Mont Saint Michel – island abbey
You can reach “sea” abbey by car only during low tide. The six-kilometer causeway was built in 1879. The Benedictine monks decided to build their sanctuary on an impregnable rock in 966. However, according to legend, the idea of the construction of the abbey belonged to Michael the Archangel.
The island is small – only 900 m and its sharp top rose above the sea level by nearly 90m. The island is surrounded by water.
In the VII century persecuted followers of the Christian religion settled in coastal caves. But they were afraid to build something on the amazing rock, because of high tides.
In the VIII century, according to legend, Michael the Archangel, especially revered in France, appeared in the local bishop’s dream and ordered to build a chapel on the island. He said and disappeared. Bishop disobeyed. Then an angry archangel appeared for the second time. He once again repeated his order and Benedictine monks built a chapel and dedicated it to Michael the Archangel.
Over time, the first dwellings appeared. In XII century people began to build monastery at the top of the cliff. The main cathedral was decorated with a tall tower with a sharp spire. And the island turned into a medieval castle.
The abbey building was called Miracle. It is really amazing. It is built in the Gothic style: steep roofs, narrow windows, stained-glass windows on the lower floors, columns and pointed arches.
During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337 – 1453) knights, who raided the British camps, hid in the castle. Three attempts to capture St Michel from the sea were unsuccessful.
The construction continued until the XVI century. The place was renamed Mont Saint-Michel and became an impregnable fortress, castle or rather the city. Gradually, the abbey became a center of pilgrimage for Christians.
The fate of the Mont-Saint-Michel changed in the era of the French Revolution. In 1792 it was turned into a prison, which was closed only in 1863. The island with the abbey was declared a national treasure of France. A little later a gilded figure of St. Michael the Archangel was erected on the spire of the main cathedral.
Twice a year, during the spring and autumn equinox, Mont Saint-Michel becomes a real island. The powerful tides close even dam.
In 1979, the abbey entered the UNESCO World Heritage list, and has become one of the most attractive tourist centers in France.