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Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel

Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel

50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel



The Mont Saint Michel Abbey is located within the city and island of Mont-Saint-Michel in Lower Normandy, in the department of Manche.

The abbey is an essential part of the structural composition of the town the feudal society constructed. On top, God, the abbey, and monastery; below this, the Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom (outside the walls), fishermen's and farmers' housing.

The abbey has been protected as a French monument historique since 1862. Since 1979, the site as a whole – i.e., the Mont Saint-Michel and its bay – has been a UNESCO world heritage site and is managed by the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The first text about an abbey is the 9th-century Latin text Revelatio ecclesiae sancti Michaelis in monte Tumba written by a chanoine living at Mont Saint Michel or at the Cathédrale Saint-André d'Avranches. This text was written at a time of power struggle between Brittany and the County of Normandy against Francia as well as during canon law reforms by Roman emperors.

When Christianity expanded to the area, around the 4th century, Mont Tombe, the original name of Mont Saint Michel, was part of the Diocese of Avranches. By the middle of the 6th century, Christianity had a stronger presence in the bay. By this time, Mont Tombe was populated by religious devotees, hermits (probably some Celtic monks) supplied by the curé of Astériac, who took care of the site and led a contemplative life around some oratories. The hermits Saint Pair and Saint Seubilion dedicated one of the oratories to Saint Étienne, midway through the mont and one to Saint Symphorien, at the foot of the rock.

In 710, Mont Tombe was renamed Mont Saint Michel au péril de la Mer ("Mount Saint Michael at the peril of the sea) after erecting an oratory to Saint Michael by bishop Saint Aubert of Avranches in 708. According to the legend, Aubert received, during his sleep, three times the order from Saint Michael to erect an oratory on the Mont Tombe. The archangel was reputed to have left his finger mark on Aubert's skull. This skull is displayed at the Saint-Gervais d'Avranches basilica with such a scar on it.

This sanctuary should be, according to the archangel, a replica of the Gargano in Italy (from the 5th century). Aubert had a local religious artifact removed and instead a circular sanctuary built, made of dry stones. Around 708, Aubert sent two monks to get some artifacts from the Italian sanctuary Gargano (a rock with his foot print and a piece of tissue from the altar). During this mission, the March 709 tsunami is supposed to have destroyed the Scissy forest and turned the Mont into an island. On October 16 709, the bishop dedicated the church and put twelve chanoine there. The Mont-Saint-Michel was born.
In 1835, Viollet-le-Duc visited the Mont and later his students, Paul Gout and Édouard Corroyer (the famous Mère Poulard was his maid), were commissioned to restore it. Urgent work to consolidate and restore the abbey was conducted by Édouard Corroyer. In 1896, a neogothic spire, rising 170 meters above the sea level, was added.

The archangel Saint Michel at top of the spire (completed in 1898) was started in 1895 by the sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet at the "ateliers Monduit" that previously did some work for Viollet-le-Duc.

In 1898, during some excavation under the floor of the church, Paul Gout discovered the Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre. It was completely excavated in 1959, after architect Yves-Marie Froidevaux had a concrete beam installed.

Mont Saint Michel as a whole and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, and it was listed with criteria such as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.

With more than 1.335 million visitors in 2010, the abbey is among the most visited cultural sites in France.
Starting in 1922, Christian worship was again practiced in the abbey.

In 1966, with the celebration of the abbey's first millennium, a few Benedictine monasteries sent monks to spend the summer there. At the end of the summer a few stayed, led by Bruno de Senneville, from Bec Abbey, with the approval of the state, owner of the place. They slowly started to leave after 1979.

Since 2001, the Benedictine monks have been replaced by some from the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem, originally from Saint-Gervais' Church in Paris.
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  • Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel - Basse Normandie Region - The Favourite Monument of the French
    Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel - Basse Normandie Region - Le Monument Préféré des Français
    Overlooking the immensity of the strikes in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel, the abbey is a unique monument, offering an exceptional set of buildings representative of the different styles of the Middle Ages. High place of pilgrimage and international tourism... visiting Mont St Michel is an experience in itself!
    The long history of Mont-Saint-Michel began in 708, when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, had a sanctuary built on Mont-Tombe in honour of the Archangel. The mountain quickly became a major place of pilgrimage. In the 10th century, the Benedictines moved to the abbey, while a village developed below. In the 13th century, new buildings were built with six magnificent rooms immediately named: The Wonder. In the 15th century, following the collapse of the Romanesque choir of the abbey church, a new flamboyant Gothic choir was built. The abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is a unique monument, whose plan cannot be compared to any other monastery. It is one of the most remarkable examples of the religious and military architecture of the Middle Ages, erected between sky and sea, and dominated by the statue of the archangel.
  • At the heart of the story: The foundation of Mont Saint-Michel Abbey (Franck Ferrand)
    It is one of the highest places of French heritage that Franck Ferrand invites us to rediscover this afternoon. In any season, at any time of the day, Mont-Saint-Michel is moving. It is fascinating by its location between sea and sky, by the prowess of all its architects, by the spiritual impulses it inspires.


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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.