Spectacular Mont Saint-Michel
Published 21 February 2007 by markzmann
Mont Saint-Michel is a small rocky tidal island (the tides in the area can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres between high and low water marks) in Normandy, roughly one kilometer from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches.
Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called Mont Tombe. According to legend, the archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel's instruction, until Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger. The dedication to St. Michael occurred on 16 October 708.
An Italian architect, William de Volpiano, was chosen as building contractor for the mount in the 11th century. He designed the Romanesque church of the abbey, daringly placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to compensate for this weight; these formed the basis for the supportive upward structure that can be seen today. Today Mont Saint-Michel is seen as a Gothic-style church.
Robert de Thorigny, a great supporter of Henry II of England, reinforced the structure of the buildings and built the main façade of the church in the 12th century. Following his annexation of Normandy in 1204, the King of France, Philip Augustus, offered Abbot Jourdain a grant for the construction of a new Gothic-style architectural set which included the addition of the refectory and cloister.
Charles VI is credited with adding major fortifications to the abbey-mount, building towers, successive courtyards and strengthening the ramparts.
The Mont Saint Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, as they rank very high on such World Heritage Site criteria as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.
It's the third most visited site in France behind the Tour Eiffel and the Château de Versailles.
Scroll down to see more pictures of the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel, click to see them in full size (some would make a great wallpaper).
Images source: Thrillingwonder