Mont Saint-Michel: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Mont Saint-Michel

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 48°38′10″N 1°30′41″W / 48.636028°N 1.511393°W / 48.636028; -1.511393

Commune of Le Mont Saint-Michel

MSM sunset 02.JPG
Le Mont Saint-Michel.
Mont Saint-Michel is located in France
Mont Saint-Michel
Country France
Region Basse-Normandie
Department Manche
Arrondissement Avranches
Canton Pontorson
Intercommunality Communauté de communes de Pontorson - Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Mayor Éric Vannier
Elevation 5–80 m (16–262 ft)
Land area1 0.97 km2 (0.37 sq mi)
Population2 41  (2006)
 - Density 42 /km2 (110 /sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 50353/ 50116
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
2 Population sans doubles comptes: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party  France
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iii, vi
Reference 80
Region** Europe
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

Mont Saint-Michel (English: Saint Michael's Mount) is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy, France (Le Mont-Saint-Michel). It is located approximately one kilometer off the country's north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is 41.



In prehistoric times the bay was land. As sea levels rose erosion shaped the coastal landscape over millions of years. Several blocks of granite or granulite emerged in the bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the surrounding rocks. These included Lillemer, the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine (the island just to the north), and Mont Tombe, later called Mont-Saint-Michel.

Tidal island

Mont Saint-Michel was previously connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide. This has been compromised by several developments. Over the centuries, the coastal flats have been polderised to create pasture. Thus the distance between the shore and the south coast of Mont-Saint-Michel has decreased. The Couesnon River has been canalised, reducing the flow of water and thereby encouraging a silting-up of the bay. In 1879, the land bridge was fortified into a true causeway. This prevented the tide from scouring the silt round the mount.

On 16 June 2006, the French prime minister and regional authorities announced a 164 million project (Projet Mont-Saint-Michel[1]) to build a hydraulic dam using the waters of the river Couesnon and of tides that will help remove the accumulated silt deposited by the uprising tides, and to make Mont-Saint-Michel an island again. It is expected to be completed by 2012.[2]

The construction of the dam is now complete (it was inaugurated in 2009). The project also includes the destruction of the causeway that was built on top of the small land bridge and enlarged, to join the island to the continent, but also used as a parking for visitors. It will be replaced by an elevated light bridge, under which the waters will flow more freely, and that will improve the efficiency of the now operational dam, and the construction of another parking on the continent. Visitors will have to use small shuttles to cross the future bridge which will still be open to walking people and unmotorized cycles.


Mont-Saint-Michel was used in the sixth and seventh centuries as an Armorican stronghold of Romano-Breton culture and power, until it was ransacked by the Franks, thus ending the trans-channel culture that had stood since the departure of the Romans in AD 460.

Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, albumen print, ca. 1865-1895

Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called "monte tombe". According to legend, St. Michael the Archangel appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, until St. Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger.[3]

The mount gained strategic significance in 933 when William "Long Sword", William I, Duke of Normandy, annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, definitively placing the mount in Normandy. It is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, which commemorates the 1066 Norman conquest of England. Ducal patronage financed the spectacular Norman architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries.

In 1067, the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel gave its support to duke William of Normandy in his claim to the throne of England. It was rewarded with properties and grounds on the English side of the Channel, including a small island located at the west of Cornwall, which, modelled after the Mount, became a Norman priory named St Michael's Mount of Penzance.

During the Hundred Years' War the English made repeated assaults on the island but were unable to seize it due to the abbey's improved fortifications. Les Michelettes, two wrought-iron bombards left by the English in their failed 1423–24 siege of Mont-Saint-Michel, are still displayed near the outer defense wall.

When Louis XI of France founded the Order of Saint Michael in 1496 he intended that the abbey church of Mont Saint-Michel be the chapel for the order, but because of its great distance from Paris his intention could never be realized.

