Le Mont-Saint-Michel

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Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Coat of arms of Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Le Mont-Saint-Michel (France)
Le Mont-Saint-Michel
region Normandy
Department Some
Arrondissement Avranches
Canton Pontorson
Community association Mont-Saint-Michel-Normandy
Coordinates 48 ° 38 ′  N , 1 ° 31 ′  W Coordinates: 48 ° 38 ′  N , 1 ° 31 ′  W
height 5-57 m
surface 4 km 2
Residents 30 (January 1, 2017)
Population density 8 inhabitants / km 2
Post Code 50170
INSEE code
Website www.mont-saint-michel.net

The Mont Saint-Michel at night
Mont Saint-Michel and Tombelaine from the air, before renovation work on the dam begins (2006)
Le Mont-Saint-Michel from the bridge

Mont Saint-Michel is a French municipality with 30 inhabitants (at January 1, 2017) in the Manche department in the region of Normandy . The municipality consists of the rocky island of Mont Saint-Michel in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in the Normandy Wadden Sea and parts of the mainland. The island is about one kilometer from the coast and only about 55,000 m² in size (circumference approx. 830 meters), the community area amounts to a total of 4 km². Nearby are the Couesnon estuary , the city of Avranches and the border with Brittany . The landscape is called Avranchin.

Mont Saint-Michel south front
Mont Saint-Michel at the time of the Pontorson railway connection
Mont Saint-Michel car park, before the renovation work started (2003)
View from Mont Saint-Michel over the dam and Couesnon towards the mainland, before the start of the renovation work (2007)
The Mont Saint-Michel 2014 with the new footbridge (Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes)
Shuttle bus to the island of Le Mont-Saint-Michel
The city below the monastery
Crowds of visitors in the narrow streets, the Grande Rue
Illumination from the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry around 1415
Mont Saint-Michel north side, surrounded by the mudflats
Island plan

The island, 92 meters high without buildings, is known for the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey . The fortified abbey dominates the islet and is an example of the Norman architectural style (beginning around 1022). Benedictines lived in the monastery until the 1960s , and since 2001 religious of the communities of Jerusalem .

The Mont has become a major tourist attraction, it is visited by about 2.3 million people annually. It is still being visited to a lesser extent, but to an increasing extent, by pilgrims , including pilgrims on the Way of St. James . The mountain and its bay belong since 1979 to the World Heritage of UNESCO . It has also been listed as part of the Camino de Santiago World Heritage Site in France since 1998 .


Before the construction of the first sacred building in the 8th century, the island was called Mont-Tombe . The residents of the area explain this name with the expression for a grave-like elevation, French. tombe . This agrees with Indo-European tum (survey), which then became tumba or tumulus . Tombelaine , the name of the small island a little to the north, is the diminutive of Mont-Tombe .

According to legend, in 708 the Archangel Michael appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches with the order to build a church on the rocky island. But the bishop did not obey the repeated request until the angel burned a hole in his skull with his finger (the skull of Aubert with the hole is kept in the church of Saint-Gervais in Avranches; in truth, however, it should be a trephined skull from the Middle Ages .). In the period 708/709, St. Aubert built a first sanctuary in honor of St. Michael.

At the time when the Mont Saint-Michel belonged to Neustria , it was also a strategically important place for the Frankish kings and later a fortress of the Marche de Neustrie (border of Neustria). Since the constant attacks of the Vikings , the king left the Cotentin peninsula and the Avranchin (together with the Mont) to the Breton duke by the Treaty of Compiègne in 867. The Bretons had become less threatening than the Vikings and achieved significant successes in their struggle against the Northmen. That was the beginning of the short Breton history of the Monts.

In 933 the Normans annexed the Cotentin peninsula, making the island strategically even more important now on the border with Brittany. A first pre-Romanesque church was built, and the fortress-like island withstood the Viking raids. In 965/966 a group of Benedictine monks founded the monastery . In the centuries that followed, dukes and kings financed the grand architecture of the monastery. In 1017 Abbot Hildebert II began building the central monastery complex, which was not to be completed until 1520. A first Romanesque abbey church was built between 1023 and 1084.

