Tuesday, 6 October 2009




The island of MONT ST-MICHEL was once known as the "Mount in Peril from the Sea", as many pilgrims in medieval times drowned or were sucked under by quicksand while trying to cross the bay to the 84m high rocky islet.

The Archangel Michael was its vigorous protector, the most militant spirit of the Church Militant, with a marked tendency to leap from rock to rock in titanic struggles against Paganism and Evil. The abbey dates back to the eighth century, when the archangel supposedly appeared to a bishop of Avranches, Aubert, who duly founded a monastery on the island poking out of the Baie du Mont St-Michel. Since the eleventh century – when work on the sturdy church at the peak commenced – new buildings have been grafted onto the island to produce a fortified mix of Romanesque and Gothic buildings clambering to the pinnacle of the graceful church, forming probably the most recognizable silhouette in France after the Eiffel Tower.

The skies were high, it was after 4, people were still arriving, some were leaving and... IT WAS HOT!!!

Little did we know all the 'adventures' that were awaiting us.

The skies were high, it was after 4, people were still arriving, some were leaving and... IT WAS HOT!!!

Little did we know all the 'adventures' that were awaiting us.

Perched on a 264 feet high rock formation sits Mont St. Michel. During the seasons' highest tides the abbey is surrounded by water. During low tide the flats provide food for the world's only herd of salt water plant eating sheep ( Les agneaux des prés salés, the meat tastes salty). Mont St. Michel's tides can rush in at incredible speeds. The tides in the area shift quickly, and has been described by Victor Hugo as à la vitesse d'un cheval au galop, "as swiftly as a galloping horse." The tide actually comes in at 1 meter per second. Popularly nicknamed "St. Michael in Peril of the Sea" by medieval pilgrims making their way across the tidal flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast. The dangers from the tides and quick sands continue to claim lives.

Mont Saint Michel is a small rocky island about 1 km from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River in Normandy.

The mount is best known for the medieval Benedictine Abbey and steepled church that occupies most of the 1km-diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the waters of the English Channel.

As we enter the thick walls of this fortified place, there is a streaming river of people. We get bumped, shoved, pushed, it is unpleasantly touristy.

Paul and I look at each other, hidden in a doorway. It is almost 5 in the afternoon, we thought people coming in coaches would by now head back to Paris and wherever they were staying, that it would be ‘quieter’, but then… the car park was very full, so what were we going to do, continue or fold back? We had come this far… people from all over the world were here, judging from the shouting and screaming…

We decide to go on, walking up the one street… (GRANDE RUE, lol), which is narrow and claustrophobic, full of souvenir-shops and ‘Crêperies’, we battle our way through till we get to the stairs, where we take a break.

The climb to the abbey is hard -- by the time you have mounted the celebrated Escalier de Dentelle (Lace Staircase) to the gallery around the roof of the abbey church, you will have climbed no fewer than 900 steps -- but it's worth it…

Just over halfway, we saw that you had to pay to visit the Abbey, church and the other I interesting rooms…

Paul goes and moves slowly along with the huge waiting queue. I decide, hiding in the shade, to concentrate on some interesting detail. I must say it is all very clean and looks very ‘cared-for’!

Eventually we are able to take the rest of the climb, ticket in hand. The higher we climb, the better the light gets, it is also more ‘open’, we see the lovely architecture, we see the spire with Saint Michel, slaying the dragon, on the top, glistening in the sun, in full glory…

I find it too hot on the huge terrace in front of the church, decide to go in, and enjoy the views later.

I enter a haven of peace and silence, the light shining through the stain-glass windows give the old stones a special glow. The ceiling is high and made out of wood. Again, I see details that interest me, another boat hanging up, just like in the other chapel, only bigger.

The coat of arms of the Mont St Michel is three fleurs-de-Lys and 10 Scallops (Coquilles St Jacques), it is incorporated in one of the walls, on the pillars I see interesting hooks, and then, of course a rope, leading high up into the spire…

(… a suivre… more to follow)

THANX, M, (*_*)

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For the story of Day 1:


For the story of Day 2, part 1:


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