By Hannah Noye
It’s hardly possible to believe that Mont Saint-Michel is not a fictional place from a fairytale, such is its out of this world beauty. This stunning tidal island located off the coast of Normandy, France is known for its beautiful medieval architecture, rich history, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The island is dominated by the famed Abbey of Saint Michel, a towering Gothic structure of turrets and brick that sits atop a rocky outcropping. The surrounding winding streets and long alleys, lined with medieval houses and quaint shops and restaurants are testaments to the islands long and storied past.
Mont Saint-Michel was first used as a monastery in the 8th century, when the bishop of Avranches founded a small chapel on the island. Over the years, the monastery and Abbey grew in size and importance, eventually drawing pilgrimage from those all over Europe.
In the centuries that followed, Mont Saint Michel became a symbol of French resistance against English invaders. During the Hundred Years War, the island was besieged several times, but it always managed to hold out against the English forces. It wasn't until the 17th century that Mont Saint Michel was turned into a prison, a role it continued to serve until 1863. Today, Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.
It is interesting enough to simply take a day to walk around the unique layout of the island and its little gems – the views of the surrounding landscape and the ocean stretching into the distance are gorgeous. If you seek more historical insight into the islands past, then you can take a guided tour of the Abbey and island with the expert knowledge of a passionate French local. The Abbey is a real highlight, a beautiful and massive echoing building with high ceilings and windows, a sacred space in many ways. There are also several exhibitions and museums available that offer cultural and historical displays.
Mont Saint-Michel is located in a tidal bay which can rise and fall very quickly. The tides as they move around the sides of the island can be a source of relaxation and introspection. It is a beautiful environment in which you can enjoy a quiet moment and the spectacular beauty of Normandy.
Mont Saint-Michel celebrated its 1000th year anniversary on April the 8th this past month. In its 1000 years it has never ceased to attract visitors with its beauty and cultural significance. Accessible only via a pedestrian bridge, or a causeway, and without the cars and other modern machinations of modern life, it is a place perfectly preserved despite the passing years.
See its magnificent silhouette and medieval architecture on our Jewels of the North tour next year!