Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel
It sits on an island, crowning it with a statue plated with fine gold. Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey turned a lost island in a bay on the borders of Normandy into a worldwide tourist attraction, which was already internationally-renowned in the Middles Ages, with pilgrims coming to pray there throughout the history of Christianity. Let’s discover this mystical, almost magical site together with a guided tour of Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey !
The history of Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey
It all started in 708, when bishop Aubert, urged by the Archangel himself according to tradition, built an initial sanctuary in honor of Saint Michel and established a community of canons there.
In 966, Benedictine monks arrived in Mont Saint Michel and set up home there. This site captures the imagination with its almost miraculous island, which breaks up the monotonous landscape of great stretches of sand. It quickly became a place of pilgrimage whose prestige is equivalent to that of sites such as the Camino de Santiago or Vézelay. Culture developed there and numerous manuscripts were recopied and adorned with magnificent colored and fine gold-plated illuminations.
The Romanesque church measuring 80 meters long is situated 80 meters above sea level, on a rock, and is testimony to the know-how of the builders. In the 13th century, two 3-story buildings were added, offering the monks excellent living conditions.
From the 17th century onwards, it saw a slow decline in the number of monks, which the congregation of monks in Saint-Maur was unable to contain. The Revolution could have marked the end of the Abbey, turned into a prison under Napoleon in 1811, and which held prisoners until 1863.
It wasn’t until 1874 that a new adventure began for the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey. Classified as a historical monument, it was restored and began to attract tourists, initially rich English visitors captivated by its romantic feel. Today, the site welcomes 2.5 million visitors each year.
An abbey, a mount, a village
Visiting Mont-Saint-Michel should be considered an overall experience. Part of the landscape, it gradually reveals itself, leaving its mark on the Bay.
It plays a part in the overall appearance of the mount, giving it a more slender look. The gold statue of the Archangel is situated at a height of 156 meters and literally crowns the mount. But would the site be as fascinating and have the same appeal if we only had a wooded hill in front of us ?
The walk up to this tourist site and spiritual hot-spot for Christianity is a real experience for tourists, as they pass from being surrounded by boutiques, bungalows, restaurants and museums on the main street which winds up the side of the hill, then gather their strength to climb the 350 steps one-by-one to reach the parvis.
You can then stroll through the various rooms and discover the successive constructions which give the Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey its distinctive appearance, a patchwork of architecture which fit snugly together in a happy, harmonious marriage. The primitive Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre church, the abbey church, the dormitories and rooms of the “Merveille”, not forgetting the cloister, will leave you in awe. A monumental whole whose majesty in no way takes away from its welcoming, almost intimate feel.
Visiting the abbey: practical information
Do you want to organize your visit to Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey by yourself? Here is all the useful information you need: opening hours, address, prices, practical tips...
Opening hours during the high and low seasons
The abbey is open all year round, with the exception of three days when the site is closed to the public :
- January 1, bank holiday for the New Year
- May 1, May day
- December 25, Christmas day
The Abbey’s opening hours are :
- during high season (May 2 until August 31): open 7/7 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. non-stop
- during low season (from September 1 until April 30): open 7/7 from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Access and practical information
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is situated on the summit of the island. The slope is steep and can be a real challenge for fragile or older people, in particular in very hot weather. Make sure you bring water and take regular breaks: 350 steps await you !
Accessibility for disabled people
The abbey, like the entire bay, benefits from a voluntarist policy regarding people suffering from a disability. Visiting Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is free for disabled people and the person assisting them. In the case of a motor disability, it is possible to reach the abbey using a joëlette, a one-wheeled all-terrain chair maneuvered by two carriers, suitable for the narrow, busy streets of Mont-Saint-Michel.
Adapted visits are also organized for people with disabilities.
Discover the abbey as part of an organized tour
You can take advantage of organized turnkey tours leaving from Paris, with a guide, to enjoy the marvels of Mont-Saint-Michel. When you arrive, admire the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel and its island crowned with the gold statue of the Archangel, visit the village and savor the specialties of Mère Poulard or delicious PDO saltbush lamb, and make your way up to the abbey and explore it from top to bottom. One of France’s treasures is just waiting for you to discover it !