The Mont Saint Michel is a medieval village built flanked to the sides of an islet shaped like a hill off the northern coast of France in Lower Normandy. The narrow winding streets of the village all lead to the Norman Benedictine Abbey of Saint Michel, which lies right at the top. St Michel became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, but has played an important role ever since it was used as an Armorican (an ancient region in northwest France) stronghold in the 6th and 7th centuries. The mount is even depicted in a tapestry commemorating the battle of 1066 (the Norman conquest of England). Before the Reformation, the mount was an important place of pilgrimage, which subsided completely by the time of the French Revolution (1789-1799); the Abbey thus become a prison before it was reopened and restored to its former glory after the renowned French author, Victor Hugo, fought for Saint Michel's status as a national architectural treasure. Since the mount was declared a historic monument in the 1860's its popularity as a tourist spot has grown ever since.
Although no longer a site of pilgrimage, the mount's charm lies in its compact labyrinthine structure along the main causeway, which is the only way to access the village. Tourists have been known to try and access the mount via the sea, but this is strongly discouraged due to the strong currents and quicksand that surround the island. Crossing the sea to reach the Saint Michel should only be done with an experienced tour guide.
Saint Michel is a busy crowded township full of tourist traps but as one of the first touristic destinations of France; today it is the most visited place after Paris and its surroundings. The Mont Saint Michel has succeeded in maintaining its draw through the romantic image depicted by some of the most renowned French painters and authors, such as Guy de Mautpassant in Le Horla. The islet has also featured in several works of contemporary music, like Apex Twin's track Saint Michel+Saint Michael's Mount - one of the Saint Michel's daughter foundations is St Michael's in Cornwall, which is where Apex Twin is from. Although visiting the mount is pleasant enough, don't expect this trip to be one of a lifetime!
It is the second most visited site in France It is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.© Werner Weber / age fotostock
The arrival of the Benedictines in 966, followed by the rise of pilgrimages in the 11th century resulted in the construction project for this abbey. The work started in 1023.© Ed Scott
It is the former cloister of the Romanesque abbey. The monks spent their spiritual and temporal time here. It also served as a refectory.© Stockbroker xtra / age fotostock
A statue of St. Michel rises 170 metres. He appeared to the bishop of Avranches in 708 and asked him to build a sanctuary similar to Mount Gargano.© Bilderbuch