In the village there is another church, the parish church of the village, devoted to Saint Pierre. It can easily be missed, as it is so overwhelmed by the enormous abbey. That would be a mistake, as the small Notre Dame of Le Mont Saint Michel is a delightful lplace where rest and peace can be found in a touristic mass. It was here that the common citizens of Le Mont prayed and shared their Sunday together. On the cemetery around the church some stones date back centuries. Also a remarkable place to roam around in for a while.
When the tide is low, one easily can walk around the island, making it possible to see everything of the island from a distance. It makes Le Mont even more beautiful then it already is, as from every angle the shapes and images look different. Another option is for the hikers among us. In the distance a small island is visible: Tombelaine. This island was centuries ago a place where the monchs and pilgrims seeked rest and peace, inspiration and isolation. Now-a-days it will be no different, as only few make the crossing over the wetlands towards the island that at high tide indeed becomes completely isolated from the rest of the world.
Between the village and the abbey's entrance, the only connection is the "Grand Stairs". This enormous staircase winding up against the Northeastern walls of the abbey, indeed are of a certain grandeur. It was here that for a thousand years the pilgrims lined up to finaly receive their blessings in the abbey. It was here that many returned releaved from sorrow and guilt. Now the tourists line up to get tickets for a guided tour in the abbey and return bedazzled with the rich historic beauty the abbey still holds.
Nowhere else the fortifications and defensive systems of Le Mont Saint Michel are so clear then at the gateway. Strong doors, a falling fence, a drawbridge, two thick walled towers and various small shooting holes, show that Le Mont Saint Michel is not only a sanctuary, but also a castle well defended for unwished visitors. For touristic show, the gateway square holds a set of canons, but of course these items only appeared when the abbey and village were already a few hundred years old.
Did you know that Le Mont Saint Michel also served as a state prison? The worst years for this monumental rock in the sea, started after the French Revolution and lasted until after the Napoleontic times. With it's island status and large buildings, the new leaders desecrated this beautiful place, by turning it into a prison for state enemies. Few things are recalling these dreadful days, in which the buildings and structures on the island saw little maintenance, but were damaged for all time. During the guided tour you will pass by the giant wooden wheel, used for the lift that transported food, material and other necessary items to the abbey turned into a prison.
This tip about the many little museums on Le Mont Saint Michel is put under "Off the beaten path" as the actual museum IS Le Mont Saint Michel. For those who want more, there are: The museum of history, where a collection of weapons, sculptures and paintings can be seen in a setting of old prison and dungeons.
The archéoscope where you can follow the historical steps that lead to the present Mont Saint Michel in various maquettes and posters as well as an interesting multimedia show.
The maritime museum that tells about the bay and it's tides. Here one can also find out everything about how the island status of Le Mont Saint Michel, will be returned after completing a huge project.
Tiphaine’s house, is the originally decorated 14th century house of the wife of Bertrand Duguesclin: Tiphaine.
It's hard to find, it's hard to reach. The original chaple devoted to Saint Michel is still there. The very small building lays at the bay side behind the enormous abbey, but with a little climbing along the rocks. can be reached for those who want to see where it all started out.
Find some secrets:
1/ The prison
The Mont resisted all the English assaults during the hundred years war but was, as many religious monuments, seriously and irreparably damaged during the French revolution.
It served as prison after the revolution and until 1863 and the cells are still visible.
2/ Play the hamster in a human winch
A gigantic winch, men-powered, allowed to forward the voluminous objects up to the abbeye.
3/ Find the root rock inside the architecture
It is still visible ...
While I searched if the pilgrims that went to Skellig Michael visited also Mont St. Michel and Sacra di San Michele, I found an amazing information about a book. I quote the presentation of this book.
The St Michael-Apollo Axis, a Study in Sacred Geography, by Lucien Richer, translated by Francesca Greene.
