I remember learning about Mont St. Michel in middle school French class. That an Abbey/fortress could be built on an island was neat…but you could still walk there at low tide.
It really captured my imagination. What would a place like that be like? I guessed small and cramped, but still magical.
If I had ever created a bucket list, MSM would have been on my list if places I would like to visit.
I saw MSM for the first time yesterday on the train into Pontorson. The land to the sea is lower, and it hung over the fields from far off.
We can make out the island from out AirBnb 10 km away. (We are on the 2nd floor)
There are regular buses from the train station, so- having one plan for today- we caught the 8:15 bus. There was one other passenger.
We arrived to an empty island. A few tourists who stayed overnight were leaving, and a number of construction projects were underway, but we were the tourists for a while.
In the 1800s a causeway was built to drive up the the entrance. That is now gone, and a bridge is the only way to msm- it is an island again! You can drive to the end, but there is an ominous warning:
We got there so early, all the shops were closed- no chance for a coffee ( this photo is a 2pm – ‘crowded’)
So we started climbing up and exploring. We found a small chapel, and wandered through a cemetary. We climbed back down for coffee(the stairs of Montmartre made this Billy goat like behavior easy peasy)
After fueling up Mom and Dad, we made for the top and the Abbey. Every turn at MSM has a new view or interesting feature to look at. MSMwas a prison for ~80 years and this slide was how they winched up supplies (more on this later)
The Abbey was built on a rock, on top of the mountain. As it grew, the monks had to build chambers below to meet the level of the rock. So, there are many storeys of building. I had read this, but I was not ready for the scale of it all.
The church was very similar to Notre Dame and the other cathedrals, but somehow simpler, yet dramatic. None of my photos inside the cathedral came out (all blue). The cloister is a covered walkway, with a garden – 4 storeys up!
There are 3 big openings (now Windows) that let you see the bay
We saw where the monks ate large and 57 tall and skinny stained glass windows, a 2nd huge room where they wined and dined donors and royalty:
All of these rooms are hugenormous. Built on a rock island. And built 500-1000 years ago!
Remember the winch for the prison? The energy to lift all the supplies were from the prisoners.. Inside a giant hamster wheel.
More giant rooms that are bigger than many castles we have visited (the fortified ones) – because MSM was also heavily fortified. After the tour, we ambled down to town for lunch, but then we climbed back up to explore the battlements!
The walls were never penetrated. The English got into the town once, but never into the Abbey – which had another ring if walls around it.
If Tolkein had placed Gondor on an island – it would have been MSM.
After 7 hours of climbing, it was time to hop the bus home and rest. Tomorrow is a travel day, and a new city to explore. Deeper into Brittany – we visit Dinan.
I also want to share my deepest sadness for the events in Brussels today. We stayed near the subway station, and we flew out of the airport. Everyone is wonderful and friendly, and such violence served no purpose. Our thoughts and prayers are with the who have lost loved ones today.