Mont Saint-Michel is located on the Northwest coast in Normandy, France. It is situated approximately a half mile from the coast on a rocky island. Originally, the island was used as fort to guard against invading armies, but has transformed to the Mont Saint-Michel Monastery.
The island was formed over time as the tide eroded the land around the bay. Large pieces of granite were left exposed unaffected by the tides. The only way for people to travel to Mont Saint-Michel was on a tidal causeway. Originally, the causeway was covered at high tide and left exposed during low tide. Today, a dam has been built to reduce erosion and silt deposits around the causeway and Mont Saint-Michel. In addition, a bridge is being built to provide better access to the Mont and reduce the number of vehicles traveling directly to the location. Visitors will be able to walk or use shuttles to cross the bridge.
According to legend, Archangel Michel appeared before St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches and instructed him build a church at Mont Tombe. Mont Tombe was renamed to Mont Saint-Michel and a small church was built in 709 A.D. In 966, a small group of Benedictines constructed a pre-Romanesque style church at Mont Saint-Michel. In the 11th century, William de Volpiano was contracted by Richard II of Normandy to construct a Romanesque style abbey over the crypts near the North side of the island. During the 12th century, the abbey was expanded to the West and South parts of the island. Unfortunately during the same century, the island was besieged and fire destroyed parts of the Monastery.
Money from King Phillip Augustus during the Conquest of Normandy during the 13th century allowed the Gothic Style additions to be made to the Monastery. Military constructions were built around Mont Saint-Michel to protect it during the Hundred Years war in the 14th century. Charles VI fortified Mont Saint-Michel as well as added building towers, courtyards and reinforced major structures. Mont Saint-Michel was turned into a prison during the French Revolution and needed major restoration after the prison was closed in 1863.
Today, Mont Saint-Michel is a religious landmark in France. It is inhabited by 41 people and more than 3,000,000 people visit annually. Mont Saint-Michel is taken care of by a religious community who live at the Monastery.
quick facts & figures
Construction Start: 709 A.D.
Location: Normandy, France
Building Style: Roman & Gothic Style
Annual Tourists: 3,000,000