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Le Mont St-Michel repels the English!

December 27th, 2010 by Roger in Local News, Mont St-Michel

According to a 10th century manuscript the first shrine to Saint Michael was created at what is now Mont Saint-Michel after the Archangel Michael came to Bishop Aubert of Avranches in 708AD and commanded him to build a church on the rock. When the Bishop expressed doubts, the angel pierced a hole in his skull with his finger! 

In the 10th century the Benedictine monks settled in the abbey, constructing the Romanesque abbey church with its high vaulted ceilings and moulded arches, monastery and crypts at the apex of the rock, whilst a village grew up below its walls at the bottom of the mount.

Through successive centuries of the Middle Ages and with increasing numbers of monks and pilgrims both the abbey and village were extended until in the 13th century they stretched down to the foot of the rock.

By the 14th century and the Hundred Years war, the abbey had to be protected behind a massive set of military ramparts, enabling it to hold out successfully through many English sieges lasting over 30 years and in doing so the Mount became a symbol of French national identity.

In 1421 the original Romanesque chancel (choir) of the abbey church collapsed and was replaced in the 15th century by a flamboyant Gothic structure, marking completion of the last major construction works at the mount. The abbey today is thus an exceptional example of the full range of medieval architecture.

 

Over the 16th and 17th centuries religious ideals waned and the number of monks dwindled until by 1790 the monastery was disbanded and the monks left the mount. This paved the way for the fortress to be turned into a prison in 1793, a situation which lasted through the days of the French Revolution and Empire until imperial decree in 1863 finally overturned the sacrilege.

In 1874 Mont Saint-Michel was designated as a French historical monument and major works have continued now for over a century to restore the mount to its former splendour, improving both the abbey interior and exterior. With the celebration of the monastery’s 1000th anniversary in the year 1966, a religious community returned to the mount, perpetuating spiritual prayer and welcoming the mount’s original vocation.

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