Abbey of Mont Saint Michel
The abbey of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy is a medieval functioning monastery, as well as a fortress on the eponymous island. Located in the north-west of France, in the vast Gulf of Saint-Michel, famous for the tidal waves rare for Europe, tidal waves reaching 14 meters.
Over two million tourists come every year to admire the medieval monastery-fortress, which makes Mont-Saint-Michel the second most popular (after the Eiffel Tower) landmark in France.
Castle Mont Saint-Michel: opening hours and ticket prices in 2019
The abbey receives tourists daily, except January 1, May 1 and December 25.
May 2 – August 31: from 9:00 to 19:00,
January 2 – April 30: from 9:30 to 18:00,
September 1 – December 31: from 9:30 to 18:00.
The passage inside closes one hour earlier.
adult – 10 euros,
for non-EU residents aged 18 to 25 years old – 8 euros,
for children (under 18), disabled people with escort, EU residents aged 18 to 25 years old – free of charge.
The cost of the audio guide – 3 euros.
Current schedule and prices on the website of the National Center of Monuments
Tidal island of Mont Saint Michel
The rock of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy is a granite monolith 80 meters high with a rounded foot, standing at the mouth of the river Kyusnon (Couesnon). The area of the rocky island is 7 hectares.
With an interval of 24 hours and 50 minutes, ebbs and flows take place in the bay, the most powerful in Europe. Water at low tide leaves the island for 18 kilometers and floods the coast at high tide for 20 kilometers.
After low tide, you can get around the mountain on foot, but you should not go far from the foot – there is a chance to wander into quicksand. Mon Saint-Michel becomes a full-fledged island only a few times a year, with the onset of major tides.
Previously, a dam led to the island, on the site of which a bridge now stands. It was decided to remove the artificial mound due to the ambiguous environmental situation: because of the dam around the island, a large amount of sand settled, thereby gradually connecting the island to the mainland. After the dam was liquidated, the river waters began to wash the island from two sides, preventing sand from accumulating.
The climate in the bay of Saint-Michel is temperate maritime: with mild summers and mild, but rainy winters. In general, the weather here is the same as in all Normandy, but there are some peculiarities, for example, during the winter low tides, wet sea sand causes frequent fogs, and in summer it becomes extremely stuffy due to high humidity.
History and architecture
Legend has it that the first shrine on this site was built in 807 by Saint Auber, Bishop of Avranches, after the appearance of the Archangel Michael to him. By the way, Mont Saint-Michel and translated – Mount St. Michael.
The construction of the abbey began with the arrival in 966 of Benedictine monks, invited by the Duke of Normandy Richard I, to the place of the canonical community he expelled from the 8th century. Soon the monastery became an important religious center, attracting pilgrims from all over Europe.
Mont-Saint-Michel often suffered from fires and was under siege, after which it was reconstructed and acquired new extensions, each time finding a new look. Centuries later, the abbey managed to bring to our days not only the works of several generations of builders, but also an important part of the history of France.
The castle of Mont-Saint-Michel is often mentioned in literature and serves as a background for many films and clips, and in the film trilogy of Peter Jackson “The Lord of the Rings” even served as a prototype for the fortress of Minas Tirith.
The main feature of the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel was a multi-level building. For more than 500 years, medieval architects managed to create a unique architectural ensemble, braiding a huge granite cliff. Three levels can be clearly identified:
The upper level, which includes the church of St. Michael, the monastery gallery, the refectory, the observation deck overlooking the bay, the rock Cancale and the archipelago of the islands of Sosa, where granite was mined for the abbey.
The middle level has a guest hall, a monastic ossuary (the hall with the remains of the deceased), the chapel of Saint-Étienne, a covered walk gallery, a knight’s hall and a crypt of large columns supporting the Gothic monastery church.
The lower level, where the guard room, the Grand Degre Staircase and the poorhouse are located.
Romanesque monastery buildings
The first buildings on Mont-Saint-Michel were crypts (vaulted semi-underground premises), which became a kind of foundation for the future central building of the monastery – the Church of St. Michael. Later, construction began on the nave of the new church and the chambers for the monks.