The Mont-Saint-Michel, Wonder of the West
Whether seen from afar or up-close, the Mont-Saint-Michel is a wonder. A mirage. Its reflection in the bay (of the same name) doubles the illusion.
The Mont-Saint-Michel looms dramatically on the horizon, defying the highest tides in Europe. The rocky island topped by an 11th-century Benedictine abbey appears majestic on a clear day and mystifying through the fog.
One of France’s most visited place
Registered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the Mount is one of France’s most visited historical places.
2.5 million tourists from around the world travel to the rocky outcrop every year: sightseers eager to discover the mythical town, and pilgrims on a spiritual journey.
For the Mont-Saint-Michel is, above all, a sacred site.
A vision that came into sight
The Mont-Saint-Michel is named after Archangel Michael. The location’s origins can be traced back to a legend that has the archangel appearing in a series of dreams to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.
In 709, following the archangel’s demands, Bishop Aubert built a sanctuary on what was then a barren rock called Mont-Tombe.
In 966, at the Duke of Normandy’s request, Benedictine monks settled on the island where they erected an abbey.
Exceptional medieval architecture
The shrine slowly continued to be extended over the centuries. The Abbey’s church and conventual buildings were built during the 11th and 12th centuries, followed by the Merveille cloister and refectory from the 13th to the 16th centuries.
Let’s not forget the military ramparts built during the 14th century. The fortification protected the tidal island during the Hundred Years War.
The Mont-Saint-Michel’s development was in itself a miracle. Boat shipments brought granite from the Chausey islands quarries. The rocks were then cut into blocks and hauled to the top of the Mount.
A religious landmark
The Mont-Saint-Michel remained an acclaimed pilgrimage site over the centuries. The site, along with Rome and the Way of Saint James were the most significant pilgrimages of the Medieval West.
In 2001, the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem restored daily prayer and monastic hospitality.
The Mont-Saint-Michel is labelled, quite understandably, one of France’s 13 Villes Sanctuaires (shrine towns).
Summer 2015: the Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island once more
Over time, high tides and human interference caused silt to build-up around the bay. By 2006, the nearly landlocked Mont-Saint-Michel no longer resembled an island.
A project to restore the Mount to the sea was launched in the same year. A new dam designed to gradually sweep away the silt and sand has begun to operate on the Couesnon River. The old parking lot at the foot of the rock has been demolished and moved to a new area near the bridge, on the mainland.
The causeway will soon share the same fate, marking the end of the construction work and the return of the Mont-Saint-Michel to its true island status.
Once the tidal coefficient reaches over 110, the Mont-Saint-Michel is briefly transformed back into an island. The base of the Mount’s outer ramparts then find themselves underwater. The Mount is cut off from any access for pedestrians. The phenomenon only lasts a few hours at a time, but it is a novelty that had not occurred for over 130 years!
The Mont-Saint-Michel Must-Sees
- Enjoy the panoramic view of the Bay and the Mount from the elegant viewing platform of the new bridge (and take advantage of your time there to discover the new dam).
- Climb the steep Grand Rue, the village’s main (and only) street, and the ramparts.
- Wander in souvenir shops and restaurants.
- Visit museums such as the Mont-Saint-Michel historical museum, or the Maritime and Ecology museum.
- Discover the Logis de Tiphaine, the historical house of Sir Bertrand du Guesclin, the 14th century Knight and constable of the King’s army, and his wife, Tiphaine, a famous astrologer.
- Contemplate the magnificent Saint-Pierre church and the Maison du Pèlerin (Pilgrim’s House).
- Marvel at the architectural treasure that is the Abbey, and the surrounding gardens.
- Let the singing voices of the monks mesmerise you during daily church services.
- Admire the breathtaking view of the Bay from the top of the Mont-Saint-Michel.
- Cross the Bay at low tide with a tour guide. Crossing the Bay alone is dangerous and prohibited. Shifting sands and turning tides claimed the lives of numerous pilgrims in the past, hence the nickname: Mont-Saint-Michel-au-Péril-de-la-mer (Mont-Saint-Michel at the peril of the sea).
- Delight in the amazing Archeoscope show, a multimedia experience that will take you back to medieval times.
- By Air: in Normandy, from Caen Carpiquet airport and Deauville Normandie airport, or in Brittany: from Rennes and Dinard Bretagne airports;
- By Train: Paris – Rennes – Le Mont-Saint-Michel (train + bus) Paris – Dol de Bretagne – Le Mont-Saint-Michel (train + bus) Paris – Caen – Pontorson (train) – Le Mont-Saint-Michel (bus);
- By Car: A13 to Caen – A84 to Avranches – Le Mont-Saint-Michel A11 to Le Mans – A81 to Laval – Fougères, Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Corps de Garde des Bourgeois
50170 Le Mont Saint-Michel
Tel: +33 (0)2 33 60 14 30
Sanctuaire (Pilgrim's House)
50170 Le Mont Saint-Michel
Tel: +33 (0)2 33 60 14 05