In Normandy, France, is the most visited site in that country, Mont Saint-Michel. It is an impressive abbey and fortress located on a rocky island, known as “the wonder”. A place where a thousand stories, legends and realities converge since the Middle Ages.
Mont Saint-Michel is “The Wonder”.
“The Wonder” stands on rocks emerging from the sea, where the waters of the Atlantic converge with the mouth of the Couesnon River. It is built on an islet with a circumference of 960 meters and only about 4 square kilometers. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared in a dream to a priest and indicated the place to build a place of worship. That spot is the islet where the abbey is located.
However, before that happened, they already venerated the islet. Druids and Gauls erected monoliths there in honor of their sun god Belenus. It thus became a place of prayer where hermitages and chapels were erected. In the 10th century, Benedictine monks built a small Christian monastic enclosure there. With the passage of time, the buildings grew, adding enclosures or excavating the stone.
However, the islet was a strategic site. In the 13th century, Normans, English and Bretons started a war to take over the small rocky island. From then on, they began to fortify the site to protect the interior of the abbey. Saint Aubert, who was the bishop of Avranche and responsible for the abbey, was not willing to accept an invasion by the Normans.
Different faiths chose the temple as a place of worship.
Monks of different faiths chose the islet at different periods of time as a place of meditation and retreat since the late Middle Ages.
In 1897 to Mont Saint-Michel was added the spire-shaped tower that rises for 170 meters through the sea mist. It contains the statue of the Archangel St. Michael defeating the Dragon. The statue weighs 820 kilograms and stands 3.50 meters tall. In 2016, it was restored and painted in gold.
Today, the abbey is inhabited by 12 monks who live by what each one knows how to do, such as producing honey and making handcrafted souvenirs for tourists.
Mont Saint-Michel is a jewel of architecture.
Mont Saint Michel is an architectural marvel. The builders took into account the rugged topography of the terrain. In the year 1000 they built the first church. This was followed by a three-story Romanesque abbey in the 11th century. In the 13th century, the enclosures were expanded with rooms for monks and pilgrims, kitchens, pantries and dining rooms.
The architecture of Mont Saint-Michel spans several styles, as construction was carried out over several centuries. In the 14th century, they built the ramparts, with towers, drawbridges, loopholes and moats to protect it from the English. During the Middle Ages, Saint-Michel was the fourth place of pilgrimage. In the first three places were Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.