Mont Saint Michel
Facing east, the Benedictine Abbey of Mont Saint Michel sits majestically at the top of a 262 foot high pyramid shaped rock in the Normandy Region of France. It is built on a summit that is supported by four crypts that surround the point of the hill. There has been some form of religious site here at Mont St Michel since the early 6th century.
At high tide Mont St Michel is surrounded by water and at low tide this same water can withdraw as much as 11 miles from the Abbey. Following the cycles of the moon, the tide rises slightly over 3 ½ feet per second when it is coming in. If you are lucky enough to spend the night on the island, the hotel will provide you access to a parking area that is not affected by the tides. Head on over to the beach photos to take an outside tour around the Abbey.
The village winds its way around the mount in a maze of streets and flights of steps until it reaches the Abbey. As you wander the streets, which are crowded with tourists during business hours, you will see traditional half-timbered houses. However, during the Belle Epoque, stone bourgeois houses replaced many of these traditional houses. La Mère Poulard (1888) is one example of these bourgeois houses.
I love all the iron work shop signs!
Follow the ever climbing path to the Abbey where you soon leave the busy shop filled streets and begin to have views over the tops of the houses.
Much like Chartres Cathedral, the Abbey at Mont Saint Michel is built with the heavenly geometry in mind. The apse in the St Martin crypt is a wonderful geometric example as it has an opening that consists of a square and a circle – two perfect geometric shapes which symbolize the earthly world and the heavenly realm respectively. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres makes for interesting reading if you want to read more about these two beautiful churches.
Like Chartres Cathedral, the Abbey at Mont Saint Michel was designed to receive crowds of pilgrims. Today’s entrance to the Abbey faces east and is a continuation of the village street that winds its way up to the entrance. However, the original entrance was on the west side. After winding their way around to the west side, pilgrims entered an enclosure and climbed to the main level of the Abbey through this barrel vaulted gallery.
Much of what you see of the Abbey is Romanesque in architectural style. However, the chapel is purely Gothic. The original abbey chapel collapsed in on itself in 1421. Being in the middle of the Hundred Years War, the reconstruction was not organized until some 25 years later. Construction which is faithful to the original chapel was finished exactly 100 years after the collapse of the original chapel. The height of the ceiling and subsequently the height of the windows allows an inordinate amount of light to enter the chapel even on a less than sunny day.
The Abbey Cloister is on the same level as the church. This little garden is bordered by covered walkways which are ornately decorated with carvings.
The Abbey is mainly constructed from granite. This stone was quarried at the Chausey Islands, 22 miles off shore, and brought in by barges as the tide allowed. The blocks of stone were hoisted up by a crane much like the 19th century windlass – crane which is now housed in the old abbey ossuary.
There bits and pieces remaining of the old painted décor of the Abbey at Mont Saint Michel. One of these is a remnant of a fresco from the old infirmary.
There are also remnants of the enameled bricks that once were the floor tiles.
You can view more pictures here of