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History of the monument

Overlooking the immensity of the bay, plunge into the history of the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel standing between sky and sea!

Once upon a time...

How did it all start with a dream ?

The legend tells that the history of the Mont-Saint-Michel begins in 708, after the archangel Michael appeared to the bishop Aubert three times in dream. Saint Michael asked him to build a sanctuary in his honor on an island called Mont-Tombe. The construction of this first oratory echoes that of the first sanctuary built for the archangel, on Mount Gargan in the province of Puglia in Italy, but especially the rise of Christianity at that time in the West.

In 966, Duke Richard I of Normandy installed Benedictine monks on the mountain, monks who obeyed the rule of Saint Benedict. Want to learn more about the Benedictines and this rule?

As soon as the monks settled down and the construction of the Romanesque abbey church began according to tradition in 1023, the Mount became an essential place of pilgrimage in the entire Christian West. They came to ask Saint Michael for protection and salvation of their souls.

At the same time, the abbey began to produce, preserve and study a large number of manuscripts. It then became a major center of culture during the Middle Ages. A true political and intellectual crossroads, the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel welcomed pilgrims from all walks of life, including several kings of France and England, such as Henry II Plantagenet, Saint Louis, Louis XI, Anne of Brittany, François I...

Bas-relief réalisé par Auguste Barré vers 1860. Ancien tympan de l'église abbatiale. Représentant l'apparition de l'archange saint Michel à l'évêque Aubert lors d'un songe.

DR - Centre des monuments nationaux

A story full of twists and turns

An incredible abbey with the appearance of a fortress

A real architectural feat, the abbey makes you dizzy and disoriented. Its verticality is the most striking feature. Its location at the top and on the side of the rock imposes a complex organization in superposition and winding.

Strategic point in the heart of the bay, the abbey is also a fortress of the duchy of Normandy during the Middle Ages. During the Hundred Years War, and despite the numerous conflicts that took place in the region, Mont-Saint-Michel resisted. It is in particular thanks to the construction of powerful ramparts, which made it an impregnable city, but undoubtedly also thanks to the ceaseless coming and going of the tides. The Mount underwent an English siege from 1423 and came out victorious in 1434, it then became a symbol of victory for the kingdom of France.

In 1421, during the Hundred Years War, at the worst hours of the English siege, the Romanesque choir of the church collapsed. It was not completely rebuilt until a century later in theflamboyant Gothic style. The abbey is also astonishing for the multiplicity of its architectural forms!

Touristes sur le Grand Degré extérieur. Vue sur le Châtelet.

Thomas Thibaut - Centre des monuments nationaux

From monks to jailers

In the 17th century, pilgrimages were running out of steam. Nevertheless, the monks (Mauristas, from now on) had to face the arrival of prisoners imprisoned by letters of cachet The abbey was gradually transformed into a prison. It was then nicknamed the Bastille of the Seas. During the French Revolution, the State nationalized the property of the clergy and the monks were expelled from the abbey.

The abbey became a "central house" in the 19th century, and most of its spaces were completely refurbished in order to accommodate the greatest number of common law and political prisoners. Among its illustrious prisoners, the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel counts Armand Barbès and Auguste Blanqui, fierce opponents of the July monarchy.

This period of imprisonment, although dark, helped save the abbey from complete destruction.

Porte en bois du cachot dit des jumeaux.

DR - Centre des monuments nationaux

From the cockade to the snow globe

When the prison closed its doors for good in 1863, theabbey was totally dilapidated. It had to be saved! At the same time, the concept of heritage was born and the abbey was classified as a Historic Monument in 1874. From that moment on, restoration work was launched and the area around Mont-Saint-Michel was developed to receive the first tourists in its history.

Following the celebration of the monastic millennium in 1965-1966, a small community of Benedictine monks moved into the abbey in 1969. In 2001, it was replaced by the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem. Today, a dozen monks and nuns live in this national monument.

The " Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay " are registered in 1979 on the list of the world heritage by the UNESCO, it is one of the first French cultural goods to appear there. Twenty years later, the site was once again listed, this time as part of the serial property of the " Ways of Santiago de Compostela in France ". This double recognition illustrates the universal and exceptional value of the site.

The abbey is today managed, animated and open to the public by the Center des monuments nationaux and thePublic Establishment of Mont-Saint-Michel.

Véhicules stationnés sur l'ancienne digue-route, au pied du Mont-Saint-Michel.

Hélio Cachan - Centre des monuments nationaux

An abbey of yesterday and today

The abbey is undergoing an increasing number of extraordinary restoration projects in order to preserve its exceptional character and keep it in the best possible condition for future generations. The cloister, the statue of the archangel, and more recently the buildings of the Merveille have been restored.

At the same time, each year numerous cultural events are organized to bring the abbey to life. We offer you a rich, varied but also audacious cultural program.

Why not come and push open the doors of this extraordinary abbey?

Nathan Paulin en train d'arriver à l'abbaye après sa traversée de la baie sur une slackline de 2,2km. Il a ce jour-là battu le record du monde.

DR - Centre des monuments nationaux