In the 12th century, the abbey was the destination of large numbers of pilgrims. She had great power and influence, which was also reflected in the founding of numerous subsidiary abbeys. B. St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall . Normandy became part of the French Kingdom, and Philippe Auguste , King of France, made it possible in the 13th century to expand the monastery in the Gothic style (the La Merveille building complex ). The abbey had important abbots such as B. Robert von Torigni (c. 1110-1186). But she also had a number of abbots who had received her as coming and who were literally plundered. The decline initiated in this way began with the Hundred Years War . The Mont Saint-Michel was besieged by the English, who had established themselves on the island of Tombelaine in 1423 , until 1434. It was never captured, but the town in particular was almost completely destroyed by the English artillery . Even so, the monastery continued to attract pilgrims in the mid-15th century. The numerous children's pilgrimages from Germany between 1456 and 1458 are a particularly remarkable phenomenon. In 1458, around 100 boys from the southern German imperial city of Schwäbisch Hall alone moved to Mont Saint-Michel . In 1469 the abbey became the seat of the newly founded order of knights, Ordre de Saint-Michel .

Although the choir in the late Gothic style ( flamboyant ) was completed in 1520, the Mont Saint-Michel went downhill as a result of the Reformation and the other upheavals of modern times . In 1790 the Benedictines left the monastery (the monks were not supposed to return until 1969). In connection with the French Revolution , the abbey was converted into a prison, which was originally intended for opponents of the regime from the ranks of the clergy . The mountain was named Mont-Libre, which undoubtedly made a mockery of its purpose. Between 15,000 and 18,000 people were incarcerated here, including political prisoners such as Raspail and Barbès .

For centuries, the Mont had become a pre-eminent pilgrimage destination in Europe, attracting people from all over the continent, and as a monastery with scriptorium it had an impact far beyond Normandy. But now nobody spoke of the monastery as a spiritual place and a place of pilgrimage; the Mont still had the reputation of being one of the most hideous prisons in France, and therefore it was now avoided in every respect. With that the Mont had reached its lowest point; many buildings fell into disrepair or were already in ruins, the population of the village was totally impoverished, and the continued existence of the Mont as a whole was acutely threatened.

At this point in time, from 1836, a movement around Victor Hugo began to campaign for the restoration of what they believed to be an architectural treasure of national importance. Romanticism had discovered the Mont . She glorified him in poems, novels and paintings and in this way made him widely known and also in a new, positive light. In 1863 the prison was closed. In 1874 the Mont Saint-Michel was declared a national monument (Monument historique) . The preservation of Mont was a complex task. Outstanding specialists were required for this, as well as a government organization such as the Caisse Nationale des Monuments historiques et des Sites , which had the necessary financial resources for decades and perseverance over two world wars to accompany the work.

In 1872, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc undertook a comprehensive restoration project, both of the abbey buildings and of the town and fortifications. In the same year one of his students, the architect Edouard Corroyer, was commissioned to analyze the condition of the buildings and to prepare the concrete restoration work. Corroyer, who worked on Mont from 1872 to 1888 , was followed by other architects who have continued the work - until today - some only for a few years, others 20 to 25 years, i.e. the majority of their professional lives.

In 1879 the dam that connects Mont Saint-Michel to the mainland was completed. From 1901 to approx. 1939 a steam train was operated on the dam next to the road (see Pontorson – Mont-Saint-Michel railway); In 1944 the tracks were removed again.

Since 1966, the year of the millennium of the monastery on Mont-Saint-Michel, there have been religious again. The brothers and sisters of the communities of Jerusalem live in the abbot building to the south, but the entire monastery complex remained in state hands.


Originally, the island could only be reached from the coast at low tide. Around 1877 a dam was built over which a road connected the island to the coast regardless of the tide .

Due to the construction of the dam, which interrupted the natural ocean currents, the bay silted up more and more. In addition, coastal areas have been drained for centuries to create arable land. The canalization of the Couesnon River intensified the development, so that the island character of Mont Saint-Michel was increasingly lost.