The wealth and influence of the abbey extended to many daughter foundations, including St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. However, its popularity and prestige as a centre of pilgrimage waned with the Reformation, and by the time of the French Revolution there were scarcely any monks in residence. The abbey was closed and converted into a prison, initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime. High-profile political prisoners followed, but by 1836 influential figures, including Victor Hugo, had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure. The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874. The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, as it was listed with criteria such as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.[4]



Arms of Mont Saint-Michel

The arms of Mont Saint-Michel are blazoned :
Azure, 2 fesses wavy vert, overall in pale 2 salmon bendwise sinister argent, the one in chief contourny. * There is a violation of the rule of tincture : these arms are 'illegal' heraldry (vert on azure).


Plan of the mount by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

William de Volpiano, the Italian architect who had built the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, was chosen as building contractor by Richard II of Normandy in the 11th century. He designed the Romanesque church of the abbey, daringly placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to compensate for this weight; these formed the basis for the supportive upward structure that can be seen today. Today Mont-Saint-Michel is seen as a Gothic-style church.

Robert de Thorigny, a great supporter of Henry II of England (who was also Duke of Normandy), reinforced the structure of the buildings and built the main façade of the church in the 12th century. In 1204 the Breton Guy de Thouars, allied to the King of France, undertook the siege of the Mount. After having set fire to the village and having massacred the population, he was obliged to beat a retreat under the powerful walls of the abbey. Unfortunately, the fire which he himself lit extended to the buildings, and the roofs fell prey to the flames. Horrified by the cruelty and the exactions of his Breton ally, Philip Augustus offered Abbot Jourdain a grant for the construction of a new Gothic-style architectural set which included the addition of the refectory and cloister.

Charles VI is credited with adding major fortifications to the abbey-mount, building towers, successive courtyards and strengthening the ramparts.


Thick mud is exposed on the banks of the river Couesnon at low tide.

The tides in the area change quickly, and have been described by Victor Hugo as "à la vitesse d'un cheval au galop" or "as swiftly as a galloping horse".

The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres between high and low water marks. Popularly nicknamed "St. Michael in peril of the sea" by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast.

Polderisation and occasional flooding created salt marsh meadows that were found to be ideally suited to grazing sheep. The well-flavoured meat that results from the diet of the sheep in the pré salé (salt meadow) makes agneau de pré-salé (salt meadow lamb), a local specialty that may be found on the menus of restaurants that depend on income from the many visitors to the mount.


The cloister

The islet belongs to the French commune of Le Mont-Saint-Michel, of the Manche département, in the Basse-Normandie région. Population (1999): 50. The nearest major town, with an SNCF train station, is Pontorson. Mont-Saint-Michel belongs to the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

The Mont-Saint-Michel has also been the subject of traditional, but nowadays good-humoured, rivalry between Normans and Bretons. Bretons claim that, since the Couesnon River marks the traditional boundary between Normandy and Brittany, it is only because the river has altered its course over the centuries that the mount is on the Norman side of the frontier. This legend amuses the frontier inhabitants who know that the border is not located on the Couesnon river itself but on the mainland at 4 km in the west, at the foot of the solid mass of Saint-Brelade.

