6 mysteries surrounding Mont-Saint-Michel

For 13 centuries, this rocky island, nestling in the heart of a huge, beautiful bay has been home to a magnificent abbey. Perched at the top of the islet, as if levitating, the building is like a mirage, always a mesmerising sight.

An architectural miracle

The builders of the Middle Ages surpassed themselves despite the many challenges of the rugged terrain on the island. First, around the year 1000 a pre-Romanesque church was built, then in the eleventh century a Romanesque abbey and, in the thirteenth century, a sublime Gothic elevation known as the "Merveille" (the Wonder). Comprised of two buildings of three floors, as if by a miracle, it perches on the slope of the rock, crowned by a cloister and large refectory. From the west forecourt, the view over the bay is simply breath taking.

An angel in the sky

Weighing 820 kilos, measuring 3.5 meters, the slayer of the dragon of the Apocalypse perches at the tip of the abbey's spire, 156 meters above sea level. Dethroned, restored and redeemed in 2016, the Archangel Saint-Michel returned to the summit of Mont-Saint-Michel, like a star... in a helicopter.

Island prospects

The Benedictine monks of the Middle Ages chose Mont Tombe as it was known, for its incomparable location, at the base of a bay besieged by the ocean depending on the tides. But a gradual build up of silt challenged its future as an island. 10 years of gargantuan work has been undertaken, begun in 2005, and the construction of a dam (which you can visit) was essential to preserve its maritime character as home to one of the most extraordinary religious buildings in the world.

A unique show

The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel experiences the largest tides in continental Europe, an astonishing 15 metres of tidal range may take place. As soon as the tidal coefficient exceeds 110, Mont-Saint-Michel becomes an island for a few hours providing a unique and glorious show. The water covers the submersible ford cutting off the mainland and creating the impression the island is floating. But, don’t worry, thanks to a bridge providing a gateway, you can reach the site even during the high tides.

Storming the quicksand

Walk barefoot on the sand and along the streams and canals of seawater to reach the "Merveille"... Crossing the bay, in the footsteps of the ancient pilgrims of the Middle Ages, is a memorable experience. And, it’s a great chance to learn from a guide, of the legends and secrets of this special place with its unique ecosystem.

Lamb with an ocean flavour

It’s said that the local grass irrigated with sea water, rich in salt and minerals, gives a unique taste to the lambs raised on the pastures of Mont-Saint-Michel bay. These grazers of salt meadows are famous for their incomparable flavour, earning them the famed label of AOC. There’s no better way to savour the end of a wonderful day climbing the Mont than with a gastronomic meal.

Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy