The Cloister, Mont Saint Michel
The cloister on the top floor of La Merveille dates back to the 13th century but has greatly evolved over time. Today it is really the only area of La Merveille which provides a source of bright colour, as the walkway which was designed for the monks to stroll, converse and pray, surrounds a beautiful and tranquil garden.
The plants filling the garden at the present time are for the most part, herbacious. Whilst La Merveille is a fascinating complex to tour and wander, it is really lovely to have the bright and colourful beauty of the cloister roof garden to give a temporary break from the somber greys and browns of the stone buildings.
I loved the Cloister, but then I always do, there is something about those arches and the centre garden!
The cloister is where prayer and meditation took place. It does send out that feeling of peace. The cloister was built at the beginning of the 13th century. Access is obtained from here to the refectory, kitchen, church, dormitory and stairways.
There is a double row of columns that are slightly out of line, this creates different views. Clever!
The cloister of Mont-Saint-Michel was designed by Thomas des Chambres who bergan to build it in 1228 and finished by Raoul de Villedieu. It has very unusual features. As space was scarce, the architect had to enhance every square centimeter. In irder to have as much light as possible, the pillars had to be very thin but they would have been too weak. He imagined to have two sets of thin pillars standing in alternate rows. This can be seen on the second photo. For more, look at Mont-Saint-Michel web site.
The cloisters are entered from the church. They are the most beautiful part of the Abbey. They are early Gothic (finished in 1228) and are the last part of the complex known as the Merveille to be completed. They are situated above the Knight's Hall. Unlike Romanesque antecedents it does not have figured capitals. The decoration is confined to a floral display on the squinches: roses or leaf-vine designs. Above the squinches runs a frieze of rosettes among which a few barn-owls are distributed (not in our picture). The two rows of columnettes below are set in a staggered pattern (quite unusual). Soaring above the cloisters are a set of windows of the North Transept. A chapter house at the West side was never built. On the North the cloisters look out over the bay. The fourth side is next to the church as is the case in most cloisters (except here it is along the North not the South church wall).
The cloister is maybe the part of the Abbey that I loved more. The monks were used to walk along it for many hours, to thing about phylosophical aspect of live, or this is what I imagined when I was there. The place must be quiet and relaxing, an ideal sight for contemplation. It contains a wonderful little garden that makes less austere this side of the Abbey. When you will visit it I think that you will remember some lines of the books you read about monks and middle ages at school.
The Cloisters has elegant marble columns, an example of early 13th-century Anglo-Norman style. The buildings of Mont St. Michel are constructed of granite, but there is some limestone in the cloister.
A small group of Benedictine Monks still inhabit the monastery. It's such a damp and I'm sure a very cold place to live during the winter when the wind blows off the English Channel.