The Apollo line is so named because the solar deity, in its active form, was Apollo in Greece. Richer's brother Jean had discovered that Greece was geographically many overlays of zodiacal patterns, with angles of 30 degrees spreading from oracular centres. After a dream involving Apollo, Jean could understand that the birthplace of Apollo, Delos, Athens, and Delphi were aligned at 30 degrees north of west. It fell to Lusien to extend this alignment out in both directions, to north west Europe and to Jerusalem.
The Michael-Apollo Line passes from northeast to southwest through :
St. Michael's chapel on Carn Brea in Cornwall,
St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall,
Mont St. Michel in Brittany,
Sacra di San Michele in Piedmont,
San Michele at Castiglione di Garfagna,
Monte Sant' Angelo, Monte Gargano, the site of the first recorded appearance of the Archangel Michael.
Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.
The history and geodetic character of the line are explored in this terse and pithy piece of writing. Important subjects such as the Gargan giant motif for the earth energy, the significance of islands and peaks and brief exploration of the "itinerary" of the line make this an essential complement to a rare corpus including Dance of the Dragon.
Amazing, isn’t it?
I have visited two other sanctuaries dedicated to Saint Michael. Both stand on very impressive locations that more or less are looking like Mont-Saint-Michel.
Skellig Michael stands on the main island of Skellig archipelago, a small island in front of Saint Finian’s bay, approximately ten miles off the coast of Kerry, Ireland.
Sacra di San Michele overhangs the Susa valley, near Turin and is the. Sacra di San Michele stands on top of Monte Pirchiriano (962 m) which stands for the latin “porcharianus” (pigs mount), neighboring Monte Caprasio (goats mount) and Monte musiné (donkeys mount).
There is only one path up to the Abbey. Later you may descend and follow the Ramparts to East and South with their views up and out over the sands or bay (at the right time). In either case, just before the Grand Degre and to the West of the Grande Rue is the Parish Church. (In our picture it is to the right of a house that belonged to Du Guesclin (see Dinan) and a nearby museum complex. Beyond is the Boucle (Loop) Tower on the Ramparts. Inside in chapel at the south aisle is a coated (silver?) statue of St. Michel and the altar has a 15C statue of the Virgin. We call this note"Off the Beaten Path".
You cannot climb up the central tower at the crossing of the churchb(just imagine the view!). But remeber to look up at it from a vantage point that will alow you to see the statue of St. Mike (after all it is his Abbet). The gilded statue is on top of a spire set over the two story square "Romanesque " base. He is thrusting his lance at a dragon under his feet (sculptor Fremiet, 1895). This is one of the reasons that experienced tourists alway carry a pair of binoculars. (We used a camera lens). There are other statues of him around the Abbey but we have lost our notes on their locations, just retaining the pictures.
Ending our tour of abbaye Mont St Michel as the bells were tolling for vespers we backtracked to the cathedral and were able to join in evening services. The beautiful old stones reverbrated with harmony as the participants offered up prayer in song, chant and word. There were only about 10 of us sitting on the benches. It was ultimately one of the highlights of our trip. A moment in time when we left behind the present and were caught up in the glory of many years of tradition and worship. It was quite sublime.
There is a movie, Mindwalk (1990) starring Sam Waterston, Liv Ullman, and John Heard which was filmed at Mont St. Michel. It's a very philosophical movie about their philosophies of life. Not a movie which appeals to everyone, but it was fascinating to me as a scientist and philosopher.
Is this an "Off The Beaten Track" or is it a "Must See Activity"?? I'm gonna add to both. I hope that is ok!? This place is very pretty. If you can let your imagination flow here, then you can give yourself a magical trip as you wind up the Mont. A narrow roadway/walkway winds up with little souvenir and craft shops dotted along your root. Plus, people live here (I think), so there are normal everyday activities going on around you also. Its a little like a Land at the top of Enid Blytons Magic Faraway Tree. At the top, there is the monks Abbey, nice old stone building to explore, and a roof garden, plus a view of the surrounding area when you go outside. It's a little out of the way. We drove here. I don't think that any trains run up here, (not sure) though I reckon that there are probably buses and bus tours also. These should be findable by some other members tip/on the net.