Towering over Mont St Michel is the
one of Europe’s most iconic structures.
Home to Benedict monks in 966, it became a pilgrimage
site and an impressive religious fortress by 1228.
I was awestruck with its massive size,
and I loved meandering through its dimly-lit lower crypts
with grand pillars, stairways and locked doors.
Hi, I’m Jim Haswell. Join Mavis and I
as we visit the wonderful Abbey on Mont St Michel,
and I’ll share some of its amazing history.
Reaching the impressive granite Abbey
requires a steady uphill hike through the village
followed by numerous stairs to arrive its base
– and then more stairs to reach the terraced entrance
to the church.
Jim: What else but more stairs! (Mavis laughs)
There is no place more exhausting than Mont St Michel,
but it was worth it.
Jim: We get a good view of the causeway from up here.
We are on the very edge of Normandy,
on the right side of the river is Brittany.
The bay is very shallow, and at the lowest tide,
the water can be 25 miles from shore.
When the tide comes in, they say
it rushes in quickly - like a galloping horse.
According to legend, in 708 the archangel Michael
appeared to the bishop of Avranches
instructing him to build a church on the mount.
In 966 the Duke of Normandy replaced it with better one.
In the 11th century, the current Romanesque church
was built supported with 4 large crypts and chapels
under its wings.
In the 11th & 12th centuries, monastery buildings
were built up around it.
And in the 13th century, the Gothic sections were added.
In 1433, its small garrison
fended off a full attack by the English.
In celebration of their victory, King Louis XI
created an Order called The Knights of Saint Michael
chosen from the most important lords in the Kingdom.
They were given a collar made of golden shells with
a medal representing the Archangel defeating
Then in the 16th century, it was attacked again as
Protestants tried several times to conquer
Mont St Michel.
Eventually the buildings deteriorated,
and Monks and Abbots deserted it.
During the French Revolution In 1791,
the abbey was closed and converted into a prison
initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican
regime, followed with high-profile political prisoners.
In 1863 the prison was closed, transferring the
650 prisoners, and the mount was declared
a historical monument in 1874.
Jim: Those are interesting stairs.
Jim: They go up to a little door.
Jim: There is the little wooden door we just saw.
Jim: But I don't see any place to walk around...
Jim: other than to fall.
This courtyard used to look nicer.
We now head down into the lower sections
which I enjoyed the most.
If you haven't seen the previous episode on
Mont Saint-Michel, you will have the option to play it
at the end of this video.
Jim: It's a huge wooden wheel.
Prisoners used to walk inside this wheel
to haul supplies up.
Jim: Oh... I bet you walk in there. Mavis: No...
Jim: Walk on the inside like a big gopher (laughs)
Jim: Yea, it definitely cranks the big rope...
Jim: And the rope pulls this chain.
Jim: And it would bring stuff up on this platform.
Jim: All kinds of little rooms...
Jim: More doors, closed.
Jim: I think Mavis went through this little door.
And now for a quick preview of our next episode.
Fougeres, in the province of Brittany, has a lovely
old town wrapped around a grand castle at its core.
Catching it in a golden early morning sun
was a pleasant surprise as we take a quick stroll
around the village.
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