Mont Saint-Michel has been iconic for a thousand years


Western Europe


The tide plays with the sand around the island of Mont Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy. Photo iStock

Weather conditions may not bother this icon. For a thousand years, the abbey has stood there. Sometimes unapproachable by the tide. Now tourists wave onto the island: some 3.5 million a year.

This year, there will likely be many extra visitors to the French tidal island off the coast of Normandy. The abbey church on top of the rock has existed for a thousand years; construction began in 1023. The island will host concerts, performances and lectures throughout 2023 as a commemoration.

As early as around the year 700, monks settled on the island. Legend has it that the archangel Michael ordered the construction of a church. That church grew into an abbey in the Middle Ages.

The archangel's name remained linked to the historic site: Mont Saint-Michel. A statue of this archangel adorns the spire of the church's tower, 170 metres above the bay. Like a prince (in the Bible book Daniel, he is called like that), he watches over the island.

Construction of the church on the rock began a thousand years ago. On the spire of the tower is a statue of the archangel Michael. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
A statue of the archangel Michael. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
A scale model of the abbey when the rocky island was less built upon. The church and island grew over the centuries. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
The silence of the abbey is home to monks of the Jerusalem Monastic Brotherhood. However, tranquillity is sometimes difficult to find. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
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Century-old symmetry at its best. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
A close-up of the archangel Michael. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
During the exhibition "The Archangel's Residence, 1000 years of history and creation at the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel" there are banners for Saint-Michel. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
A symbolic necklace of Saint-Michel. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
A reproduction of a stained glass window showing Saint-Michel crowning. Photo AFP, Damien Meyer
Photo AFP, Charly Triballeau



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