Shrouded by mist and encircled by sea, the enchanting silhouette of Mont-St- Michel soars proudly above glistening sands. Now linked to the mainland by a causeway, the island of Mont-Tombe (Tomb on the Hill) stands on the mouth of the Couesnon River, topped by an abbey that nearly doubles its peak. This excellent example of a fortified abbey ranks as one of the vital sites of pilgrimage in Christendom.
Lying strategically on the frontier between Brittany and Normandy, Mont-St-Michel grew from a humble eighth-century oratory to develop into a Benedictine monastery of great influence. Pilgrims referred to as miquelots journeyed from afar to honor the cult of St. Michael, and the monastery was a famend center of medieval studying. After the French Revolution, the abbey was turned into a prison. It’s now a national monument that attracts a million guests a year.
For hundreds of years, the Mont was acknowledged as a sacred site of devotion. In 708, Aubert Bishop of the nearby town of Avranches, had a vision during which the Archangel Michael commanded that a chapel be built in his honor on Mont-St-Michel. In response, Bishop Aubert had an oratory erected on the summit, his belief inspiring one among Christianity’s most spectacular holy sites. The faithful got here to appeal for the archangel’s safety and Mont-St-Michel quickly grew to become an essential place of pilgrimage.
The three levels of the abbey mirror the monastic hierarchy. The monks lived on the highest stage, within the enclosed world of the church, the refectory and the elegant columns of the cloister. In 1776, three bays in the church’s nave have been pulled right down to create the West Terrace, which has high-quality views of the shoreline. Monks ate within the long, narrow refectory, which is flooded with light via its tall windows. On the middle level, the abbot entertained his noble visitors. Troopers and pilgrims further down the social scale had been obtained on the lowest stage of the abbey, in the almonry. The three-story complex of La Merveille (The Miracle), added to the north side within the early thirteenth century, is a Gothic masterpiece.