Mont-Saint-Michel, France

On day 4 on his French Adventure with Cheryl and Roger, Ike continued his exploration of Brittany and set off for Mont Saint-Michel.

This almost circular island was formerly known as Mont-Tombe (Mount Tomb). It was connected to the mainland a causeway built in the 19th century, but prior to that it was difficult to reach due to fast-rising tides and areas of deep mud and quicksand. The causeway caused problems of its own though, as it prevented the removal of silt deposits by the tides, therefore dangerous high sand banks built up around it. This issue was resolved by removing the causeway and replacing it with a footbridge in 2014.

It became Mont-Saint-Michel in the eighth century when St. Aubert, bishop of  the nearby town of Avranches, built a small chapel on the granite outcrop at the mouth of the Sélune river where it drains into the Atlantic. The inspiration for the chapel came from a dream in which St. Aubert was visited by the warrior archangel St. Michael, hence the name.

The site became popular with pilgrims and by the end of the tenth century the chapel had been extended into a Benedictine abbey. The French King Philip II tried to seize the abbey at the beginning of the 13th century, but was unsuccessful. In reparations for the damages done, King Philip II paid for the construction of the monastery that still stands, known as La Merveille, “The Wonder”.

The sister isle of St Michael’s Mount, off the south coast of Cornwall in England, had previously been in the hands of the same order of Benedictine monks who built a church and priory on that site in the 12th century.

Geography Cat was sent this postcard of St Michael’s Mount by Paje & Melv

After the completion of La Merveille, the surrounding village and whole island were fortified in 1256, and these fortifications withstood attacks on the mount throughout the Hundred Years War and the French Wars of Religion (1337–1453 and 1562–98 respectively). Its military strength proving to be something of which St. Michael himself could be proud.

Mont-St-Michel became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

The population of the island has been below 50 people for the past 30 years, but was over a thousand for the first half of the 19th century.

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