This UNESCO World Heritage location has captured the imagination for centuries, thanks to its architecture and place on an islet with one of the highest tides in Europe.
Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most famous landmarks in France, visited by over 3 million visitors each year. The impressive views of Mont Saint-Michel have inspired popular culture, from books and classical music to Hollywood movies and video games.
Here are 4 interesting facts about Mont Saint-Michel.
1. A celestial vision
The building plans for Mont Saint-Michel were put in motion in the year 708 with a dream. Legend says the Archangel Michael came to Bishop Aubert of Avranches on three separate occasions, instructing him to build a church on the rocky island. Actual completion of the monastery would only happen several centuries later, in the year 1523.
2. Movie magic at its best
Mont Saint-Michel inspired at least two fictional locations in movie history. The first is Minas Tirith, the capital city of Gondor in the third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Return of the King. It also provided Pixar animators a blueprint for the castle in Corona, the fictional kingdom in the movie, Tangled (a re-imagining of the Rapunzel fairy tale).
3. The “Bastille of the Sea”
After the French Revolution, the Abbey closed, and the site began to operate as a prison for clergy opponents of the existing regime. Up to 300 priests were imprisoned in what became colloquially known as the “Bastille of the sea.” Ironically, the formal name of this place changed from Mont Saint-Michel to Mont Libre.
4. A long, hard road
Mont Saint-Michel was a significant pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages, only second to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The journey was difficult and often deadly, as pilgrims had to wait for the low tide to be able to cross. The arduous trip was thus proof of the pilgrim’s great penance and commitment towards God.
A bucket list for many expats, Mont Saint-Michel is definitely one of the must-see sights of Europ