LOGIN  /  SIGN UP

MONT SAINT-MICHEL, FRANCE


Sitting on the motorbike today, feels a bit like being in a time machine. It's a warm day, late in June, and we’re heading towards Saint Malo Bay in France. In the distance, a large, diffuse, gray pyramid sticks up above the green fields. The closer you get to the pyramid, the easier you can see the distinguishing markings on the sides. "That's not a pyramid, it's a... "

MONT SAINT-MICHEL,FRANCE

A spire appears out of the mist, and it suddenly reminds you of ‘Minas Tirith’ from "Lord of the Rings”. This is understandable, as it was a group of European artists who produced the drawings that were used for scenes in Peter Jackson's film series, interpreting Tolkien’s books, so you can easily see where they have derived their inspiration from.

CRUSADING VIKING PILGRIMS

Mont Saint-Michel is located on a tidal island, just off the northern coast of France, connected to the mainland by a causeway, which is concealed and revealed by daily tidal swells. When the moon really draws the undercurrent, there can be a difference of 15 meters in the tidal height. The island itself reaches 75 meters up out of the sea, and the top is a church and a large Benedictine monastery.

In 708 AD, Bishop Aubert of Avranches had a revelation while he was inaugurating the first church with the relics of St. Michael from Gargano. He apparently witnessed an apparition of the Archangel Michael, who instructed him to build a church on top of what was then called "Monte Tombe", but Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, until Archangel Michael apparently burned a hole in the bishop's skull, with his finger. And with that, The Rock became Mont Saint-Michel.

In 966 AD, the church was converted into a Benedictine monastery, and since then, the island has been a pilgrimage site, and where there are pilgrims, there’s also money is flowing freely. The Vikings were well aware of this, and one of our ancestors, Viking William Lang Worth, took Mont Saint-Michel from Brittany during a crusade. Most of the buildings we see today, were built in the years between 1000 AD and 1200 AD. Between 1200 and 1400 AD, a town grew around the abbey, and the massive fortress wall was built.

Around the time of the French Revolution (1789–1799), the abbey was closed and converted into a prison, initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime. High-profile political prisoners followed, but by 1836, influential figures - including Victor Hugo - had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure.

The prison was finally closed in 1863, and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874. The Mont Saint-Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, and it was listed with criteria such as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.

Mont Saint Michel has become a living legend. Mainly due to the amount of pilgrims who visited the place over the course of time, leading to Mont Saint Michel becoming one of France's largest tourist attractions, with 850,000 visitors per year, 2,400 per day.

CROSSING THE DAM

Good thing the island is linked to France by a causeway, otherwise we could never brought the motorbikes over. It was only in 1879, that the island was properly connected to mainland Europe. The causeway is about two kilometers long, and packed with camper vans and coaches, wanting to get over and back. We decide give it a shot anyway, and drive over towards to the big parking area, close to the great fortress wall.

After a solid test of our balancing skills, we eventually arrive at the foot of this religious 'Everest', and I pack down the riding jacket, lock the bike, and make my way towards the seething mass of tourists, armed with my camera equipment and a handfull of Euros, which I quickly exchange for warm lunch and something cold and refreshing to drink. Kept the camera, though.

REVELATION WITH A VIEW

When moving between regions in southern Europe, you have to assume that it costs money to get in touch with the higher sacred powers. Strangely enough, it also costs some Eurodollars to get into the large church on top of Mont Saint-Michel. But that's alright, they’re in the process of restoring the great chapel, and that looks expensive. A spiritual calm is draped over this place, and in the middle of all the building work are a couple of monks, lying face down at the floor like human crosses. All the surrounding tourist noise dissipates for a while.

We grab a quick photo of the two silent monks, and drift out onto a huge platform on the front of the church, to find a stunning view across Saint Malo Bay. This platform is used by the monks when they want to meditate under the stars. We enjoy the view for what seemed like an eternity, half expecting to see the Archangel Michael come flying over us, but the day we were there, there were only seagulls, crows and sparrows. Not much Archangel over that.

You can experience so much in life, and some experiences are greater than others. It's definitely worth the ride to visit Mont Saint-Michel, though. As we leave, we stop for a while, and look back at this huge holy hill, which is as impressive to see at a distance, as it is endearing to get acquainted with up close.

If you are not into swimming through too many tourists in one place, then pretend that they are pilgrims, and you're a knight who has come there to repent at the house of God, and to get half-meter hot dog. Who knows, maybe you’re there on the same day the Archangel Michael is flying by?

Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel
50170 Le Mont-Saint-Michel
France

www.ot-montsaintmichel.com

VIEW THIS ROUTE ON THE ROADMAP View this route on the Road Map >>

 

Advertise with us?

Click here for more information »

Advertise with us?

Click here for more information »

We use cookies to improve our website and your experience when using it. Cookies used for the essential operation of the site have already been set. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

I accept cookies from this site.

EU Cookie Directive Module Information