A grand Romanesque Abbey built on the top of a rocky tidal island; that is Mount Saint Michel a widely acclaimed structure that has been featured in many movies and the theme in ‘
A mystical place
There are many rocky islets in the sea lying un-noticed by history but that is not the case with this particular islet ‘Le Mont Saint Michel’ (as the complex is known in French), it is just one km from the mainland; once a part of it; as time passed, the connecting land link yielded to the insistent sea-waves and finally narrowed to a strip that vanishes during high tide and reappears during low tides, thus giving this part of the land a mystical status –at times an island and at times not!. This distance between
Its long history
This island -formerly known as ‘Mont Tombe’- was a stronghold of the Romano-Briton culture, with construction of the monastery in 8th century it came to be known in the present name - Mount Saint Michel. The Franks (an ethnic stock of West Germanic origin) captured it; thus ending a legacy that lasted even after the exit of the Romans in AD 460. In the early 10th century Duke of Normandy annexed the whole area and the island became a part of his strategic locations. Later this islet came in to the hands of the French. During the ‘Hundred years of war’ between
The Saint who drilled a hole!
Why such a majestic structure was built in an islet only partly accessible is a natural question, there is only one legend to answer it. Long ago in the early 8th century (AD 708) Arch Angel Michael appeared in the dreams of Mr. Aubert (later he was declared a Saint) the bishop of Avranches and asked him to build a church on the
A daring design
King Richard II of
A pilgrimage center
Witness to mutiny and arson
Mount Saint Michel though built as an abbey is also a medieval castle with prominent fortification with two towers to defend any possible forced entrance in to it. As a castle it has experienced many horrific scenes.
Thorigny the terrible!
One Mr. Robert de Thorigny a Briton allied to the French King who rose to the chair; attacked the island massacred its population and set fire to the crypts. The fire spread to the main building and the entire roof collapsed. Still the Mr. Thorigny could not get entrance in to the structure due to strong fortification and had to retreat.
The French Revolution also had its impact on this island structure. The ‘revolutionaries’ who came to power did not find it as a bad idea to use this historical structure as a prison, -prisons and labor-camps being parts and parcel of real revolution- as the revolution progressed a rare historical monument had to be subjected to alternations to make it fit for a torture camp! A massive reconstruction was needed to repair the damages made by the revolutionary jailors. As in the case of most of the historical structures this abbey had also undergone many destructions and reconstructions.
Then a fire
Mount Saint Michel was mainly built of granite at places limestone and cloister also has been used. In 1856 a fire that broke out and wreaked much destruction to the structure, it remained un-repaired for about 18 years until 1874.
Philip Augustus; the king of
The present state
Mount Saint Michel is a UNESCO approved World Heritage Site since 1979 and a tourist hot spot that attracts not less than tourists from world over. There is a village that is on the south east side of the rock between walls, the main vocation of the villagers is rendering services to the booming tourism industry.
Modern facilitations with an eye on monetary concepts have done much to the damage of the entire island. The Couesnon River was canalized to save space thereby reducing the natural flow of water, the old land bridge –which was partly submergible- that connected this island with mainland was converted in to a permanent causeway; all these stopped the free flow of water and silt which scurried the mud away. The resultant mud-banks got transformed in to pasture lands. The net result is the damage of the entire ecosystem.
At present a 150 million Euro plan has been proposed (Project Mont Saint-Michel) to build a hydraulic dam that could solve the problem of silt accumulation. But this will only be completed in 2012 if all goes as planned.