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The Mont-Saint-Michel Bay is situated between Cancale in Brittany and Granville in Normandy. Known for having the highest tide in Europe, the bay allows visitors to contemplate the magnificence of the mount itself amidst the waves, a vast and majestic islet halfway between land and sea.
At the heart of the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay is a spectacular Gothic Benedictine abbey, a structure of extraordinary beauty with a rich history dating back to the Middle Ages.
The location for the abbey at the top of the mount was chosen specifically and symbolically by monks in the Middle Ages, emphasising the significance of religion in feudal society. Work on the abbey began in 708, when the first church was built by Aubert, bishop of Avranches, who, it is said, was ordered by Saint Michael (Saint Michel) during his sleep to erect an oratory. The first Benedictine monks arrived in 966, and the construction of the abbey was started in the 11th century and completed by the 16th. Due to an influx of pilgrims, a Romanesque church was built 80 metres above sea level at the top of the islet, with a village to the south protected by walls.
For centuries, the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey was one of Europe’s major pilgrimage destinations. During the French Revolution, its name was changed to the Mont Libre and the islet ironically became a prison in 1793. This was abolished by Napoléon III in 1863 and by 1874, the Abbey was classified as a monument historique. After a long process of restoration, the holy mount as we know it today has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Visitors to the Mont-Saint-Michel at high tide can admire a true natural phenomenon. While some days are better than others to observe the islet from land, when the tidal coefficient is greater than 110, the Mont-Saint-Michel is typically completely surrounded by the sea within a few hours.
Opening hours for the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey:
September - April: 9:30am - 6pm
May - August: 9am - 7pm
Open year round except December 25, January 1 and May 1.