site’s sands from growing over with vegetation and making it impossible for the mount to ever become an island again. It’s a bit of a construction site at the moment, a large boardwalk is in the final stages of being put together and becoming the main way to enter the site from the parking lots. This distracts a little from the unobstructed views.


These views are the site’s best feature anyway, as I did not really fall for what has been built on top of the island. The village is small, full of souvenir shops and best-to-be-avoided restaurants. The abbey is worth entering and I especially liked the Grand Western Terrace (more views of the sand flats!). Its interior is nothing spectacular though on the scale of monasteries around the world.


Somewhat surprisingly this WHS consists of another location too: according to the Unesco website, the windmill of Moidrey is part of the core zone too. It lies about 5km from the Mont Saint-Michel, and is said to have great vistas of the mount. I had planned to visit it on my way back, but although I had written down the adress I could not find it as my car navigation did not recognize it.

Click here to see more of my photos of Mont-Saint-Michel

Reviews

Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
Only one reason brought me to Lower Normandy: to visit the unbelievable Mount Saint Michel.
I hitchhiked to get there and the last driver dropped me in Mount Saint Michel.
The tides were high, so I could walk until the mount.
Mount Saint Michel consists on a rocky tiny island united by an isthmus, although when the tides raise the mount remains without communication by land.
In the X century on the Mont Saint Michel was constructed a Benedictine Abbey where the monks lived until the French Revolution (1789), when it was transformed in prison.
Today, Mount Saint Michel represents a UNESCO wonder.
I visited the Benedictine Abbey, the cathedral, the church and, in general, all the Mount Saint Michel itself. I still have at home a book, in Spanish language, which I bought there.
I was told that today, in the interior of the Mount Saint Michel live about 50 persons, and all the rest, French workers from the restaurants and shops return home in the evening to sleep after their daily occupation.
Mount Saint Michel, somehow, remembered St Michael's Mount, in Cornwall.
After visiting Paris, the castles of Loire Valley and now Saint Michel, I felt that I had seen the main musts of France.
Date posted: July 2013
Clyde (Malta):
I visited in Summer 2011 and could admire this WHS in low and high tide. I saw Puccini's Madamme Butterfly en plein air just in front of the WHS and it was truly an unforgettable experience. I explored the rocky tidal island with a tiny population of only 44 people. In the morning when the tide retreated I walked all the way the to Channel Islands following some tourist groups from afar to be sure to avoid the quick sand zones. It is certainly one of the most beautiful WHS France has to offer.
Date posted: September 2012
Klaus Freisinger (Austria):
Mont St.Michel is one of the most famous and recognizable sights in the world, and one of the best-known symbols of France. Known as the Wonder of the West, or Merveille de l'Occident, it is famous as much for its artistic, cultural and religious significance as for its unique location on a small island off the Norman coast. Though it is visited daily by countless tourists and pilgrims, it is quite well managed, as many people stay in the restaurants and tourist shops of the village at the foot of the mount. It takes a bit of effort to reach the abbey at the top (which charges a fee), but this is certainly worth it, as the abbey is really a great and very interesting building. There are also several museums, but those are overpriced and only mildly interesting, and only recommendable if you have some time on your hands. To reach the mount, I stayed in Rennes and took a bus, which was quite convenient and trouble-free. There are also bus connections to the villages of Pontorson and Dol-de-Bretagne, but of course Rennes is a large city with several sights of its own. It should be noted that, similar to the cathedrals of Amiens and Bourges, Mont St. Michel is a double inscription as part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela.
Date posted: August 2012
Thibault Magnien (France):
The Mont Saint-Michel and its bay have been the first French site to be registered as a WHS in 1979. The great abbey is the main attraction of the Mont. The statue of the angel Saint-Michel is located on the top of the church tower, 170 meters high.
In 709, a sanctuary started being constructed to honor the angel Saint-Michel. In 966, the Benedictine abbey was erected. Then and for centuries, edifices have been set up on the Mont until the current abbey to be completed during the 16th century. It has been a pilgrimmage site and a prison but it has always keep its religious value for people.
The little rock island, situated in the bay, is now linked to the continent by a dyke with a road. However, this dyke is planned to be destroyed and changed into a long bridge to allow sediments and sand to flow without being stopped. These sediments were creating sand mounts risking to change the island into a part of the continent.
The bay surrounding the Mont is the place where the biggest tides in Europe occur and welcomes a great diversity of fauna and flora.
I have visited a lot of sites in my life and the Mont Saint-Michel is for me one of the best ones. This quiet and marvelous place bewitches visitors and makes them fall in love with its beauty.
Date posted: April 2012
Clarence Admire (USA):
In July 2009, I took my son and two grandsons to tour the Normandy battlefields[my brother was in second wave at Omaha beach-three of us are navy veterans. We stayed in Ponterson and made a trip to Mt Saint Michels. The first view of it was awesome and the visit to the Abbey and surroundings was history firsthand; but the thing that we all remember about the visit was the number of people walking far out on the tidal flats, apparently they were experienced in the high tides period because we observed a picture of the island completely surrounded by water. The visit was one of the hightlights of our trip.
Date posted: June 2011
John Booth (New Zealand):
I stayed in the village of Pontorson and caught the bus to Mont St Michel from outside Pontorson station. It went right across the causeway and stopped at the entrance to the Mont. There are also direct buses from Rennes station that stop there.
Despite the huge number of visitors the abbey appeared well organised with no congestion as visitors follow a set route from the nave through several chapels, the cloisters and crypts and back onto the steps again.
Date posted: May 2010
Jorge (Mexico):
Since I first saw a picture of Mont St Michel I thought: "Someday I will be there"....this March my dream came true. This is the most fantastic, ethereal, incredible place I have ever been. It is like a dream, unbelievable. I am a lover of medieval architecture and gothic chatedrals and monasterys. My wife and I spent the night at one of the hotels in the island, so we could see the magnificent dusk and then at night the structure became illuminated and it was awesome. Specially at night, when tourists leave the place, you can stroll and wander the narrow streets and you can feel a lot of peace and comfort, very good karma. Go there!!!!! and spend one night, it is worth it.
Date posted: November 2008
Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
Mont-Saint-Michel is impressive and truly one of the symbol of France. It seems to me that many people have a problem of public transportation for visiting this place; the easiest and quickest way (that you can make it as a day trip from Paris) is take TGV to Rennes, a lovely capital city of Brittany and then take a hourly special shuttle bus to Mont-Saint-Michel which parks in front of the train station. This bus will take you to the main gate of the island. SNCF also provides a special train to Mont-Saint-Michel in Summer.
One more tip if you take the last bus back to Rennes in the evening, you will have a chance to see the famous tide of this region which is one of the quickest in this world and see Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island again
Date posted: August 2006
Ian Cade (England):
This is one of the earliest inscriptions on the World Heritage List, and is defiantly deserving of its place, the outline of the island and the abbey that crown it are so well known that it felt like a really familiar place when I finally managed to visit it. I first saw the island some 12 years ago but I finally managed to ‘tick it off’ with a day trip on a glorious Saturday in April 2006.
The abbey on top is the main focal point and has evolved pretty much continuously from its founding by St Aubert in 708. It is actually quite a feat of engineering with later additions to the buildings using the foundations of the earlier incarnations as their support. In fact the rear of the abbey is called ‘la Merveillle’ (the marvel) due to the way its splendid gothic features perch on a fairly precarious position. The tour of the abbey starts in the cathedral at the very top and spirals down through the many levels and is very well laid out.
Le Grand Rue is the other part of the island and this is the main road up the abbey entrance, it is actually quite nice, however it is cluttered with overpriced restaurants and purveyors of tourist tat (if you desperately want a plastic Mont or a replica lord of the rings sword look no further!). It is worth ducking in to St Pierre’s chapel which is nicely decorated and has scallop shell motifs on the bénitier/ stoup highlighting it’s place on the route to Santiago de Compestella.
The tide (the bay has the second fastest tides in the world) was out when I visited so we were able to walk a lap around the base of the island, which gave a new perspective of the great walls on the town, which still has a population of 53 and is a member of the Organisation of World heritage Cities.
Despite this being the most visited site in France outside of Paris, it is actually quite a difficult place to get to on public transport as trains and buses are so infrequent they serve no practical purpose for a casual visitor (I discovered this the hard way on a failed attempt to visit in 2004). If you are looking for places to base yourself nearby you can’t go to wrong in St Malo, which is a great walled city about an hour West.
Mont Saint Michel is a great site, and if you can handle lots of tourists is a rewarding destination.
Date posted: May 2006
James Kovacs (USA):
Mont St. Michel is magnificent. What a unique place
to build an abbey. The narrow lanes leading up to the
abbey are lined with shops and restaraunts. It is
altogether extremely charming. I have never been to
a more unique man made place.
Date posted: February 2006
Jim Humberd (USA):
One year as we approached Mont-St.-Michel from the east on the “little” road near the coast, our first sight of the cathedral was across a mile of grassy pasture with grazing sheep and cows in the foreground. Once we arrived at the point where the causeway leaves the coast, there were still two kilometers of awe and wonderment as we continued to the parking lot near the Outer Gate.

