Mont Saint-Michel in France is an impressive moutside MSMonastery that at high tide is completely surrounded by water. At low tide its salt marshes provide a popular grazing site for sheep. The difference between high and low tides can be as much as 46 feet.
First developed in the 8th century, the monastery is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, with more than 3 million visitors each year.
Legend says the archangel Michel appeared to the bishop of Avranches in 708 and instructed him to build the church.
The Bayeaux Tapestry, which celebrates the victory of William the Conquerer in 1066, pictures Norman knights being rescued from the quicksand around Mont Saint-Michel.
The Mont remained unconquered during the Hundred Years’ War in the 15th century, as invaders were stranded or drowned as the tides came in. Following the French Revolution, the monastery was converted into a prison, then later became an historical monument.
Once inside the monastery, you can tour at your own pace. The older sections are built in the Romanesque style, which means thick walls and semicircular arches.
Underground caverns help to support the cathedral’s weight. The monastery also has enormous fireplaces.
Renovations after a 13th century fire were done in the Gothic style of soaring ceilings, thinner columns and pointed arches.
Elaborately carved arcades surround courtyards. A movie was being filmed in a courtyard while we were there. The modern equipment provided an interesting contrast to the ancient architecture.
We visited Mont Saint-Michel in September, and the crowds were manageable, but the site is very crowded during the summer. November through March has the smallest number of tourists.
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