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Mont St Michel

Tuesday 28 January 2003

In the ice age the channel islands joined to continent.
As the ice melted the low land flooded. The channel islands were formed, mont tombe was an island. 5000BC
Deposits built up and the sea around the Mont Tombe became land and a forest grew up. Around 709 the coastal ridge broke and the sea flooded in. Mont Tombe was an island again.
The cult of St Michel started around 491 when he appeared in Italy. The cult spread throughout Europe right to the edge of Neustrie. In 725 a community of canons dedicated to St Michel was installed on Mont Tombe.
966 Richard I (great grandfather of William) had a monastery built.

1350 - 1450 hundred years war.
1420 Couesnon changed course from south to north. (Bay starts to silt up)
1423 English took Tombelaine.
1424 assieged by the English.

1700 Dutch polders
1789 revolution (Prison)
1872 Edouard Corroyer came to start the restoration of the site. (with servant Annette Boutiat - Mère Poulard)
1874 dike built
1874 became historical monument

Mont St Michel Village

English mortars from the Hundred years war. 1434 the mount was attacked again by the English.using these mortars. The English were pushed back into the sinking sands. But theses weapons made the. Inhabitants strengthen their defenses.
First fortifications. With many slits for guns. Rampart to protect town from the west ran from the rocks behind Mere Poulard to the abbey.
Kings door Draw bridge for carts and one for pedestrians. Decorations over door destroyed in the revolution.
Tour du Roi lost its castelling.
15 Maison de l’arcade Half timbered house with a tower. Clinging to the ramparts.
13 Maison de l’Artichaut Galery in chesnut slats astride the street.
12 Logis Saint Pierre - Half timbered house in three levels.
7 Hotel du Mouton blanc Half timbered with slate covered gable.
8 Magasin du mouton blanc. Stone built house

St Pierre Church

Started in Norman times - remodelled up to the 17c
An apse is roman.
Nave built directly on the rocks.
Alter faces south instead of east due to the terrain.
In the western chapel is statue of St Michel.
In the high season 10000 people pass through the church.


Granite fortress surmounted by lace spires.
Abbey stairs could be closed by a door

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The north tower is the oldest 1256
Arrive in Guards Hall - where pilgrims arrived.
Tickets in alms house - poor pilgrims
Stairs between monastic buildings ( 9 monks + 9 nuns) and abbey. XV c
Gautiers jump - prisoner

Facade dates from 1780 9 years before the revolution.
See Monte Tombelaine
Sée , Couesnon and Selune.
Nave is Roman
First church was in 970. Richard I installed monks on the mount.
From 1023 - 1080 the first abbey was built on four crypts to make a platform. The original church, N D sous terre as one of the crypts.
To build this church on top of the rock took all the architects skill.
Wooden roof. Granite columns.
Decoration leaves and animals. Religious images for the illiterate faithfull.
Building was fragile 1103 the north wall fell on dormitory. 1203 the north transept. - rebuilt as gothic.
3 arches destroyed by fire - west wall rebuilt with burnt stones.
This was the goal of the medieval pilgrims. Transept statue St Michel 400 Kg
Choir Flamboyant
The norman choir collapsed in 1420 - 100 yrs war. This flamboyant replacement was started in 1450 ( just at the end of the Hundred years war.
The high ribbed columns are a model of lightness and elegance.

Third level of the abbey. Had to be light and strong
The walls are thick but with many slit openings to let in the light. Triangular columns
The windows aren’t visible when you enter.
Roof of wood
Bottom level (alms house for poor pilgrims) - plain vaults for strength
second level (guest hall) ribbed vaults

The meals were taken in silence. One monk read during the meals . Seated in a chair up the steps to the right. The monks ate in silence using signs. Abbot at the end. Sometimes he ate downstairs with the King, to ask for money.
They would eat Chicken - sea food and beer. Norman wine - Three hands.

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Normally a cloister is in the middle of the monastery. For prayers and meditation
Here it is stuck on the side and is the third storey of the monastery.
Built after the fire of 1203
For lightness the granite columns form tripods - the lime stone (Caen stone) arches are sculptured (leaves fruit sheep) - roof upturned boat hull. Roof was covered in chestnut slats but now in slate.
South side - Lavatorium for washing the feet.
Grass is the only thing that grows properly. - very little soil. Garden is XXc - Monks couldn’t make waterproof.
The norman abbey didn’t have the cloister as we saw earlier. They just had this room to walk around. Some say not. The dormitory was above. The plain XI c vaults were transformed in ribbed vaults in the XII c
Chewing Gum

(( (Salle AQUILLON)
norman chaplaincy where pilgrims were welcomed.
(Thirty candle chapel)

N D sous terre
This was the original church Xc before the norman church. It was transformed into a crypt when the other church was built over it.

St Steven’s chapel
The mortuary chapel where dead bodies were washed
The norman abbey had rooms for pilgrims on this side of the abbey. They collapsed in 1817. The hospital would have connected to this chapel. The monks often didn’t live long - lack of vitamins. Malingerers tried to get into the hospital to be fed.

L’Ossuaire or cemetery. Mouse wheel
This was the original cemetery of the abbey. In hole then quick lime.
The wheel dates from 1810. Was worked by prisoners to bring up supplies.
The monks used this type of wheel to bring up supplies to the cellar, the other side of the abbey. Granite could have come from Brittany - transport + taxes. Brought from the channel islands. It was by a ramp like this that the enemy managed to enter during the religious wars.
Bay silting up since 1878 - dike.
2003 project to de-silt.
St Martins crypt
Holds up the southern transept of the church.
The cradle vault is reinforced by an arch in the middle
The cradle vault helped the acoustics for the favourite pastime of monks - Gregorian chant.
This was a funeral chapel
Big column Crypt
The norman chancel collapsed in 1421. The hundred years war stopped any reconstruction but in 1450 work was started by rebuilding this crypt with giant columns to support the new flamboyant chancel.
The columns (16 ft circ) probably are built over the norman columns.
Hole in ceiling was to pass stones up. (100 ft to top of Chancel)
Called the Knights room after the order of St Michel instituted by Louis XI. But it was never used by them.
It was where the monks carried out their main task - writing.
Here was the only room heated for the monks. They could pray , eat and sleep in the cold but couldn’t write.
The room was split into small rooms by drapes. It was separated from the passageway by drapes so the rich guests could pass to the church with out disturbing the Monks.
Guests hall
XIII c Wealthy visitors were entertained here. They took their meals with the Abbot.
The meals were prepared in the great fire places.
The rest of the room was separated by drapes.
In the north wall were the latrines.
An elegant hall with ribbed vaults. The monks refectory upstairs - wooden roof - The chaplaincy - for poor pilgrims - plain vault

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