Mont-Saint-Michel in modern culture

Statue of Archangel Michael atop the spire
The spire of Mont-Saint-Michel is visible from the courtyard outside the abbey.
The entrance to the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel leading out into the courtyard in front of the abbey.
  • Mont-Saint-Michel is featured in the 1950 Powell and Pressburger film The Elusive Pimpernel.[5]
  • Mont-Saint-Michel and the ancient forest of Quokelunde are plot devices in the 1955 book for young readers, The Mystery Of Mont Saint-Michel by Michel Rouzé, translated by George Libaire; Henry Holt and Company - New York - 1955 (The original 1953 French novel: Le Forêt de Quokelunde; Editions Bourrelier - Paris - 1953)
  • The Mont-Saint-Michel was featured in the 1985 IMAX film Chronos, in which an aerial view of the incoming tides are shown using time lapse video.
  • The 1990 Bernt Amadeus Capra film Mindwalk was filmed on the mount.
  • Mike Oldfield composed instrumental track dedicated to the Mont-Saint-Michel and released it on the Voyager album in 1996.
  • Cornish electronic music artist Aphex Twin released a song entitled "Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michaels Mount".
  • The castle was featured in the Disneyland Paris ride The Timekeeper.
  • The Mont was featured in Impressions de France, a movie shown at Epcot in Orlando, Florida.
  • Mont-Saint-Michel was also featured in a scene in the 2004 animated Disney movie Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers, in which Captain Pete of the Musketeers attempted to drown Mickey Mouse in order to carry out his plot to take over France's monarchy as king without interruption. Pete even mentions it by name, telling Mickey before leaving the dungeon, "Enjoy your stay at the Mont Saint-Michel—they say the tide comes in faster than horses!" This is in reference to the cathedral's history as a jail for political prisoners, as well as Victor Hugo's description of the tides.
  • According to the Making Of featurettes on the Extended Edition DVDs, the Mont-Saint-Michel, was an inspiration for the design of Minas Tirith in the 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, directed by Peter Jackson.
  • The Mont-Saint-Michel was featured in Onimusha 3: Demon Siege. The Genma had taken control of it and used it to house the time folder. The Mont-Saint-Michel was destroyed after the time folder exploded.
  • The location, including the tidal speed, is featured in Sharon Kay Penman's medieval mystery, Prince of Darkness.
  • In Bernard Cornwell's book The Winter King, the island is given the name Ynys Trebes and is the capital of the Armorican kingdom of Benoic. The book also gives a fictionalized portrayal of its destruction by the Franks.
  • In 1913, the American intellectual Henry Brooks Adams wrote Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres[6], celebrating the unity of medieval society, especially as represented in the great cathedrals of France.
  • In La promesse de l'ange, a novel by Frederic Lenoir and Violette Cabesos,[7] the main action takes place in the Mont-Saint-Michel.
  • Appeared in the Roxette music video "Queen of Rain"
  • French composer Claude Debussy frequented the island and possibly drew inspiration from not only the legend of the mythical city of Ys, but also Mont-Saint-Michel's cathedral for his piano prelude La Cathedrale Engloutie.[8]
  • French author Maxime Chattam used the Mont-Saint-Michel as one of the main locations in his book Le Sang du Temps[9]
  • Seen in the cover of Japanese musician Erika Sawajiri's debut single Free.
  • Seen in the cover of the North American release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
  • Is referenced in Strike Witches, as their base of operations is an ornate castle that resembles Mont Saint-Michel.
  • Mont-Saint-Michel is used as inspiration for the novelette "The Bloody Chamber" by Angela Carter.

Sister cities

Additional photos

See also


  1. ^ Projet Mont-Saint-Michel
  2. ^ La Baie, June 2007, p.4, in French
  3. ^ Catholic encyclopedia
  4. ^ UNESCO
  5. ^ The Elusive Pimpernel
  6. ^ Adams, Henry (1905). Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres. self-published. 
  7. ^ Lenoir, Frederic; Violette Cabesos (2004). La promesse de l'ange. Albin Michel. ISBN 9782226150811 (in French). 
  8. ^ Debussy's: La Cathedrale Engloutie
  9. ^ Chattam, Maxime (2005). Le Sang du Temps. Michel Lafon. ISBN 9782749902524 (in French). 
  10. ^ Le Mont-Saint-Michel - Jumelage
  11. ^ Nishihiroshima Times
  12. ^ Miyajima Grand Hotel Info

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Mont Saint Michel article)

From Wikitravel

Europe : France : Normandy : Basse-Normandie : Manche : Mont Saint Michel
View of Mont Saint Michel from the causeway carpark
View of Mont Saint Michel from the causeway carpark

Mont Saint Michel [1] (often written Mont St Michel, with other variations) is a small UNESCO World Heritage site located on an island just off the coast of the northern French region of Normandie. The island is best known as the site of the spectacular and well-preserved Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel at the peak of the rocky island, surrounded by the winding streets and convoluted architecture of the medieval town.


Mont Saint Michel was officially inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Get in

By car

Driving is by far and away the most efficient way of visiting Mont Saint Michel. Within the region of Normandy, drive from Caen along the A84 south-west to Pontorson, then continue a few more kilometres to Avranches. Merge with the D43, following the signs to its Mont-St-Michel at its end. Parking costs €4.

From Paris the total driving time is about 4.5 hours.

By train + bus

There are no direct train services between Paris and Mont St Michel, but rail travel to the island is nonetheless feasible. The best option is the TGV from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes, where a bus run by "Keolis Emeraude (ex Courriers Bretons)"(tel. 02-99-19-70-70,;) provides a 90 minute transfer to the island (there are 2-5 departures from Rennes per day, depending on seasonal demand - most departures are timed to match to the arrival of the TGV in Rennes). The bus station is immediately outside the Rennes train station, at a bus terminal building on your right, after leaving the station by the north exit. The bus costs €10.80 , with a reduction to €8.70 for people under 25 or older than 60, a reduction to €5.40 for children under 12, and it's free for children under 4. Bus tickets are sold by the driver when boarding the bus, not in advance at the bus terminal.

When returning with the bus, the driver might ask if you have a reservation for the TGV to Paris and give priority to people who have one.

Note: the bus stops at the entrance to the Mont St Michel itself. You can also ask the driver if you want to stop to the hostel before Mont St Michel.

Another option is to take a TGV train to the Pontorson-Mont St Michel train station (up to 4 a day), with a stopover in Rennes. The Pontorson train station is no more than 15 minutes from Mont St. Michel. Buses are available several times a day. You can get a schedule from the Pontorson train station.

There are also two buses daily from Saint-Malo to Pontorson (line 17, 1 hour, 3.20 € single trip), which are timed to connect to buses to Mont St Michel (2.20 € single trip)..

By bike

Free parking and beautiful views, takes about 20mins from Pontorson along the causeway.

Travel Warning

WARNING: it is not advised to try to approach the mont any other way than the causeway, unless with an experienced guide, people have been cut off and even drowned due to rising tides. There are also areas of quicksand that surround the mount.

Map of Mont St Michel, with the causeway and main entrance to the right
Map of Mont St Michel, with the causeway and main entrance to the right

The only way around Mont St Michel is on foot, and there are two gates into the walled city. The Porte de l'Avancée, the main gate at the end of the causeway, leads straight to the Grande Rue, which is packed chock-a-block with souvenir shops and tourists. Escape right up the stairs to the ramparts, which are a little less packed and offer great views of the mudflats. The lesser-used Porte Eschaugette, to the left of the main gate, is the quietest route up. All three routes converge at the Abbey on top of the island.

  • Abbey of Mont Saint Michel (L'Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel) [2], open 2 May - 30 August 9am-7pm (last admission 6pm), 1 September - 30 April 9:30am-6pm (last admission 5pm), admission (unguided visits): €8.5 adult, €5 18-25 yrs (free for citizens of the EU), and free for under 18s. closed 1 January, 1 May and 25 December, €4 audio guide (French, English, German, Spanish, Italian). Once a humble little monastery, the island and its fortifications have effectively grown up around this. During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and an extensive restoration was required to restore it. A few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept. Mass is celebrated daily except Monday at 12.15PM.
  • Notre-Dame Sous Terre Chapel [3]

The Carolingian church named Chapelle Notre-Dame-sous-Terre (Our Lady underground) was built around 966 by the first Benedictine monks at the very place of the oratory erected by Saint-Aubert in the early VIIIth century.


