Around, 708 AD, Aubert of Avranches, a monk of Normandy, established an oratorical chapel on an outcrop of land, some two miles separate from the mainland, at high tide. He dedicated the small church to St. Michael, the Patron Saint of Sailors.
Thus, today, we have Mont St.-Michel, France’s most popular site, outside of Paris, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was to this unique and astonishing place that I came, along with nearly 700 others, on the lovely Sunday, June 8, 2014.
I had taken a train to Pontorson, a small town in the southwest corner of Normandy, on Saturday afternoon.
There are about a half dozen small hotels there, but I had booked a room in a more rustic setting, Roz-sur-Couesnon, six miles over the department line in Brittany. Pontorson has a bus that takes passengers directly to Couesnon (not to be confused with Roz), which lies at the northern end of the Causeway to Mont St.-Michel. There are more hotels, shops, and a Visitor’s Center, with lockers, at Couesnon, Normandy. I ended up taking a taxi to Roz, and L’Hotel des Quatres Salines.
After a lovely night’s sleep, and a full breakfast, I took a short walk around Roz-sur-Couesnon, noting sturdy metal craftsmanship and stone masonry, in the grounds and structure of Maison des Polders.
My faithful taxi driver, Raymond, arrived just as I had finished photographing the Maison, and we made the short drive to Mont St.Michel. I arranged to meet Raymond at 1:30 PM, precluding the tour of the Abbey, but knowing it was necessary, if I were to catch the train to Rennes. Taking the shuttle meant buying a ticket at the Couesnon Visitors Center.
The tide was out, so in no time, we were at the base of the great edifice.
There are two entrances to the church-fortress: La Porte d’Avancee and La Porte de Roi. We, of course, entered through the former.
As it was still D-Day Weekend, all flags were visible.
The first place most people see, and towards which they head, is Grand Rue de Marche- the shops. Many observers criticize “the commercialism” of this site, but, truth be known, the bottom level of Mont St.-Michel has been a marketplace since the site was expanded by the Benedictines, in the 12th Century.
After picking up a postcard to send my non-computer using mother, I looked around a few nooks and crannies- the flood tunnel, the gate to the dungeon, things like that.
L’Eglise St. Pierre is the first major room of note that is not commercial. It lies at the east end of Grand Rue. it is guarded by a statue of St. Jeanne d’Arc.
Equally telling is the view of St. Michael, killing a dragon.
Of more sanguine comfort are the image of Madonna and Child,
and the stained glass windows.
I was able to next focus on the sweeping views, long and wide of this magnificent structure.
The troop of pilgrims, exploring the beach, added perspective.
Of course, flowering plants are not neglected here. Mont St.-Michel has a plethora of gardens, at all levels of the structure.
I ended my two hour visit, with a silent promise to two little friends, and to myself, to return here in three years’ time, hopefully with one of my brothers.
It’s said that goblins have long memories, and so do I. Those of Mont St.-Michel will be very fond, indeed.