Mont Saint Michel, a challenging "Mont"

View of th Mont from the campaignFrom Normandy to Brittany, everyone talks about the "Mont". This little town is indelibly linked to the memory of the archangel Saint Michael. Mont Saint Michel is unique beyond description. Its history, its setting, its architecture and its environment have fascinated people for generations.

the Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, FranceIs this because of the challenges the Mont has offered?

What a challenge to choose to build upon this bay, at the edge of the Cotentin Peninsula, where the huge tidal movement creates a constantly changing landscape. Mont Saint Michel is a unique site where sea, sand and land meet and evolve throughout the day, with the rise and fall of the surrounding coastal seawaters.

Here, you find moving landscapes, where sandbars get longer and longer, only to disappear hours later, where a multitude of ephemeral streams seem to gush out of nowhere, only to quickly vanish back into nothing. On some days, at certain hours, ethereal mists emerge from the water. The immensity of this incredible landscape is accentuated by stunning plays of light in the sky and clouds. This wild vast Mont is astonishing in its raw beauty.

Such a challenge it was to build upon this tiny rock that barely emerges from the sea. First a church was built at an ancient pilgrimage place, and then an abbey. Mont Saint Michel Abbey is one of the purest of masterpieces of the Gothic period. The Northern part of the Abbey, built in the eighth century, is named the Merveille, which means The Wonder. This name is a perfect adjective to describe the entire Abbey and in fact all of Mont Saint Michel, so perfect is the architectural layout of this town, with its fortified walls, its abbey, its church and chapel, and its protected gardens and homes, classified as historical monuments.
Mont Saint Michel continues to inspire artists, painters, novelists and poets with its authenticity and its charm. It has been a challenge to protect this gem of a city, born of another era, from being radically altered by tourism.

The important public works in progress (the removal of sand, the creation of a footbridge and the moving of the parking area) reflect the challenge of protecting and maintaining this exceptional site. Mont Saint Michel has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1979, so that the silhouette of this town may continue to emerge from the dunes and the rushing tides might astonish us for many years to come.
Photos: ©Mathilde Mochon, ©Th. Houyel - CDT50

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