Fascinating discoveries await you in one of the greatest pilgrimages in France : Le Mont-Saint-Michel and Its beautiful abbey
A prestigious place since the Middle Ages
The architecture of the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel bears witness to the mastery and know-how of several generations of master builders. On an inhospitable site, for 1300 years, its construction represents an undeniable technical and artistic feat. A prestigious place since the Middle Ages The long history of Mont-Saint-Michel begins in 708, when Bishop Aubert erected on Mont-Tombe a first sanctuary in honor of the Archangel. In 966, Benedictines settled there at the request of the Duke of Normandy, Richard I. At the origin of the development of the new monastery, these monks, under the authority of the abbot, respect the rule of Saint Benedict. Very quickly, the abbey became a major place of pilgrimage in the Christian West, but also one of the centers of medieval culture where a large number of manuscripts were produced, preserved and studied. Mont-Saint-Michel took the nickname of “City of books”. Both a political and intellectual crossroads, the abbey was visited over the centuries by a large number of pilgrims, including several kings of France and England.
The Merveille Building
This thousand-year-old monument offers a diversity of architectural forms since its construction began in the 10th century and continued until the restorations of the 19th century. The historical, political and economic context throughout the Middle Ages greatly influenced the opening of construction sites and the means implemented. Over the centuries and according to fires, collapses, reconstructions, changes of function, or restitutions, the abbey has been transformed. The abbey church, built at the top of the Mount, 80 meters above sea level, rests on an 80 meter long platform, made up of four crypts leaning against the tip of the rock. The Merveille building is often referred to as the flagship of the abbey’s architecture. This masterpiece of Norman Gothic art bears witness to the architectural mastery of the builders of the 13th century.
On the border between Normandy and Brittany
An abbey turned fortress Located on the border between Normandy and Brittany, Mont-Saint-Michel is both a place of passage and a fortress of the Duchy of Normandy. From the 14th century, the successive conflicts of the Hundred Years War, opposing France and England, imposed the construction of new powerful fortifications. The Mount, defended by a few knights loyal to the King of France and protected by a wall flanked by several defense towers, managed to resist the attacks of the English army for nearly 30 years. In 1421, during the worst hours of the siege, the Romanesque choir of the church collapsed, it was not totally rebuilt until a century later in the spirit of flamboyant Gothic art. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Mont, deserted by its commendatory abbots, lost its importance, both military and religious.
It became a prison
In 1622, the reform of the congregation of Saint-Maur installed new monks in the abbey. They will redevelop the place and try to revive monastic life and pilgrimages. These monks also had to deal with the arrival of prisoners imprisoned by letters of cachet in an abbey which had also become the “Bastille of the seas”. Following the Revolution, the properties of the Church were declared “national property“, the monks of Mont-Saint-Michel were expelled and the “Mont Libre” became a prison for refractory priests in 1793. In 1811, an imperial decree transforms the abbey into a prison to house mainly common law prisoners and some political prisoners such as Armand Barbès and Auguste Blanqui.
Classified as a historical monument
Closed in 1863, the prison had the merit of saving the abbey from destruction, but it left the monument in an advanced state of disrepair. In 1874, the abbey was classified as a historical monument and its long restoration began. A dyke-road built in 1878 facilitated access to the Mont, then a tram line was set up to transport visitors, whose number continued to grow. In 1969, a small community of Benedictine monks came to settle in the abbey, then in 2001, it was replaced by the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem. The actions of the State in favor of the conservation of the place lead to its classification on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1979 under the title of “Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay”. Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the first listed French cultural assets. Then in 1998, the site was once again classified as one of the “Roads of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in France”. This double recognition demonstrates the universal and exceptional value of this monument.
Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel 50170 Le Mont-Saint-MichelTél. : 33 / (0)2 33 89 80 00
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