One evening, as the sun was setting through the clouds and the floodlights were gradually illuminating the Abbey, we walked the two kilometers from the mainland and took twenty-five or thirty photos of the ever-changing ethereal scene in front of us.

From our book, Invitation To France (Google)
 


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Site info


Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay
Country: France
Inscribed: 1979
Cultural Heritage
Criteria:  (1) (3) (6)
Category: Religious structure, Christian

Site history:
1979 Inscribed
Reasons for inscription

Site links


Official website:
»Mont Saint Michel

In the news:
» Mont-Saint-Michel footbridge opens (24-07-2014).
» French court rejects planned wind farm near Mont Saint Michel (30-08-2013).
» Mont-Saint-Michel became an island again (a first since 134 years) (25-07-2013).
» Mont St Michel gets a makeover (15-03-2012).

Related links:
» Mill of Moidrey.
» Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel.
» Official website of the restorations.

Getting there


This WHS has 2 location(s).



Connections


Architecture
Gothic . Norman architecture . Pre-Romanesque .
Constructions
Conical roofs . Cultural sites connected to Cliffs . Famous tapestries . Prison . Windmills .
Ecology
Seals . Tidal effects . Tombolos .
Geography
English Channel .
History
Carolingian Empire . Normans .
Human Activity
Polders .
Individual People
Restored by Viollet-le-Duc . Vauban .
Religion and Belief
Benedictines . Christian Pilgrimage Sites . Sacred Mountains .
Timeline
Built in the 11th century .
Trivia
Cultural sites taking up an entire island . Exact locations inscribed twice (or more) . One million visitors or more . Reportedly haunted locations .
WHS on Other Lists
Ramsar Wetlands .
World Heritage Process
Cultural sites rejected for Natural criteria . Minor modifications after inscription .



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