Mont Saint Michel and its bay - Visit time : 1 day.
The Mont-Saint-Michel stands on a rocky mount in the middle of stretches of sand and water that make up the immense bay.
Not really on the continent, not really at sea, between the world of men and the wild vastness of the ocean. Between heaven and earth, its imposing figure seems to rise to the heavens. The lights, which change from morning to night, and the atmosphere, at times mystical in the sea mist, enhance these impressions, along with the breathtaking vision upon arrival at the site. For the full effect, travel to Mont Saint Michel on foot from the mainland, as did hundreds of thousands of pilgrims for centuries, and you will understand the magic that surrounds this place.
Victor Hugo summed up the feeling in 1884 : "Mont-Saint-Michel is to France what the Great Pyramid is to Egypt."
The abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel was set up in the bay of the same name, between the regions of Brittany and Normandy, on a granite block measuring approximately 900 meters in circumference at the base and 80 meters in height, and peaking 2 kilometers from the mainland over the sandy fringe covered by high tides. It is said that formerly, this rocky needle dominated a forest that was engulfed by a tidal wave. The fact remains that this exceptional locale, lost between land and sea, controlled the establishment and the development of the abbey.
The abbey overlooks a small village at its base, forming an architectural complex of great originality, and built by successive additions throughout the Middle Ages. The oldest existing part, the small pre-Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-sous-terre dates back to the 10th century. The contribution from the Romanesque period is still visible in the nave of the abbey, whose transept rests on the top of the rock, and among a group of monastic buildings.
But it was the architects of the Gothic period who, while making the most of limited space, invented the high walls, the slender masses, the openwork volumes and the air pinnacles that make up the sharp silhouette of the rock. For the elegance of its design, the new body of monastic buildings, built from 1204 onward, earned the ensemble the nickname the “Merveille” (the Marvel): it includes the famous Guest and Knights’ Halls, the huge refectory nave and cloister. Among the many later additions, it is necessary to mention the flamboyant Gothic choir of the abbey church, begun in 1448, at the location of the Romanesque choir that had collapsed.
The Mont-Saint-Michel was included on the list of World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1979 under criteria (i), (iii) and (vi). It has also been classified as a World Heritage site under the "Pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela" since 1998. It is a must-see for pilgrims from the United Kingdom, and from Plymouth in particular.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (i): By the unprecedented alliance of the natural landscape and architecture, Mont-Saint-Michel is a unique aesthetic success.
Criterion (iii): Mont-Saint-Michel is an unrivaled ensemble, as much by the coexistence of the abbey and its fortified village on a narrow island as by the original layout of the buildings that give it its unforgettable silhouette.
Criterion (vi): Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the landmarks of medieval Christian civilization.
Source UNESCO / ICOMOS