Normandy: Mont Saint Michel

Following our visit to the Beaches of Normandy, we headed southwest towards Avranches, near the border of Brittany. The Normandy countryside was simply stunning with the ubiquitous stone houses bathed in the warmth of the mid-September sunshine.

The destination of our trip was Mont Saint Michel, the world-famous monastery dating from the 8th century and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mount is visible for miles in all directions, built upon a rocky outcropping in the tidal flats just off the coast of Normandy and Brittany. Its natural fortification made it virtually impenetrable to attack down throug the ages.

With 3 million visitors per year, the site is overrun by tourists. However, that does little to diminsh the grandeur of the site. By far the most impressive feature of the abbey is the Romanesque church perched at the summit, although it requires some effort to make it up, as my parents found out. The weight of the church was so great that it was necessary to construct numerous crypts and chapels underneath to support the weight. This is supplemented by the cloisters, a peaceful garden situated off to the side of the church and seemingly suspended in the air.

The view from the top is nothing short of spectacular with views over the surrounding bay. The salt flats are known for their “galloping tides” which rise and fall a total of 14 vertical meters (45 feet). Despite the danger, there are numerous walking and horse-back riding tours which take people out to another island several kilometers away.

Mont Saint Michel

The touristy, narrow streets of the lower abbey

At the summit; a close-up of the abbey church

Some of the church’s intricate design

A close-up of the church steeple. Notice the gargoyle rain spouts at the base of the steeple, a common feature of French churches and basilicas.

The Clositers

An example of the intricate artwork decorating each of the cloister arches

Looking up at the church and the cloisters (the triple windows at the top)

A view of the Couesnon River which marks the traditional boundary between Normandy (left) and Brittany (right). I was able to visit Brittany later in the fall

A view of walkers out on the tidal flats

A view of Mont Saint Michel at night


About Canadianindenmark

A Canadian expat working in the biotechnology industry in Copenhagen, Denmark
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