Mont St. Michel

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Mont St. Michel has been a site of pilgrimage for 1000 years.  Its location on a base of granite, surrounded by mudflats (and water at high tide) make it appear as if it is floating, especially in the darkness of night when lights illuminate the abbey.   It is an extraordinary site.  Void of greenery that we generally associate with beauty, this solid hunk of stone is visually stunning because of its barrenness.  We tried to imagine what the 15th century pilgrim would have felt crossing the mud flats as we made our own trek out to the island.  

The Details
Getting There: You can not drive to the island.  Unless you are staying in one of the hotels, you will be stopped at a gate which requires a passcode.  Park your car in one of the huge lots and walk across the causeway or catch one of the free shuttle buses that run every 10 minutes. 
Cost: 9e adults/free for children under 18 
Time: Allow 2 hours
Accommodations:  Le Saint Aubert
                                Bp 18, 50170 Le Mont Saint Michel
Two stars and bare bones, but good enough for one night.  There is a restaurant, but we didn't eat at it, instead we grabbed croissants at Brioche Doree next to the grocery store.  

Access to the island is via a 2km causeway which you can walk or take a shuttle bus.  It is allows visitors easy access to the island regardless of the tide, however the causeway has interfered with Mother Nature causing the bay to silt up.  A major bridge building project is underway which will replace the causeway allowing sea water to once again flow around the island unobstructed.  New damns are replacing old ones which will facilitate the silt making its way back out to sea.
There are a few hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants at the base, but what you see is largely the Abbey complex.  Notice the spires on the right side.  The Abbey is largely Romanesque in style, but when the right side collapsed in 1421 it was replaced with a Gothic styled apse.  Those spires or prickly sticks are the Gothic part.
This is a stained glass window from a small church at the base of the Abbey complex.  The window shows St. Michael slaying a dragon--Per Catholic tradition, St. Michael is the leader of God's army against the forces of evil.  The dragon represents the Devil, so here Michael is shown victorious over Satan.

 St. Michael again.  The next time you see an angle fighting a dragon you'll understand the symbolism.
Close up of Gothic detail.  You can rent an audio guide, but did the self guided tour found in Rick Steves' France book.

Heres a fun fact:  See the number on the stones.  It is the signature of the stone mason who cut and laid that piece, he was then paid accordingly.  Every stone in this large courtyard has a similar tag. Originally, this courtyard was inside the church, but a fire in the late 1700's destroyed the west end exposing the the floor and it's numbers.

Almost every abbey has a cloister.  The word is a noun and a verb--The noun referring to the colonnaded walkway around the garden and the verb suggesting the quiet or secluded nature of the space.  It is supposed to be an area of quiet refuge for reading and tending of the gardens.

 Bob is standing inside a massive fire place.  There were two in this room.
To give you some perspective...I am standing in the crypt (basement) next these mammoth columns (15 feet in diameter) which support the church complex above. There wasn't enough flat land for the abbey complex, so 4 large crypts were constructed creating a foundation on which to build.
Monks illuminated manuscripts in this room.
During the French Revolution the church came under attack.  300 monks were held here as prisoners and forced to work the wheel "hamster" style.  Six men, two abreast would power the wheel which brought up 2 ton loads of material and supplies for Mont St. Michel.