Mont Saint Michel Facts
Mont St Michel is a small rocky island just off the north coast of France, and it is located at the mouth of the Couesnon River in Normandy. This mountain is well known as the medieval Benedictine Abbey and steepled church take up most of the island, which is really just a collection of 1km-wide rocks.
The island used to be called Mont Tombe, in the 8th century, before Benedictine Abbey was constructed. There exists a legend that says the archangel Michael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, and directed him to construct a church in that specific location. Although the idea was neglected for some time, after further confrontation with the archangel, the building at Mont Saint Michel commenced in 708.
An Italian architect, William de Volpiano, created the designs for Benedictine Abbey on Mont Saint Michel, and in his designs he daringly placed the transept crossing at the top of the mount. To compensate for the weight of this structure, underground crypts and chapels had to be built and these form the base of the entire building.
Mont Saint Michel is well known in France and around the world, for its distinct architecture and historical relevance. Many artists have used the mont for inspiration, and completed tapestries and other visual creations in its name. Many important events occurred in this location, and with these, many stories have been created, and passed down through generations.
During the revolution, Mont Saint Michel was converted to a prison, and many notable prisoners were kept there. In the late 1800’s other notable people protested for the conservation of the historical building and in 1874 Mont Saint Michel was declared a historic monument. In 1979 it was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.