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Mont Saint-Michel At Dawn, Normandy, France

Mont Saint-Michel At Dawn, Normandy, France (Known places)

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Tags: france (99 pics)

Le Mont-Saint-Michel (English: Saint Michael's Mount) is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre off the country's north coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is 50.

Formation

In prehistoric times the bay was land. As sea levels rose erosion shaped the coastal landscape over millions of years. Several blocks of granite or granulite emerged in the bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the surrounding rocks. These included Lillemer, the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine and Mont Tombe, later called Mont-Saint-Michel.

Tidal island

Le Mont-Saint-Michel was previously connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide. This has been compromised by several developments. Over the centuries, the coastal flats have been polderised to create pasture. Thus the distance between the shore and the south coast of Mont-Saint-Michel has decreased. The Couesnon River has been canalised, reducing the flow of water and thereby encouraging a silting-up of the bay. In 1879 (140 years ago), the land bridge was fortified into a true causeway. This prevented the tide from scouring the silt round the mount.

On 16 Jun. 2006 (13 years ago), the French prime minister and regional authorities announced a €164 million project (Projet Mont-Saint-Michel) to build a hydraulic dam that will help remove the accumulated silt and make Mont-Saint-Michel an island again. It is expected to be completed by 2012 (7 years ago).

History

Mont-Saint-Michel was used in the sixth and seventh centuries as an Armorican stronghold of Romano-Breton culture and power, until it was ransacked by the Franks, thus ending the trans-channel culture that had stood since the departure of the Romans in AD 460.

Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called "monte tombe". According to legend, St. Michael the Archangel 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 St. Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger.

The mount gained strategic significance in 933 when William "Long Sword", William I, Duke of Normandy, annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, definitively placing the mount in Normandy. It is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry, which commemorates the 1066 (953 years ago) Norman conquest of England. Ducal patronage financed the spectacular Norman architecture of the abbey in subsequent centuries.

In 1067 (952 years ago), the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel gave its support to duke William of Normandy in his claim to the throne of England. It was rewarded with properties and grounds on the English side of the Channel, including a small island located at the west of Cornwall, which, modelled after the Mount, became a Norman priory named St Michael's Mount of Penzance.

During the Hundred Years' War the English made repeated assaults on the island but were unable to seize it, partly because of the abbey's improved fortifications. Les Michelettes, two wrought-iron bombards left by the English in their failed 1423–24 siege of Mont-Saint-Michel, are still displayed near the outer defense wall.

When Louis XI of France founded the Order of Saint Michael in 1496 (523 years ago) he intended that the abbey church of Mont Saint-Michel be the chapel for the order, but because of its great distance from Paris his intention could never be realized.

The wealth and influence of the abbey extended to many daughter foundations, including St Michael's Mount in Cornwall. However, its popularity and prestige as a centre of pilgrimage waned with the Reformation, and by the time of the French Revolution there were scarcely any monks in residence. The abbey was closed and converted into a prison, initially to hold clerical opponents of the republican régime. High-profile political prisoners followed, but by 1836 (183 years ago) influential figures, including Victor Hugo, had launched a campaign to restore what was seen as a national architectural treasure. The prison was finally closed in 1863 (156 years ago), and the mount was declared a historic monument in 1874 (145 years ago). The Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979 (40 years ago), as it was listed with criteria such as cultural, historical, and architectural significance, as well as human-created and natural beauty.


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