France decided to stop the silting up of the bay around the Mont off the coast of Normandy with immense effort. In 2001 a competition was announced to build a new transport link to Mont Saint Michel. This should make the old dam obsolete. This was finally replaced by a steel walkway by the competition winner, Feichtinger Architects . The project also includes a dam to be used as a power plant. The jetty was opened in 2014. The then Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin gave the go-ahead on June 16, 2006 for the six-year construction work, which is expected to cost 164 million euros.

The construction of a tidal dam at the mouth of the Couesnon River was at the center of the construction work until 2008. The barrier allows seawater to flow into the river bed at high tide, which is then released again at low tide by opening it with appropriate pressure and is intended to carry sand and sediments out of the bay. In July 2014 the 1 km long stilt bridge Jetée du Mont-Saint-Michel , designed by Dietmar Feichtinger in a curved line, was opened. The bridge stands on thin round steel supports at intervals of twelve meters, which allow the water to flow freely under the bridge. It replaces the road embankment that has since been dismantled and which previously connected Mont Saint-Michel to the mainland. The footbridge ends on an area in front of the mountain, which is made up of sediments, and not directly on the mountain. This area is designed so that it can be flooded. For around 70 hours a year, the Mont Saint-Michel becomes a completely isolated island again. All of this is supposed to help the water drain out of the bay better. The parking lots near the island have been removed and replaced by new ones 2.5 km away, from which shuttle buses run. Two-way vehicles of the Contrac DES (Double End Steering) type are used as shuttle buses to transport passengers from the mainland to the island . The shuttle buses stop 200 meters from the end of the pier.

The shuttle buses are handicapped accessible, and you can also bring strollers with you. However, wheelchairs and prams are a problem on Mont Saint Michel. Due to the narrow, steep streets and the lack of elevators, Mont Saint Michel is not suitable for wheelchair users.

After around ten years, the water depth in the bay should be around 70 centimeters and the mountain should become a real island again. The monument remained open during construction.

The tidal forces in the area around the mountain are high; Victor Hugo spoke of floods “à la vitesse d'un cheval au galop” (“with the speed of a horse galloping”). Between the highest and lowest water level, the tidal range , there are up to 14 meters. Medieval pilgrims therefore gave the abbey, which towers high above the sea, the name Mont-Saint-Michel au péril de la mer (Latin Mons Sancti Michaeli in periculo mari , "Mont Saint-Michel in the dangers of the sea"), they had to Still looking for their way through the floods that receded at low tide. Even today, the way from the coast across the mudflats is still dangerous because of the rapidly coming tide and quicksands. From Genêts on the north side of the bay past the uninhabited rock island of Tombelaine, there are guided mudflat hikes (7 km) to Mont Saint-Michel . Every 18 years, when the sun and moon are in line, there is a particularly high tidal range. On the day after the solar eclipse on March 20, 2015, even parts of the new footbridge were flooded.


  • There is a similar sight on the coast of Cornwall in England; the St. Michael's Mount , before the village of Marazion located.
  • The Mont Saint-Michel is reflected in the Arthurian legend before: Here is to a giant who lived slew Arthur.
  • The Arthurian legend is often associated with the Holy Grail and the Holy Grail with Mont Saint-Michel.
  • For the Lord of the Rings film adaptation based on JRR Tolkien 's epic epic, the production designers working with Peter Jackson were inspired by Mont Saint-Michel for the construction of the Minas Tirith models, capital of Gondor.
  • Mike Oldfield dedicated an instrumental piece of around twelve minutes to the island on his album Voyager .
  • In the Arthurian trilogy of Bernard Cornwell is the island under the name Ynys Trebes capital and last bastion of Britannic kingdom Benoic that is conquered by the Franks. The city is described as a refuge of art and beauty that rivals Rome and Jerusalem , and whose libraries (forgotten and misclassified) keep Britain's secret knowledge, especially about the place where the Holy Grail (cauldron by Clyddno Eiddyn) is said to be hidden. Historical sources for this are not known (see also next paragraph).
  • The publishing house Drei Magier Spiele from Uehlfeld developed a board game that is played on the island. According to the publisher, it is a tactical bluff and detective game.
  • In the novel Das Waldröschen by Karl May , one of the most famous serial novels of the 19th century, Count Emanuel de Rodriganda is imprisoned on the lighthouse of Mont.
  • The publishing house L'Instant Durable from Clermont-Ferrand published a cardboard model of the entire island complex on a scale of 1: 500 on 33 sheets in 1993.
  • On July 2, 2016, the Mont Saint Michel was the starting point of the Tour de France .

