Mystical Mont Saint-Michel

If we can forget about the Eiffel Tower for just a second, Mont Saint-Michel might just be France’s most iconic monument. The mystical Mont Saint-Michel is a medieval town that rises from the sea. The old town was built on top of a rocky island, situated along the shore of the English Channel. The impressive abbey towers on the peak of the mountain. When the sea level rises and falls with the tides, the road to the island sinks below the water surface and reappears every day.

View from Mont Saint-Michel

History of Mont-Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in France. The town is part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Every single day, a huge number of visitors from all around the globe head to the beach to catch sight of this peculiar island.

Reportedly, it may have been Celtic monks or hermits that first inhabited the original site in the 6th century. Until the year 710, the name of the religious site was “Mont Tombe.” Unfortunately, not much else is known about these early settlers. In later centuries, Mont Saint-Michel became a strategic site in many battles between European forces. While the very first origins of Mont Saint-Michel are thus much older, the abbey’s Romanesque church dates back to the 11th century.

Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

Abbey or Prison?

The abbey certainly has an eventful history. Surprisingly, the abbey was even converted into a prison at one point in time. This was a result of the protestant reformation. After the prison closed in 1863, Christian worship was resumed in 1922. The abbey became part of the UNESCO list in 1979, causing the monks to leave. Then, in 2001, Parisian monks again moved to the abbey to practice their religion and visitors are able to attend services. The abbey is located right on top of the “Mont” and its upper most levels give you access to incredible panoramas of the bay around the little island.

View from Mont Saint-Michel

The Cloister

The cloister of Mont Saint-Michel is up on one of the highest levels of the Mont, many meters above sea-level. I could see a vast stretch of beach and the sea in the distance. The original function of this cloister was to bring the monks to meditation, people say. I have to admit, it was quite an unusual experience. A cloister normally doesn’t open to reveal an insanely beautiful view of the open sea.

Best Time to Visit

If you ever find yourself in Normandy, it would be a sin to skip out on Mont Saint-Michel. One downside: it does get very busy. Try to go as early in the day as possible. Alternatively, you can try to time your visit to catch the sunset on a clear and sunny day in winter, spring, or autumn (the sun sets late in summer).

Keep in mind that the summer months are the height of the French tourist season. Mont Saint-Michel is equally beautiful in spring or autumn! April, May, and October are good times  to visit. Whichever way works best for you, just know you’ll have to pay a visit. Mont Saint-Michel is open everyday from 9 am to 7 pm.

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18 Replies to “Normandy: The Mystical Mont Saint-Michel

  1. The tide washed causeway has now been replaced by a road bridge, which is attractive in its own way, and which has turned the Mont into an island again. None of that detracts from the beauty of your photos.

  2. You find such interesting topics and photos, Roselinde. I have always enjoyed your posts and I must, again, compliment you on such interesting perspectives and beautiful pictures. 🙂

  3. Beautiful and nice background info. I remember walking all the way around the Mont trying to get that perfect shot. Up to my ankles and knees in sand and mud and still wasn’t happy with any photos I took. I had better luck on my second visit. It’s also very mystical in the evenings when the tourists mostly leave. Regards Peet

    1. Thank you for your comment Peet! I agree and understand what you’re saying. I really want to go and catch the sunset from the abbey one day, if I can 🙂

  4. Ik ben hier als kind wel eens geweest, maar volgens mij is het hoog tijd om nog een keertje terug te gaan! 😉 Mooie foto’s heb je gemaakt! Wauw.

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