“Le Mont Saint-Michel”

Mont Saint-Michel. France. May 2019. (11 photos)

This is Part 1 of my France 2019 photo series, and also Part 1 of my Europe 2019 photo series.

As you may know, I’ve been away for a while, having spent a month visiting France and Portugal, with a short visit to Singapore for good measure. I think I’m still feeling the effects of jet lag, but I thought I may as well get back into posting. Are you familiar with Mont Saint-Michel?

Le Mont-Saint-Michel is an island and associated mainland commune in Normandy, France. It is approximately 1 km off the coast, connected to the french mainland by a bridge, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. It is one of France’s most recognisable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million people each year. Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

“Baaa Baaa Baaa”

To get there from Paris I took the high speed train from Gare Montparnasse to Rennes. Then I caught the bus from Rennes to the Mont Saint-Michel stop, near the Tourist Information Centre about 1.5km from the island. From there you can catch the frequent free shuttle bus to the island, or take the paid horse and carriage. I chose to take my time and walked to fully appreciate the view as I approached.

“Iconic Mont Saint-Michel”

The design of Mont Saint-Michel exemplifies the feudal society that existed at the time: on top, God, the abbey and monastery; below, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.

“View from the 4th floor”

I spent almost 48 hours in this area, staying for 2 nights in accomodation on the island itself. Be warned, accomodation on the island is (as expected) relatively pricey and there are no lifts on the island or in hotels. Any bags you take there, you will have to carry up numerous steep steps. I was fortunate that my bnb in Paris stored my main luggage for me whilst I was visiting here.

“9pm Mont Saint-Michel”

A lot of people visit as a day trip from elsewhere, including Paris. But when the sun sets this late, you miss out on these fabulous colours. That’s why I chose to stay for 2 nights here.

“10pm Mont Saint-Michel”

“6am Mont Saint-Michel”

“6:15am Mont Saint-Michel”

Perhaps you can appreciate that the ground I’m standing on is not solid earth but actually dried mud, which I can attest is not stable. A bit later, whilst jumping across a wide water filled crack in the mud, the bank collapsed under me and I got mud all over my trousers and camera bag. I sneaked back into the hotel and washed my trousers. Because I was travelling light I had no change of trousers, so I did my usual trick of putting them back on wet and using body heat and rubbing to dry them out so I could go to breakfast.

“Low tide”

At Mont Saint-Michel the difference between high tide and low tide can be up to 15 metres. A few times a year the island will be completely surrounded by water. At low tide, trained guides will lead groups on walks ranging from 3 hours to 8 hours across the mudflats of the bay. I took one of these walks during which we encountered and deliberately sank into a large patch of quicksand. The tour ended just in time to see the tide come in. The tide comes in extremely quickly and I watched a kayaker ride it in.

“Like a dream”

According to the Revelatio Ecclesiae Sancti Michaelis, the oldest text recording the origins of Mont Saint-Michel, the first foundations of the Abbey were laid in the year 708 AD.

According to legend, the archangel St Michael appeared twice to Aubert, the Bishop of Avranches and commanded him to build a sanctuary on the island of Mont Tombe in his name. Aubert thought it was a dream and ignored it both times. The archangel then visited Aubert a third time to reiterate his command and this time, struck Aubert on the head, burning a hole in his skull. The relic of Aubert’s skull, complete with a hole in it, is on display at the Saint-Gervais Basilica in Avranches.

The moral of the story: Never mess with an archangel.

“Goodnight from Mont Saint-Michel”

If you’re wondering, the palace in the Disney film Tangled where Rapunzel was stolen from her parents was inspired by Mont Saint-Michel.

In May and June 2019, I visited France, Portugal and Singapore.

This is Part 1 of this photographic series and Part 1 of the posts about France. Part 1 of my Portugal posts is “Once upon a time in Sintra

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Le Mont Saint-Michel


80 thoughts on “Le Mont Saint-Michel

    • Thank you very much. It didn’t seem right to travel out there from Australia for just a few hours. The Abbey is so picturesque and iconic. The first glimpse from the bus got me very excited.

  1. Stunning photos. I love the approach and the sunsets/rises. How on earth did you get the night shot without sinking? And… Quicksand? In all the Tarzan movies, no-one gets out without a long branch or vine and I don’t see any of those. So…?

    • Thank you very much. It’s impressive from any angle. There is dry land to stand on. You just have to find it.

      Sorry to disappoint you about quicksand, but after about a minute I had only sunk to mid-calf level and that was with trying to sink in. Getting out was easy enough – the truth is too boring for Hollywood. πŸ™‚

  2. Anne Fraser says:

    I visited Mont St Michel a few years ago and have also stayed near St. Michael’s mount in Cornwall which is smaller but very similar and worth a visit. Your photos are stunning as always.

  3. Tom Gagner Photographer says:

    Never been to Mont St Michel, but it’s on the list. Excellent work with the pictures and a very interesting text. Followed your journey on Instagram and are looking forward for part two of your story.

  4. Fascinating! Mont Saint Michel is surely one of the most spectacular places in France. I love the shots at sunrise. So dramatic! The sky looks like it was on fire πŸ™‚

  5. 9pm and 6.15 are my favourites. Isn’t it a wonderful sight, though I don’t envy you soggy trousers! Live and learn πŸ˜β›…πŸŒ’β›΅πŸ’•

    • The first glimpse from the bus whets the appetite, then as I got closer, I knew this was special.
      Don’t worry, I’ve done the soggy pants and body heat drying method while travelling before. Will probably have to do it again at some time. πŸ™‚

  6. I have never seen such wonderful images of Mont St Michel as these. Absolutely stunning. St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall is practically on my doorstep and I always get a thrill out of seeing it appear when driving towards it (or from ‘my’ hill). Nothing like as spectacular as the French version and I really should get out and take sunset and sunrise photos of it.

