|Abbey of Mont St-Michel, France|
|The Abbey of Mont St-Michel, with its spectacular location and rich history, is one of the most significant religious monuments in France.|
Planning Your Visit
A large staircase, called the Grand Degré, leads from the Grande Rue to the Abbey and its gardens. Be aware that the Abbey is built on several levels, with many stairs and steep passages. Make sure you have comfortable shoes and can navigate the stairs.
Unfortunately, much of this medieval construction is not accessible to those with mobility challenges. If you use a wheelchair or are challenged by stairs or uneven surfaces, your visit will be limited.
You can visit on your own, with a guide, or with an audio guide.
Most visitors come in large groups. The entrance to the abbey has two separate admission lines, one for the groups and another for individuals. The group line may be long, the individuals line much shorter.
You'll want to pace your visit so that you are in the quieter space between the large groups in order to appreciate the sanctity and character of the abbey.
Wandering in the Abbey
The nave covers three levels: arches, galleries, and tall windows. La Merveille, or the Marvel, is used to describe the beautiful Gothic buildings. These include the Refectory, the Knights' Hall, the Guests' Hall, and the Cloister. The Cloister provides a beautiful example of 13th century architecture. It is light and graceful, with gardens in the middle.
Throughout your visit you'll be treated to wonderful views in all directions, and from different heights. The West Terrace provides a great view of the bay, and from here you'll enter the church.
The beautiful bell tower, with a golden statue of Saint Michael on top, is a recognizable feature of the Mont St-Michel skyline. Seeing it from inside the Abbey looking up is great.
The visit also includes the Romanesque Abbey, dormitories, and the Great Wheel, the ingenious winch and lift system used to haul provisions up to the Abbey.
You may also be able to visit the great pillared crypt, which dates from the mid 15th century, and the Saint Martin crypt, from the 11th century..
Don't miss a stroll through the lovely gardens.
History of the Abbey
The history of Mont St-Michel dates from the year 708, when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, had a sanctuary built here in honor of Archangel Michael. The abbey church was built on top of the rock in the early 11th century.
Between the 11th and 15th centuries, the church was expanded, with Gothic influences and fortifications to protect it. This military architecture served it well during the Hundred Years War.
During medieval times it was a major pilgrimage site, along with Rome and Santiago de Compostela.
In the chaos of the French Revolution it even served as a prison after the religious community was forced out.
It later underwent extensive renovations, and in the 1960s a monastic community once again came to Mont St-Michel. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
A religious community affiliated with the Monastic and Lay Communities of Jerusalem is now based at Mont St-Michel. Masses are held most days, and visitors are welcome to attend. The Tourist Office can provide information about specific days and times. More...