Le Mont Saint-Michel, France

Saturday, November 5, 2016

After our morning in Bayeux, our plan was to check out the D-Day landing sites. But, after consulting the weather, we saw that the next day would be cloudy and rainy so we adjusted our itinerary to take advantage of beautiful weather to see one of my major bucketlist items: Le Mont Saint-Michel!

For more than a thousand years the distant silhouette of this island abbey sent pilgrims' spirits soaring. Today, it does the same for tourists. Still among the top four pilgrimage sites in Christendom as it has been throughout the ages, it floats like a mirage on the horizon.
Mont St-Michel is surrounded by a vast mudflat and connected to the mainland by a half-mile bridge which recently replaced an old causeway. The island has three parts: the fortified abbey soaring above, the petite village squatting in the middle, and the lower-level medieval fortifications.
Today, several million visitors flood the single street of this tiny island every year.
The isolation the vast bay provided was perfect for monks who sought solitude atop this lone rock island. Not only did the rapid tides that sweep in and out across this mudflat at the rate of 18 feet per second keep visitors at bay, but quicksand was also another obstacle to contend with to get out to the abbey before the causeway and bridge. This sand/mud was incredibly sticky! 

The island's main street, Rue Principale, is lined with shops, cafes, and hotels as it winds uphill to the abbey. Even in the Middle Ages this was a commercial gauntlet as stalls sold their wares to pilgrims.
Interesting fact: only 30 people live on the island full-time. 
Tight squeeze! You can take this little alley as a shortcut up to the abbey, but we pushed on uphill on the main drag.
Then we reached the base of the towering abbey. In AD 708 the bishop of Avranches was told by the Archangel Michael to "build here, build high." I'd say, mission accomplished. 
Today's abbey is built on the remains of two earlier churches, one Romanesque and one Carolingian. 1,200 years of history are here. Amazing!
Over the years, countless pilgrims have climbed these steps.
A gilded statue of St. Michael decorates the top of the spire. 
Looking back towards the mainland from the steps of the abbey. It is such a unique place. Nearby land has been reclaimed from the sea by farmers with the help of Dutch engineers.
My boy | Artsy fartsy
As we toured the abbey we saw these cool models depicting the growth and changes of the abbey over the centuries.
The island is ringed by fifteenth century fortifications. These ramparts were built to defend against cannon fire, a new technology at the time. Though the English were able to conquer all of Normandy in the 1400s, they never took this well-fortified prize. 
This place rocks. Or, it's stone-cold cool.
The bay stretches from Normandy to Brittany.
The Hall of the Grand Pillars (lower left below) was pretty cool. It's one of four sturdy rooms used to prop up the huge abbey church above it.
In 1776 a fire destroyed the west end of the church leaving an open terrace. As a result, stonecutters' numbers are visible. They were paid by the piece so they were sure to mark every stone they provided to get proper payment.
The abbey church was built by the monks on the very highest point of the rock to be as close as possible to God.
While most of the church is in a Romanesque style, the light-filled apse was built later in the new Gothic style.
Window just barely peeking through a wall.
Cloisters, where monks could read, meditate, study, and tend their gardens they kept in the center for food and herbs for medicine.
Looking down the colonnade in the cloister. | My guys in the huge fireplaces. They were originally hidden behind tapestries and served as kitchens. 
The refectory, or dining hall, is one large, undivided space. This was a pretty stunning engineering feat in its day.
Huge wooden wheel.
Fox on rocks down in the Crypt of St. Martin.
After exploring all the nooks and crannies of the maze-like abbey complex, we made our way back out into the sunshine to take in the stunning views all around.
Pictures from every angle and distance.
Can't help but sing some from Tangled while walking around!

Our plan to change the order of our stops totally worked out. We had gorgeous weather for our visit.
This dam was built in 2010 as part of a project to rejuvenate the bay. A series of locking gates retain water upriver during high tide and release it six hours later to flush the bay and return it to a mudflat at low tide.

Back on the mainland, the village of La Caserne has some shops, restaurants, hotels, and this awesome pink cow.
Pictures will never ever in a million years do this place justice - you just HAVE to go!
Driving through France with Mont St-Michel out the window.
Our family at Le Mont Saint-Michel on Monday October 17th 2016.
The next day we spent a humbling morning at the D-Day beaches.


  1. Wow!!! What an amazing place to visit!! They had lack of technology and electricity and still created such a gorgeous and breathtaking place! LOVING all the photos!!!!!!!

  2. I love Mont St. Michel! We went there and also to St. Michael's Mount (the English version...not as big, not as touristy, but same general concept in Cornwall) when I was on study abroad.


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