  7. I spent a good deal of time looking at the lead-in photo before I moved onward. This is such a breathtakingly magnificent and peaceful spot that I had to linger to drink it in fully. I don’t recall ever seeing this icon photographed as beautifully.

    And then I get to the next photo and have to linger again.

    By the third one with the horse cart, I am lusting madly after the place.

    Definitely worth a reshare or two.

    It is difficult to conceive that this one place gets just slightly fewer tourists that Colombia (at 3.3 m) where I am headed next. Crazy. But your having stayed there for 48 hours paid off in the intimacy in your photographs.


    • Thank you very much for the kind words, Lisa. Mont Saint-Michel is a stunning location. I believe that only the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Versailles get more visitors than Mont Saint-Michel. Yes, that is an incredible fact.

  8. I think you’re the first person I know who has actually stayed longer than just a day trip. The images show how much it’s worth it to linger there. The sunsets, wow. I’ve actually never been there. Sorry to hear about your fall in the mud. But you dealt with it in true Dragon style. 😎

    • I kind of wish the daylight hours weren’t so long, then I might not have been so sleep deprived as I was, but it was totally worth it staying on the island to be there for sunset and dawn. πŸ™‚
      Getting a lot of mud on my clothing was just part of the experience. I’m an expert at drying clothes with body heat. LOL πŸ™‚

  9. I have seen many photos before of Mont Saint Michel but yours are by far the most interesting; the perspectives, the inclusion of the sheep or the horse drawn carriage, the evening and the night lights. Nice!

  10. SolarAngel Waldeck says:

    I came pretty close to visiting that place but for some-odd reason was unable to with my boyfriend. I’ve heard quite a few stories about it, including how the then Dauphin Charles (the future Charles VII of France of St Joan of Arc fame) made a pilgrimage to the site. St Michael was considered the patron saint of numerous ruling houses of Europe and even some Islamist rulers also invoked him as their patron too due to the Archangel Michael (or Mikael) is mentioned the Koran) as their patron. On Charles’ safe return home, a huge banquet was held in his honor and the floor in the dining area gave way, killing several people and injuring others, but Charles remained uninjured. Something to be said about God looking after His own, I suppose.
    There’s also another similar twin monastery of St Michael in the town of Archangel, Russia, and the burial site of numerous members of the Russian nobility. What’s strange here is this town managed to keep its name even under Communist rule instead of changing its name to something after some their leaders like Leningrad over St Petersburg. I suppose St Michael would have shown his displeasure if anyone attempted to do that. It has one of the largest iconostases (icon screens) in the word with scores of icons of Christ, His Mother Mary, numerous angels and saints. Some of them were donated by numerous patrons either as tokens of gratitude for success in battle, overcoming serious illnesses, in memorial to a loved one, put in a safe place from marauders or for public veneration. Many of them were to have said having numerous miracles taken place there and decided to use them as visual testimony to their love of God. I’ve never been there myself, but I can’t help but imagine as you gaze upwards at these icons, you’re also imagining what Heaven must be like. Talk about a WOW! factor! And for those poor folk who couldn’t read or write, what a great teaching tool they were as well as spiritual nourishment. I’ve always had a thing for visiting old churches and other places of worship wherever I go (regardless of belief system)…it’s like a never-ending banqueting feast for the senses, inside and out! I also dig memorials and cemeteries, especially where some include open chapels and mausoleums.

    • Hi, thank you for your very interesting reply. I’ve been doing a bit of googling about Arkhangelsk in Russia and its Cathedral. It’s fascinating that the city’s coat of arms displays the Archangel Michael in the act of defeating the Devil, and legend states that this victory took place near where the city stands. Apparently Michael still stands watch over the city to prevent the Devil’s return – make of that what you will.

      I agree that historic places of worship are fascinating, regardless of one’s beliefs. The Sedlec Ossuary in Kuta Hora, Czech Republic was particularly interesting to me. I’d love to see that iconostasis you mention.

      I hope you do get out to Mont Saint-Michel at some time. Thank you for your visit.

  11. Captivating images and history/ spiritual/ laundry lessons. The bridge looks fairly new; I was expecting to see an old rickety one. Did you meet any locals? Am sure they would have interesting tales.

    • This bridge was opened in 2014 and it is built on stilts to allow water to flow freely around Mont Saint-Michel. The previous 135 year old concrete causeway was demolished in 2015. The problem was that it did not allow water to flow freely and silt built up around it, causing Mont Saint-Michel to become a peninsula. With the new bridge and water flow, Mont Saint-Michel is an island again.

      Only about 50 people actually live on the island. I spoke to a nun, but I didn’t ask if she lived on the island.

    • When you go to Paris, try and find some time to visit Mont Saint-Michel. You won’t regret it. Yes, I protected the gear as I fell in the mud. My natural reaction. πŸ™‚

  12. So perfect!
    I still have a draft on hiking low tide at Mt Saint-Michel in June 2018, crossing the whole bay (with the guides, of course)…
    Although my parents live nearby, we never spend more than the day there and I always miss on the opportunity of sunrise or sunset on the spot. Such a pity, though, as the pictures always are stunning; yours are no exception.

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