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Le Mont Saint Michel —Normandy's Ancient Marvel is More than a Tourist Destination

Posted by Rodolphe Passera on Jun 12, 2018 9:30:00 AM

 

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Mont Saint Michel

( source : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Mont-Saint-Michel#/media/File:Mont_St_Michel_3,_Brittany,_France_-_July_2011.jpg)

 

The Mont Saint Michel is situated in Normandy, in the department of La Manche. It is located on the border between Normandy and Brittany. It is the most frequently-visited site in Normandy and the tenth most popular in France. Due to the beauty of the site, the Mont Saint Michel is known as “the marvel” in France. Every year, more than 2.5 millions of visitors come from all over the world to see the village.

 

The bay which surrounds the village is called “Mont Saint Michel Bay” and is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bay is the theater of the biggest tides in Europe. The connection between the Mont Saint-Michel and the mainland has changed over the centuries; at first, it was just a tidal causeway recovered by the sea at high tide. In 2009, a big project was begun to make the Mont Saint-Michel an island again. The causeway was removed and a 2,5 km bridge was built.

 

Prior to the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called Mont Tombe. According to a legend, the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet.

 

In 933, William I Longsword annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, and the mount became definitively a part of Normandy from the weakened Duchy of Brittany. This event was described in the Bayeux Tapestry, which commemorates the 1066 Norman conquest of England. In 966, at the request of Richard II Duke of Normandy, a community of Benedictines settled on the rock, and the pre-Roman church was built.

 

In the eleventh century, the Romanesque abbey church was built at the point of the mount and one century later, the Romanesque constructions were enlarged to the west and south. Over the centuries, more constructions occurred, expanding the structure.

 

In the fourteenth and fifteenth century, the Hundred Years War made it necessary to protect the abbey with military constructions designated to resist to a siege of more than thirty years. The Romanesque choir of the abbey church collapsed in 1421 and was replaced by the flamboyant Gothic choir at the end of the Middle Ages.

 

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The cloister (source : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint_Michel_Abbey#/media/File:P1000144_(2).JPG)

 

This great spiritual and intellectual place was with Rome and Santiago de Compostela, one of the most important pilgrimages of the medieval West. For nearly a thousand years, men, women, and children visited, via roads called the "Paradise Way," to seek spiritual awakening from the Archangel. During the Middle Ages, the village was grew. It thrived on the southeast flank of the rock, sheltered by walls, most of which date back to the Hundred Years War. This village has always had a spiritual vocation— an assurance of eternity.

 

The Abbey became a prison under the Revolution and the Empire; it required a major restoration during the late nineteenth century. Since 1874, it has been entrusted to the Historical Monuments of France. The celebration of the monastic millennium in 1966 preceded the installation of a religious community in the former abbey dwelling perpetuating the first vocation of this place, the Prayer and the Reception. The Brothers and Sisters of the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem have been providing this spiritual presence since 2001.

  

Image associée

 

Abbey of Mont St Michel

 

At the end of the 19th century, several hotels were built; the transformation of the site turned this small town into one of the most visited destinations of France.

During the second world war, the Mont Saint Michel was occupied by the German troops. The first German soldiers arrived at the Mont-Saint-Michel on June 20, 1940.

At first, three German officers came by car in order to make some purchases and then left. The next day, three doctors came to visit the abbey. Serious things began a few days later with the arrival of a transmission regiment, which was installed at the top of the abbey. The installation was connected by cable to a car parked in front of the requisitioned hotel of La mère Poularde. A few weeks later, the post was moved to the west platform in a barrack. Five Austrian men were assigned to the surveillance.

 

In June 1940, the German Armistice Commission agreed to preserve the historical monument. For all these reasons, the mount quickly became a popular tourist site for the German army. In eight months, 70,000 Germans came to discover the Mount and paid the entrance fee of 5 francs per person. 

 

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German soldiers with Mont Saint Michel in the background

 

After the D-day landings in Normandy on June 6th 1944, informed by the quick advance of the American troops, the German soldiers hastily left the Mont-Saint-Michel. Therefore, there was no enemy there when three American journalists arrived on July 31st.

 

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An American soldier with a local on August 8th, 1944

 

The village is also famous for the biscuits made by “La mère Poulard.” In 1888 Annette Poulard created a delicious biscuit recipe that she offered to the visitor’s children of the Mont Saint-Michel. For over a century, the production of her biscuits was limited to the Mont Saint-Michel.

 

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Box of chocolate biscuits La mère Poulard (source : www.pinterest.com)

 

The Salt meadow lamb is also a speciality of the Mont Saint Michel. It is produced in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel and the west coast of Cotentin. At hide tide the land around the Mont Saint Michel are recovered by the sea and the lamb eat the grass. The halophytic vegetation constituting these land gives to the meat of the lamb an unrivaled taste.

 

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Salt Meadow lamb (source : https://en.wikipedia.org)

 

The Mont Saint Michel Bay is also favorable for the mussels, which grow around wooden stake and are completely recovered at hide tide. In 2006 and 2011 the mussels from the Mont Saint Michel Bay received 2 certification label. This is a great quality product— the flesh is unctuous, mellow, melting and its predominantly sweet flavor is appreciated by diners from July to February.

 

Mussels in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel (source : https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/economie-social/moules-de-bouchot-aop-de-la-baie-du-mont-saint-michel-la-saison-s-annonce-excellente-1406737808)

 

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