Just a few kms from the Mont lies this ossuary, not really a cemetery as such of some nearly 12000 German soldiers from WWII. Set up by the Volksbund in 1961 and inaugurated in 1963 it is the last resting place for soldiers from every county around here including those from the islands of Jersey and Guernsey. There are 34 crypts on each level, each housing 180 soldiers. Set on a small 30 metre high hillock this is the only German mausoleum in France.
At 20h00 every evening there is a guard that comes along and rings a bell and says "Bitte schön" whilst ushering you out the door. I imagine he does this as there are probably not many non-Germans that enter here.
This phenomenon can be seen only about 20 times year, or a couple of times per month, at the moment of the high tides in the bay when the coefficient (amplitude of the tide which changes every day) is reckoned at being over 100. The mascaret is in effect like the Severn Bore in the UK, in that it produces a wave of some 50 cms high, preceding by about two hours the high tide. It also produces a continual noise and a rush of air as it passes up the Couesnon river. Next time you are visiting the Mount, check out the tide tables before.
Although it is possible as of next year, that they may not be able to continue to do this, on the occasion of the high tides and coefficients you can take a hike across Mont St Michel Bay. There are a few associations that provide guides (paying) to take people across from Bec d'Andaine to MSM. The one we chose took a 2.5 hour commented tour and is roughly 6.5 kms. For those that don't know the explanations of the why's and wherefores of the silting up of the bay is quite interesting, as are the stories of Du Guesclin and his fight against the Brits, back in the 1500's. The hike also provides for a bus to bring you back to the starting point. It is not cheap (18.5€) for an adult but it really is essential to have a guide that knows his way around with the problems that can be had with the famous tides here and the quicksand holes to avoid. There are people that die in the bay every year when caught by the water surrounding them, mainly when fishing, so don't go on your own. There are parts that are hard, walking through mud up to the ankles, and crossing rivers, but the view makes it all worth it.
This sight really amazed me. These columns in the cloister have criss cross arches on top which I would imagine have something to do with the engineering design of the complex.
In my first picture they look as if they are in a perfectly straight line in strict two by two formation.
In my second picture it is easy to see that in fact, the pillars are placed in a diagonal formation one after the other.
If you would like to be present at Mass in the Abbey church the times are as follows:
Mass is celebrated every day except Monday at 12.15, on Sunday at 11.30 ; no entrance fee. You have to be at the entrance of the abbey at 12.00 and on Sunday at 11.15.
Other masses at 07.00am during the week (08.00am on Saturday, Sunday, bank holidays and in August) and 6.30pm. You have to be at the entrance of the abbey 10 minutes before starting time. No mass on Sunday afternoon or on Monday.
Masses are only celebrated when the Community is here.
It came as a surprise to me and I guess I'm not the first, to find that the stained glass windows in all of the buildings of La Mervielle were not the colourful Gothic style usually seen in the grand churches of Europe. On the contrary, they are simply designed in the pale green Celtic knot style to reflect the Celtic heritage of Brittany. Even so, they are stunning in their simplicity and allow a good deal of light in areas which could be very dark otherwise.
The Bell tower which tops off La Mervielle was rebuilt in 1897. It is spectacularly crowned with the famous spire which rises 157m into the sky and which features the golden statue of St Michael the Archangel on top. The spire has been described as resembling a vision when seen from a distance. I have to agree.
Obviously, the job of getting provisions of food, building supplies and so forth from the bottom to the top of the Mont presented a very difficult problem. Hence the ramp and pulley system (my name for it) but officially the Great Wheel, which was operated by a treadmill at the top where the monks or prisoners could trudge around on the treadmill and operate the pulley. The pulley would then transport the goods up to La Mervielle on a conveyor belt with rollers.
Simple in theory but I would imagine not so simple in action. Glad I'm not a monk or a prisoner!
This crypt is on the north of La Mervielle and was modified in the 13th century. As mentioned earlier the crypts were mainly intended as supports for the arms of the transept of the abbey above. And it is believed that mankind back in the 11th century, when this crypt was originally built, was of the belief that a church in need of strong foundations should not be supported by anything other than another holy building.
Although this was built as a crypt it is also a fully functioning chapel.
The chancel of the abbey church was originally Romanesque in design but sadly it collapsed and was eventually replaced by A Flamboyant Gothic construction in the 13th century. The plain classical facade also dates back to the 13th century and faces west overlooking the sea.
The vaulting in the chancel is extremely high and is counter balanced on the outside by a number of flying buttresses. The sheer weight of the church required all manner and means of underpinning and is cleverly supported by chapels and vaults on the floor below.
The interior is not as ornate as many other European churches but it is certainly stately in its decor.
The Salle des Chevaliers (Knight's Room) can be located on the second level of La Merveille. It is believed to be named after a Royal Order of Knghts founded by Louis XI, although there seem to be no records to prove that any ceremonies of the Order were ever held there.
This is the room or more precisely the scriptorium, where the monks worked at copying and illuminating manuscripts, as the ample light coming into the room was necessary to their tedious work.
Unfortunately, this room was being renovated when I was at MSM hence the building materials seen in the photos.
The crowning glory of MSM is La Merveille (the marvel). This is the name given to the three buildings at the very top of the abbey/monastery complex which are topped off by the magnificent spire with the golden statue of St Michael on top. These buildings date back to the 13th century. The citadel is a Gothic monument of great distinction and evolved from an idea that France could be independent and free of the English occupation of Aquitane.
Of course the crown on the crown so to speak is the wonderful Abbey which consists of a Romanesque nave and transept in addition to a Gothic style choir described as "Flamboyant" but more of that in following reviews.
The Abbey/Monastery roof is made of timber. There is of course, a very good reason for this. From what I can gather, the entire building is so huge and so high that the roof had to be made as light as possible to lessen the load on the building and its foundations. The correct weight of the roof was also vital because the walls underneath were in part, quite thin as they were comprised of many stained glass windows which could never have supported a heavy stone roof.
The "A" frame in my picture is a model of the timber frames that are in fact, holding up the roof. One of the many engineering feats accomplished in the construction of the complex.
This is not a climb for those with severe immobility problems, which is a real shame. However, if you take the climb gently and stop for a breather every now and then, you don't really have to be super fit to do it. Bear in mind however, that the route to the Abbey includes in excess of 300 steps.
You may very well puff and pant all the way up, but when you reach the top you will be so glad you did. There are also many photo opportunities to be had along the way.
When you arrive at the Mont you will enter directly up from the car/bus park and proceed through the Forward Gate, the Boulevard Gate and finally the King's Gate (Porte du Roy) into the "main" street of the vllage.
On your left before you enter the King's Gate, you will find an amenities block. I for one, was glad that I took advantage of the washroom facilities before going into the village because I didn't see many more opportunities once inside, only in some of the restaurants. That's not say there aren't any inside. It's just that I didn't see ny.
Route du Mont Saint Michel, BP 8, Mont-St-Michel, Basse-Normandie, 50170, France
Good for: Solo
BP 16 Grande Rue, Mont-St-Michel, 50170, France
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
BP 8 Route Du Mont St Michel, Mont-St-Michel, F - 50170, France
Good for: Business