Beautiful isolation and shifting sand: the French Mont

Akash Arjun

Global Courant

Mont Saint-Michel, one of France’s most iconic monuments, is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this year.

To mark the occasion, President Emmanuel Macron would visit the abbey island on top of the rocks in Normandy on Monday, which is completely closed off by the sea dozens of times a year.

Here are five things you should know about the site:

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– ‘Bastille of the Seas’ –

The first shrine on the granite island dates back to the 8th century, when, according to legend, a bishop, Saint Aubert, had a vision of the Archangel Michael who instructed him to build a shrine.

In 966, a group of Benedictine monks founded a church there, followed in 1023 by the extraordinary Gothic-style abbey at the top of the island.

Over the years, the monument has had many functions – a fortress during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, it was a prison during the French Revolution when it was known as the “Bastille of the seas”.

– Bursting with tourists –

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Mont Saint-Michel and its bay have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.

While it has long been a popular pilgrimage site, it has also become a tourist mecca, brimming with souvenir shops, restaurants and hotels.

In 2022, the island attracted nearly 2.8 million visitors, with some 36,000 cramming into an area of ​​less than 4 square kilometers in one day (August 18) alone.

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– Perfect insulation –

Cut off by the sea, the citadel appears to float, but that breathtaking spectacle was lost for more than a century after a road connecting the island to the mainland was built in the 1870s.

The silt that had accumulated around the road held back the tide, preventing the island from being cut off.

Between 2005-2015, approximately €230 million was spent on returning the site to the sea, including washing away excess sand and silt and replacing the road with a wooden walkway.

The investment paid off.

Mont Saint-Michel is now surrounded by water between 50 and 90 times a year.

– Quicksand –

The tides in Mont Saint-Michel Bay are among the highest in the world, creating shifting sands that are notoriously tricky to navigate.

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In 2022, tightrope walker Nathan Paulin tested a new approach when he walked 2,200 meters along a wire suspended 114 meters above the bay, breaking the record for the longest tightrope walk.

– Eggs galore –

An inseparable part of Mont Saint-Michel lore is La Mere Poulard (Mother Poulard), the inn founded by Anne Boutiaut, who invented a hugely popular omelet soufflé that is still part of the tourist experience more than a century later.

Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Margaret Thatcher and Leon Trotsky are just some of the characters who enjoyed the hospitality.


Beautiful isolation and shifting sand: the French Mont

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