More then 1.000 years a pilgrimage place
Le Mont Saint Michel has already been a pilgrimage place for a thousand years and no doubt still will be for many centuries more. Even though the mayority of the visitors now-a-days are here from touristic point of view. However, also pilgrims still enter the gates of Le Mont Saint Michel and are welcomed by the monchs that still live in the abbey (however make an appointment first, especially when you want to spend a night at the abbey as pilgrim). For me it was both and so I walked barefoot towards the island through the muddy "dry" seabed, which no doubt many pilgrims must have been doing in ancient times.
The legend of Saint Michel
It is said that on the 16th October 709 the Bishop of Avranches, Aubert, built a chapel on Mont Tombe after he was visited twice by the archangel Michael (Michel). After the first visit in his dream, he did not acted on the request of Michel, to built him a sanctuary on the small hill within the forest near Avranches. The second time Saint Michael visited Aubert, he awoke him by pushing his finger against his head (burning a small hole in his skull, that still can be seen in the basilica of Avranches!). Now Aubert believed and acted on the archangels request by building the chapel. Some times after this some natural disaster flushed away the forest around Mont Tombe and Le Mont Saint Michel became a coastal island. So far the legend of which most facts are clouded by mysteries. It is however an absolute fact that in the year 966 the Benedictine order settled on the island on demand of the Duke of Normandy. They built a early Romanesk church that evolved in the abbey that we see today.
The island, the bay and the tides
The tidal difference in the bay of Le Mont Saint Michel are - like in many places around the Normandy peninsula Cotentin - very extreme. In some places and at certain times, 14 meters difference is not unusual. Because the bay is a large open lowland, the tides rush in here over a distance of around thirty kilometers. At low tide, the sea is barely visible, while at the highest tide the island of Le Mont Saint Michel is washed with the waters from the English Channel and the complet bay gets filled again. Now-a-days it is not so extreme anymore, as sanding has leveled out the bay area close to the coast. In the old days however, Le Mont Saint Michel was tiwce each day an island and pilgrims had to be very careful with the tides. Through the ages, many drowned in the upcoming tides or sank into treagerous quicksands formed by the tides. Even now-a-days warnings are given to not alone make walks into the bay or far from the island.
Gothic ... the original!
Here on Le Mont Saint Michel the first experiments on Gothic architecture took place, from which it is said to have spread over Normandy, North Western Europe and the rest of the world. During the guided tours one reaches the lower levels of the abbey and it is here that the first gothic experiments were made.
Le Mont, Bretagne or Normandy
On Le Mont Saint Michel the Normandian flag is waving proudly, but ... is it actually Normandy or Bretagne where this monumental mountain stands? When you look at the coast, you see a small river that ends in the bay. this river marks the border between Normandy and Bretagne and yes, you can see that Le Mont indeed is more on Normandian soil (well, uhm, rock ... I mean) then on Bretagnian. However, you can also see that the river's is artificially relaid in a canal and then one should know that the original riverbed ended a few kilometers to the East. Oops, now Le Mont suddenly is Bretagne again. Anyway, I can't tell you the truth, so let's forget about it and enjoy the splendour of this Western Wonder.
The famous omelettes of Mama Poulard
In the street immediately past the entrance, you will find at your left hand the famous restaurant of Mere Poulard (Mama Poulard). This restaurant is here already since 1879 and is famous for the omelettes that Madam Poulard made for the pilgrims. These omelettes are huge and very thick. The eggs are mixed in pans of cupperand baked above an open fireplace. Ernest Hemingway as well as Yves Saint Laurent enjoyed one here, according to their autographs along the wall.
Legend: natural distaster created Le Mont
Legend says that first there was a large forest, where now is the bay of Le Mont Saint Michel. There was a hill "Mont Tombe" in this forest, a sanctuary for pagan believes that still were practiced in these regions along the slowly moving border of Christianity. Archangel Michael requested bishop Aubert from Avranches to built a chapel on this hill and after that, a (super)natural disaster made the whole forest sink into the sea (or it got flushed away in a tidal wave or something. Anyway, Le Mont Saint Michel was born and the strange divine happenings made large parts of the population turn to Christianity.
The Archangel of the rocks
The legend of Mont Saint Michel told us that the Archangel Michel asked to S. Aubert, the Bishop of Avranches, to build a new church on the top of the hill. The Bishop didn't hear the order of the Archangel, so Michel burned a hole with his finger into the skull of the Bishop.
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Many houses in a little space
Because of the space that they have in Mont Saint Michel, inhabitants build up houses one after one and they use every little space for it. Don't forget that Mont Saint Michel is a hill so it's better to consider the higher dimension.
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