On the Mont

The culinary specialities of Mont Saint Michel are omelettes, whipped until frothy and light, and saltmarsh lamb (agneau de Pré Salé) dishes from the sheep that wander around the coast. However, none of the eateries on the island are particularly good (but they are all vastly overpriced), so if you are planning on staying on the Mont itself be aware that you might prefer eating in a town in the surrounding countryside.

The old town at the base of the abbey hosts a wide selection of restaurants, cafés, fast food outlets and other food venues. Note that Mont Saint Michel is more than slightly a tourist trap with regard to refreshments and travellers' needs - check a number of places for the best deal before ordering. Even then, do not rely on good service.

  • Du Guesclin, on the ramparts with good views out to the sea, [4]. The menu touristique, including oysters, omelets and lamb, starts from €17, which is positively cheap by Mont St Michel standards.
  • La Mere Poulard, right at the entrance. World famous for their omelette. They put non-traditional ingredients into it and cook it right in front of the window of the restaurant. Be careful to make reservations ahead of time because it is usually crowded. Also they only sell their world famous omelette at certain times of the day, so when you make reservations, be sure to make them for the right time if you're intending to get an omelette. Expect to pay more than €30 for the privilege!

On the mainland

On the approach road to the mont has a small area of shops, restaurants and supermarkets, although not cheap, they are less un-reasonably priced than getting food on the island, there is also (limited) car parking there.


Mont Saint Michel has a number of small hotels located within the island township. A selection of much larger hotels are available on the mainland opposite the island and in the nearby town of Pontorson, but many visitors choose to daytrip from Rennes or Saint-Malo instead as the island can be uncomfortably covered in a few hours. The carpark allows motorhomes to stay overnight as part of their standard parking fee.

  • There is a three star camping site in Pontorson, named Camping Haliotis on the D30 heading towards 'Saint James' or A84

E-mail :
Tel.: 02 33 68 11 59
Fax : 02 33 58 95 36

  • In Servon, about 12km from Avranches and 20 odd from the mont SAINT GREGOIRE a two star campingsite with 93 places, the town nearby has no shops (but a couple of restaurants)

Tel.: 02 33 60 26 03
Fax : 02 33 60 68 65

Chateau de l'Isle-Marie, Isle-Marie 50360 Picauville, ☎ 0233213725, [1]. Luxury Chateau B&B near Mont Saint Michel recommended by Travel & Leisure and the Michelin Guide, a unique experience in Normandy



Due to the tourist nature of the Mont it can get very busy, especially in high summer. Because of the steep steps up to the abbey, people can sometimes feel unwell, and may want to rest in the numerous gardens throughout the mont with plenty of seats. Please though, no matter how pretty the view is, don't just stop to look when others are behind you, it can infuriate people


The local Office de Tourisme is located in the Corps de Garde des Bourgeois (the Old Guard Room of the Bourgeois), at the left of the town gates (tel 02-33-60-14-30). Open daily all year except for Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Stay safe

Note that the tidal flats surrounding the island are rumored to harbour quicksand - visitors to the island are advised not to attempt crossing the flats by foot. Better safe with a group than sorry exploring on your own. However, if you decide to trek through the tidal flats be prepared to take off your shoes and clean up your feet after since the flats are quite muddy. The tide here is one of the fastest in europe. You should NEVER attempt any walks on the sands without checking the tide tables. It is advised only to attempt any kind of crossing using a qualified guide.

Walking on the Mont Saint Michel, you should be very careful, and if you have children, watch them closely. The person writing this was almost the victim of a fatal accident, when a young child just above me, moved on top of the steps, just before ticket sale, and almost fell. Afterwards, I heard that a man was taken away somewhere else on the Mont, black and blue from a fall. And an older man fell two steps from the stairs, but luckily got hold of something. The steps are good and wide enough though.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address