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  • Mont-Saint-Michel

    Mont-Saint-Michel

    In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Hundred Years War made it necessary to protect the abbey with a set of military constructions which allowed it to resist a siege of more than thirty years. © Hemis.fr

  • Mont-Saint-Michel

    Mont-Saint-Michel

    The Mont-Saint-Michel is firstly a town which had 44 inhabitants in 2009, mostly monks. © Hemis.fr

  • The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

    The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

    The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel is the site of the largest tides in Continental Europe, with up to 15 meters of difference between high and low tides. The sea rushes back towards the coast “at the speed of a galloping horse,” as the saying goes. © Only France

  • Mont-Saint-Michel

    Mont-Saint-Michel

    The abbey became a prison at the time of the French Revolution and under the Empire. It required major restoration work, which began at the end of the 19th century. In 1874 it was assigned to the historical monuments department. © Only France

  • The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

    The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

    Mont-Saint-Michel (the island and the abbey) gave its name to the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, which was also registered as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979. © Only France

Constructed on a small granite island, in the centre of a huge bay invaded by the largest tides in Europe, Mont Saint-Michel defies the centuries and is a real repository of French memories.

Mont Saint-Michel is first and foremost a commune of France, located to the South West of La Manche département and Lower Normandy. The architecture of Mont Saint-Michel and its bay makes it the third most visited tourist site in France (after the Eiffel Tower and the Castle of Versailles), with almost 3.5 million visitors a year; it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The bay 

Mont Saint-Michel stands in the centre of a huge bay invaded by the largest tides in Europe. Situated at the border between Normandy and Brittany, between Cancale and Granville, and covering 500 km2, Mont Saint-Michel bay is the largest area of salt meadows and polders in France. It is distinguished by the exceptional distance between high and low tide - up to 15 metres during spring tides. It offers a wide diversity of natural environments, with exceptional fauna, flora and light.

The tides in Mont Saint-Michel bay are very impressive: covering a distance of almost 13 metres on days of high tidal range, the tide goes out very quickly over some 10 kilometres, and comes in again just as quickly. The expression used is that it "comes in as fast as a galloping horse". Today, Mont Saint-Michel is only surrounded by water to become an island during the great equinox tides, fifty-three days a year and for a few hours. In order to return it to its original grandeur, major development work was launched in 2005 (new dam on the Couesnon, dredging work, a road barrier and a car park), which will allow Mont Saint-Michel to become an island once again by 2015!

The village

On the southern side of the rock, in the shadow of walls dating from the 12th and 15th centuries, the village has a large number of residences classified as historic monuments, small local museums and tourist shops. Visitors can take the rampart walk, lined with small, protected gardens and admire a magnificent view of the coast. Not to mention tasting the local specialities, such as lamb from the salt meadows or omelette à la Mère Poulard, who opened an inn there in 1888.

The abbey 

It was at the request of the Archangel Michael, "head of the heavenly army", that Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, built and dedicated the first church on 16 October 709. In 966, at the request of the Duke of Normandy, a community of Benedictine monks was established on the rock. The pre-Roman church was constructed before 1000. In the 11th century, the Roman abbey-church was founded on a series of crypts at the tip of the rock and the first monastic buildings were built next to its northern wall. In the 12th century, the Roman monastic buildings were extended to the west and south. In the 13th century, a gift from the King of France Philip Augustus, following the conquest of Normandy, made it possible to build the Gothic Mont Saint-Michel buildings, "the Marvel": two three-storey buildings, crowned by the cloister and the refectory, which constituted the real living area of the monks. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Hundred Years' War made it necessary to protect the abbey with a series of military constructions which allowed it to withstand a siege lasting more than thirty years. The Roman chancel, which collapsed in 1421, was replaced by the flamboyant Gothic chancel at the end of the Middle Ages. Reworked until the 18th century, the Benedictine abbey is a wonderful combination of the Carolingian, Roman and flamboyant and classical Gothic styles. These exceptional architectural buildings, which became a prison under the Revolution and the Empire, have benefited from a sustained renovation policy since they were classified as a historic monument in 1862. At the top of the church, a golden bronze statue showing the eponymous Saint overcoming the dragon has stood 170 metres above sea level since 1897. It is the work of a French sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet and was added during the first major restoration work at the end of the 19th century.