Saturday, January 19, 2013

Visiting Mont St Michel: An Island Abbey

I was not familiar with Mont St Michel when my brother said we should visit it while in France. But, I got very excited about visiting it after doing a little research!

This was one of our first views of Mont St Michel which has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years. Can you imagine walking for weeks, and then watching this gothic silhouette soaring to the sky as you got closer and closer?

Today their is this causeway for visitors to walk across. But, that is a relatively recent addition having been built in 1878. The Abbey used to be an island when the tide was high creating a hermitage of solitude for the monks who lived here.

Here is Alex, ready to enter through the gate into the abbey. Yes, we drove for several hours instead of walking for days. But, even from the parking lot you walk 20 or 30 minutes. (On the way back, we caught a bus for part of the trip.)

When you begin the LONG CLIMB up the streets of Mont St Michel, you see a lot of shops.... and people! It is very touristy! But, remember... even in the Middle Ages these streets were lined with shops selling food and memorabilia to the pilgrims!

As we climbed higher, we got our first view of today's pilgrims. We were visiting at low tide which is, of course, the only time it is possible to make this trek. It is actually a part of the Mont St Michel experience I was wanting to do, but we didn't work it into our schedule.

Can you see the groups of people as the walk towards the abbey? Again, this takes place at low tide and has to be carefully planned. This is also the way the pilgrims of old made the trip. These 'pilgrims' travel barefoot through the mud. And, they have to watch out for the tide. It is incredibly fast, for a tide, and can become dangerous if people are taken by surprise!

I read while researching for the trip that, as the tide is getting ready to come in, there are voices in many languages over a loud speaker telling the 'pilgrims' to get off of the mud flats - the tide is coming!

There are even parking places that have to be abandoned before the tide comes back in... or your car or the buses will be under water! The tide comes in at 12 mph! (That's a little more than twice as fast as I can RUN!)

When the surf goes 8 MILES in and out! That's a HUGE difference between high and low tides!

Walking up the spiraling streets is quite a long hike. An, the views are amazing.
Then, you reach the abbey! Because wood burned so often, the builders of cathedrals finally found ways to make roofs of stone. Most of the wood roofs have been replaced, so it was neat to see a real wood roof!
More wood! And the dangling lights.
The abbey part of Mont St Michel is a cathedral - or like a cathedral. I read that there used to be stained glass in these windows.
Gorgeous stone work!
A door I loved.
This is a cloister - "a rectangular open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries" according to Wikipedia. We spent some time walking around these 'covered walks' where the monks probably walked in silence.
And, I LOVED this wheel! This is how they used to get supplies (stons for building, food, etc) up to the abbey. Six men could walk in this wheel like hamsters!
A long rope was looped around the outside of the wheel. The rope had a 'sled' attached to it. The sled was pulled up by the men walking in the wheel!
A beautiful staircase being lit by windows.
Saying goodbye to Mont St Michel!

1 comment:

lahbluebonnet said...

I never heard of this. This was a fascinating tour!

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