Iconic offshore abbey-on-a-rock
One of the most photographed vistas in France, this extraordinary monument really can take your breath away. The ethereal beauty of the vast abbey, apparently moulded to fit its rocky base and cast adrift on the broad sandy bay, can always amaze, whether reflected on calm, glassy water in the early morning sun, as a silhouette at sunset, or even with a background of grey clouds.
The Mont is, of course, not adrift, though plenty of pilgrims lost their footing and their lives in the quicksands before the present causeway was built out to the firmly anchored rock. From the fortified King’s Gate, you have to run the gauntlet of Grande Rue, a truly ghastly scrum of tacky souvenir shops and trippers which eases somewhat as you near the abbatial complex (guided tours only, daily in French; English tours in season). Spurred into action by several visitations from St Michael, St Aubert, an 8thC Bishop of Avranches, built a chapel on the mont, later augmented by a Carolingian abbey, which in turn became the crypt for the subsequent Romanesque abbey. Between 1211 and 1228, a series of superb Gothic buildings were added to the north, known simply as Le Merveille, and to the south; the abbey chancel was rebuilt in Flamboyant style during the 15thC, and a new crypt added. The hour-long tour covers much ground, and the guides provide plenty of historical detail.
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