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Grandiosity of Mont Saint Michel

Years of built up silt have taken away some of the powerful isolation of Mont Saint Michel. Located in Normandy, France, this island fortress abbey was once a remote stronghold of the Romans, Franks, and Normans. Today, arriving at Mont Saint Michel via the land causeway makes it seem just another medieval abbey on my tour of Normandy. The cars parked right up against the 11th century walls are a disappointing sight, and I trod the path to the monastery along with the rest of the crowds, half-heartedly. However, I am glad to say that the deep interiors of the abbey granted me the quiet reflection I desired, and at last my vision of what this place once was was realized. Romanesque architecture is captured here at its solemn and simple best. Massive columns support thick walls with narrow slotted windows, making for large halls that appear foreboding and gloomy. However, it’s on Mont Saint Michel’s northern side that I understand how St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, and William the Conqueror must have felt when they set eyes for the first time upon this citadel upon the rock. Though the waters are shallow, this tiny rock island fortress still broods in the middle of a vast bay. To attempt building on such a scale must have seemed like a task for the insane. No wonder legend states that St. Aubert refused to heed the archangel Michael’s call to build a church here until a hole was burnt into his skull (thereby leaving the unfortunate bishop with no options). Glancing at the enormity of the monastery and its position as a tidal island, I am awestruck by man’s skill as well as the grandiosity of the place.

19 replies »

  1. Thank you so much for visiting my blog so I could find yours! And just in time–hubby and I are planning a trip to Paris in the fall and I am collecting a “to do” list! Great post! Thank you for sharing, and I look forward to reading more!

  2. Your description is well written. I remember the long drive there quite vividly, the pastoral scene with stonehouses, acres of fields and hundreds of sheep roaming the countryside. The sight of Mont St. Michel from a distance is quite amazing and then to be able to roam around its gardens and rooms were a thrill for me. My 2 young girls enjoyed the walk up the narrow steps because of all the sweet shops and restaurants that lined it. It was a very warm summer’s day so it was a treat to be inside the thick stone walls.

    • It is an amazing place to be sure and one I recommend to anyone to visit. I was really amazed about how much the tides change throughout the year and the ability to walk out into the bay a good distance during low tide. As with many places with travelers’ appeal, it has become a bit crowded, but you can still find some very private places like the garden you mentioned to enjoy a moment of peace amidst the throng of tourists. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I always appreciate it. Cheers.

    • Awesome place with great potential for photos. If you’re planning on spending any time in the area when next in France, the nearby town of Saint-Malo is also worth the visit. Cheers.

        • The trip I planned started from Paris (one of my favorite cities in the world), then to Saint-Malo by train, and finally to MSM by bus for a day tour. I say that Saint-Malo would be a great place to check out for a couple of nights as it’s a small walkable town on the coast with a relaxed feel and quite picturesque. From there, I took a local bus to MSM for the day which was long enough to see the island. Paris was the piece-de-resistance of the trip, but a total of at least 3-4 days in the area might suit you.

  3. Lovely post. Until they built the causeway with the road out to the Mont, the tides still washed in and isolated the island. The demands of tourism …

    • I know. I’ve heard of the plans to combat the silting and improve restoration efforts, but as you said plainly, “demands of tourism” have certainly affected the former isolated feel of the island. Still, though, excellent place to visit for sure.

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