See also


  • Ulrich Gäbler : The children's pilgrimages from Germany and Switzerland to Mont-Saint-Michel 1456–1459 . In: Journal for Swiss Church History. 63: 221-331 (1969)
  • Millénaire du Mont-Saint-Michel 966–1966 . Caisse nationale des monuments historiques, Paris 1966 (catalog of the exhibition of the same name in Paris, March 18 to May 15, 1966)
  • Germain Bazin : Le Mont Saint-Michel. Histoire et archeology de l'origine à nos jours . New edition Hacker Art Books, New York 1978, ISBN 0-87817-190-8
  • Jacques Cailleteau (ed.): Le Mont-Saint-Michel. Histoire & Imaginaire; Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites . Editions du patrimoine, Paris 1998, ISBN 2-85822-223-1
  • Edouard Corroyer: Histoires et legends du Mont-Saint-Michel. Déscription de l'abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel et de ses abords . DeBonnet, Paris 1982 (reprint of the Paris 1877 edition)
  • Étienne Dupont: Les legends du Mont Saint-Michel. Historiettes et anecdotes on l'Abbaye et les prisons . Dupont, Sainte-Foy 1985 (reprint of the Vannes edition 1926)
  • Paul Gout: Le Mont-Saint-Michel. Histoire de l'abbaye et de la ville. Etude archéologique et architecturale des monuments . Éditions Culture et Civilization, Bruxelles 1979 (2 vols .; reprint of the Paris 1910 edition)
  • Katharine Keats-Rohan (Ed.): The cartulary of the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel . Tyas Press, Donington 2006, ISBN 978-1-900289-69-6 (presumed author: Robert von Torigni )
  • Daniel Leloup: Le village du Mont-Saint-Michel. Histoire d'un patrimoine mondial . Chasse-Marée, Douarnenez 2004, ISBN 2-9142-0842-1
  • Claude Quétel (text), Jean Bernard (photos): The Mont-Saint-Michel . Theiss-Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-8062-1964-8
  • Jean-François Seguin: Mont-Saint-Michel. La reconquete d'un site . Le Cherche Midi, Paris 1998, ISBN 2-86274-584-7 (Projet de rétablissement du caractère maritime du Mont-Saint-Michel)

Web links

Commons : Le Mont-Saint-Michel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. insee.fr
  2. Chantal Bonnot-Courtois, La Baie Du Mont-Saint-Michel et l'estuaire de la Rance: environnements sédimentaires, aménagements et évolution récente. Editor Technip. 2002. Pages 15-20
  3. The footbridge to Mont-Saint-Michel - www.gat.st. In: gat.st. October 9, 2015, accessed September 24, 2015 .
  4. Unesco World Heritage in Normandy: Stilt Bridge to Mont-Saint-Michel opens Spiegel online from July 22, 2014
  5. ^ Feichtinger Architectes: Mont Saint Michel - La Jetée. Retrieved March 21, 2015 .
  6. Contrac Cobus: Unique transport concept for the Mont-Saint-Michel in France. April 23, 2012, accessed June 21, 2016 .
  7. Mont Saint Michel - All information about the famous monastery in the sea. Retrieved May 17, 2018 .
  8. ^ Grandiose flood at Mont-Saint-Michel
  9. ^ Good copy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, April 12, 2014, accessed on August 13, 2017.
  10. Stage 1 - Mont-Saint-Michel> Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont. (No longer available online.) In: Tour de France 2016. Archived from the original on June 21, 2016 ; accessed on June 21, 2016 .