My Dad and I travelled to Brittany with the express view of visiting Carnac and its famous stones. However, my Dad pointed out that arriving at St Malo we would only need a small detour to visit the iconic Mont Saint Michel. I jumped at the opportunity and it was not a disappointment.
Mont St Michel is situated on an Island and the end of a causeway, much like Lindisfarne, but the “mound” on top of which the Abbey sits is far more spectacular and instantly recognisable. The Abbey is dedicated to the Archangel St Michael, who is the head of the Heavenly Armies of God (cf Daniel 10:13-21; Revelation 12:7). Michael is said to have appeared to Aubert, Bishop of Avranches in 708 and he built an Abbey in Honour of the Archangel. It soon became a centre of pilgrimage and in the 10th Century the Benedictine Monks settled in the abbey and a community grew beneath its walls. Michael is not only the “protector” of the weak and vulnerable, the one through whom we pray when we are attacked as Christians, he is also a patron saint for Knights and in the middle ages the abbey became a centre of Pilgrimage for many knights. So much so that a hall was dedicated for their specific use. The Abbey and Mont became an impregnable stronghold during the 100 Years War and as well as being a wonderful example of church architecture it also became an example of military architecture too, and a symbol of National Identity. The dissolution of French monasteries happened in 1863 and the Abbey became a prison and then became an historic monument in 1874. Recently it has reopened its doors to the Benedictine Order and is very much a place of Pilgrimage again.
You climb to it through the winding streets which are filled with traders selling “tat” for the tourists. Its bustling and busy but the further up the Mont you climb the less crowded it becomes.
The entry and guides to the Abbey are first class and well organised. The Abbey itself is stunning.
The guide amazingly candid about why some of the lower halls “exist”, mainly to hold up the abbey above them! The views are as amazing as the architecture, and on a stunning summer day, like the day Dad and I visited truly exceptional.
Truly a place of pilgrimage, homage and prayer and to think we might not have gone if my Dad hadn’t suggested it!