Mont Saint Michel Facts: Discover This Unique Tidal Island
Resting on an island that is cut off from the mainlands during high tides, construction of the Mont Saint Michel Abbey started in 708 AD and was built over 1300 years by several generations of workers working and surviving in an inhospitable site.
The Bishop Aubert of Avranches was visited in his dreams by Archangel Michel. The Archangel instructed him to build a church on the rocky island situated at the mouth of the Couesnon River. The Bishop did not pay heed to his words the first time so the archangel visited again and this time the Bishop took him seriously and started construction at the site.
The construction of the Mont Saint Michael represents the feudal hierarchy practised at the time. God is, of course, on top and after that comes the abbey and the monastery. The great halls are constructed below this and then comes the stores and the housing and at the bottom nearly outside the walls are situated the fisherman's and farmers’ housing.
The strong fortifications & high tidal waves made it impossible for the English to capture and conquer Mont Saint Michel during the Hundred Years Qar. The abbey withstood a siege for thirty years and their strong defence against England inspired Joan of Arc as well.
The abbey’s purpose underwent a change during the French Revolution in the 18th century, when there were hardly any monks left. The abbey stored high profile political prisoners of the revolution but many influential people campaigned to save the architectural treasure and in 1863 the prison was closed down.
Mont Saint Michel is well known for being a tourist destination but it is also a very important pilgrimage site. From the 10th century, many pilgrims came to the abbey passing perilous routes and the sands covering the bay in Low tide. Without the bridge interconnecting the mainland and the island, it was a risky adventure to cross the bay as there were also a lot of quicksand deposits in the area.
William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy created a replica of Mont Saint Michel that was called St Michael’s Mount of Penzance and is situated on the English side of the channel. This replica is much smaller and is also located on a tidal island.
The iconic castle of the animated movie Tangled was inspired by the Mont Saint Michel. It was also the inspiration behind Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor in Lord Of The Rings.
The tidal waves in Mont Saint Michel reach nearly 14 metres which is the highest in Europe. In the early days, no one could cross during the high tides and the only way to the island was a tidal causeway. In recent times a more permanent path has been built to make travel easier.
Mont Saint Michel and the surrounding bay have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979.