As part of a series specially devoted to French sites recognized as World Heritage by UNESCO, we invite you to discover one by one the exceptional French destinations, preserved as heritage of humanity. We continue this series with one of the first sites recognized in 1979, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay.
Between Normandy and Brittany, the Mont Saint Michel rises to the sky and lives to the rhythm of the tides. Surnamed the "Wonder of the West", the bay hosts the rocky islet topped with a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey. It is recognizable among a thousand thanks to its singular silhouette. The site is a real jewel of the French coast. The remarkable alliance of the natural site and the architecture, the coexistence of the abbey and the fortified village on the confined space that constitutes the islet, but also the rich history of medieval Christianity, have made the Mont Saint-Michel one of the first French sites to have been recognized by UNESCO, as being bearer of outstanding universal value.
The history of Mont Saint-Michel
It was in 709 that the Bishop of Avranches had the first church built in honor of the Archangel Michael. The Duke of Normandy will install there a community of Benedictines in 966. The construction of the abbey as we know it today, then spread from the Romanesque period of the XNUMXth century until the XNUMXth century. But it was the builders of the Gothic period who gave him its slender and airy look, as well as its openwork volumes. By adapting to a very difficult natural site, the architects and companions of the different centuries have achieved a technical and artistic tour de force. Military constructions and the development of the walls carried out during the Hundred Years War, will allow the Mount to withstand a siege of more than 30 years.
The turbulent history of the place, which became a prison during the Revolution and under the Empire, led to numerous degradations. But the high-quality restorations carried out in the 1897th century finally made it possible to restore the abbey to its former prestige. The spire will be added in XNUMX.
Mont Saint-Michel today
The abbey has always been a major place of pilgrimage for the Christian West. But it is also one of the centers of medieval culture where many manuscripts were produced and preserved. If the Mount and its bay remain today one of the stages of Paths of Santiago de Compostela for pilgrims from northern Europe, it must be recognized that they are mainly layman tourists who now tread the alleys of the village. Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are also the most popular tourist site in Normandy. It is even one of the ten most visited sites in France, with nearly two and a half million visitors each year.
An exceptionnel naturel site
This place conceals unique architectural and heritage treasures. But it is also an exceptional natural site, subject to the highest tides in Europe. The landscapes, the colors and the emotions are always there when the so recognizable silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel rises on the horizon. In 1886, Gustave Flaubert described this idyllic landscape in his book By songs and by strikes.
“The road from Pontorson to Mont-Saint-Michel is cheerful because of the sands. The empty horizon is prolonged, spreads out and ends up melting its chalky grounds in the yellow color of the beach… Tongues of sand, long, flattened one on the other, wrinkle like a wave under great layers … The waves are so far away, so far away that we can no longer see them. "
Discover the Mont Saint Michel as you will certainly never see it… John Williams has received the authorizations to film the Mount during the containment period of April 2020.
In this video, it is a landscape and a village deserted by its visitors which are offered to the spectators.