As they say in the classics, St Michael (St Michel) and I "have history".
I went to St Michael's Convent Grammar School for Girls - an anachronistic North London establishment that could so easily have been the prototype for Muriel Sparks' classic novel , "The Pride of Miss Jean Brody". It was a government (non feepaying) school, but affiliated to a particular religion and admitted only children who had passed the 11 Plus exam ... even at that time, it was an odd fish.
We were a girls only school further set apart from our peers by a purple school uniform ("The Imperial Colour" as I was informed in all seriousness when I started in 1974) whose school outfitter was the exclusive Dickens & Jones department store in Regent Street: I just thank my lucky stars for the fact that I missed the regulation school hat by a couple of years! On September 29th, we had a half day off in celebration of our patron saint's day, better known in the old church calender as Michelmas. Hell, over quarter of a century later, I am still word perfect in my (tuneless) rendition of our school anthem, "Dux Michael" ("Our Leader Michael") in Latin ... yes, well, it was that sort of school, and my capacity to retain the utterly useless decades later still astounds me ...
St Michael is an interesting saint, as (along with Gabriel) he wasn't a real person. He is an archangel (essentially God's 'A Team') and nemesis of the fallen archangel, Lucifer. He is big into dragon slaying - which is usually how he is depicted - but unlike St George, this is symbolic of the fight over good and evil. Under the statue you will see his motto: "Quis ut es Deus?" ("Who is as God?")
Why should he be the namesake of island monasteries in both Cornwall and Bretagne? This bit I have yet to work out, but he certainly seems to have cornered the market on location!
a wonderful building just into an island rock withstood the wrath of the ocean for centuries and still there magical, biblical, sublime, a must to see in your lifetime.
I have not been back here in years, and just came in passing by, after knowing all the changes to come in 2105 decided to take a quick peek and post some photos. Definitively a must to come back with the family.
You have the tourist office link below, and here is the national monuments of France site in English with more info on a magical architectural marvel
The Abbey Church built in the early years 0f 1000, is located right on top of the rock, 80 metres above sea level, on a platform 80metres long.
Inside are Arches, Galleries and tall windows. The Romanesque chancel which collapsed in 1421, was rebuilt after the 100years war in a gothic style.
It is quite plain, I was expecting more.
For centuries, pilgrims travelled here from all over Europe to visit this medieval abbey. Today, it's a museum as well as a church. Like Durham Cathedral in England, it stands on a natural strong point and it part church and part fortress. It also has a fascinating interior, with exhibits on its long history. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the wonders on the island of Le Mont Saint Michel is the actual sanctuary, the abbey of Saint Michel. High on top of the rocks, this abbey has been lifted higher throughout the centuries, until it has become the magnificent stories high building that one sees today. The crown on this jewel is - for me at least - the courtyard within the abbey. This green aosis within the rocky island that is completely filled with buildings, breaths a true heavenly spirituality. It must have been here that the monchs (that actually still live here too) were closest to God. The trance that surrounds the courtyard is a graceful adding to the small garden, and from some windows on the other side of this trance, one enjoys a breathtaking view over the bay of Mont Saint Michel.
The abbey can be best explored on a guided tour. The huge construction, that has been expanded in height throughout the centuries (on the small rocky island there was no other option then go up into the sky), has left a true labyrinth of corridors, staircases and tunnels, that connect magnificent halls, decorative rooms and many other spaces with wonderful or dreadful stories. The guide will tell you all details and backgrounds on the various rooms and halls, as well as a perfect overview of the history of Le Mont Saint Michel. Don't worry, almost all (usual) languages are available (French, English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese and Russian).
When you walk around Le Mont Saint Michel, you will notice that this actually looks more like a castle then it looked like an abbey. This is very true as Le Mont Saint Michel was indeed a extremely fortified island, to prevent loothing in this extreme turbulent times in an even more turbulent environment. Normandie was for a very long time the place where the borders between England and France shifted. As Le Mont Saint Michel was from the beginning more willing towards the French, one could imagine that the English would have not been mild when the rock would fall in their hands. However, even though this was attempted several times, Le Mont Saint Michel always stood strong to invasions, thanks to it's magnificent position and the strong fortifications that surrounded the island. Twice a day for several hours, the island became invinsible, as the tides rushed in and washed besieging enemies away.
The main attraction on Mont St-Michel is the Gothic Abbey, perched on the top of the island. Of the 3.5 million people that visit the island each year, only about 1 million of them actually pay a visit to the Abbey. I wonder if it has something to do with the very steep climb required to get up to the Abbey?!
The Abbey was built from the 13th to 16th centuries. A visit to the Abbey in June 2006 cost us 8 euro. This price allows you access to wander through the Abbey at your leisure. You can also join a guided tour at no extra charge, or hire an audio guide for another few euro.
We opted for the guided tour (in English). It was quite interesting, though our tour guide spent a lot more time talking about himself and his time living in England than explaining about the Abbey!
The tour starts at the Abbey Church, which sits right on the summit of the island, and is constructed from a mix of architectural styles due to parts of the building collapsing over the years. It also covers the cloister, a pretty garden area for contemplation, the refectory and a Gothic guest hall, amongst other things.
Although the setting is fabulous, the inside of the Abbey wasn't as impressive as I expected, though I still think it is well worth a visit.
The Abbey of Mont Saint Michel is solemn and dignified. Its one of the most beautiful and significant abbey in France.
One must climb up here to see it, otherwise your dream to visit MSM is less than a half-fulfilled. Besides, it here at the highest level of MSM where the Abbey is, which gives a panoramic view of the vast sand-covered off-tidal period of the sea "desert" around MSM.
A unique plan
The abbey is a unique monument, built on 3 floors, constrained by the pyramidal shape of the rock. The abbey church (80m long) is situated at the top, stands on crypts that create the suitable platform.
The abbey know as the "merveille"is a jewel evidence of the architectural mastery of its builders who succeeded in stacking two blocks of 3-sorey buildings on a rocky slope (but the roman chapel collapsed in 1421 and was rebuilt after).
The structure become lighter toward the top, supported by the platform itself and by robust pillars, mixing several styles (Roman, flamboyant gothic, ...)
My top list
Upper floor: The abbey church, the cloister, the refectory
Middle floor: The guest's hall
Notre Dame sous Terre (Our Lady underground)
The original spirtual center of the Mont (for Christians)
The chapel, built around 966, was hidden within the abbey's foundations and rediscovered in the late XIXth century. This church was erectedat the very place of the oratory erected by Saint-Aubert in the early VIIIth century.
Visiting the church is could be received as an emotionnal step back in the vestiges of Saint-Aubert's sanctuary
Warning: Notre Dame sous terre visit requires a guided tour