Mont Saint-Michel is a rocky tidal island and a commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately 0.6 mi off the country’s north-western coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches.
The population of the island is 41, as of 2006. The island has been a strategic point holding fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century AD it became the seat of the Saint-Michel monastery, from which it draws the name.
In prehistoric times the bay was land. As sea levels rose, erosion shaped the coastal landscape over millions of years. Several blocks of granite or granulite emerged in the bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the surrounding rocks. These included Lillemer, the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine (the island just to the north), and Mont Tombe, later called Mont-Saint-Michel.
Mont-Saint-Michel was used in the 6th and 7th centuries as an Armorican stronghold of Romano-Breton culture and power, until it was ransacked by the Franks, thus ending the trans-channel culture that had stood since the departure of the Romans in AD 460. Before the construction of the first monastic establishment in the 8th century, the island was called “monte tombe”. According to legend, the Archangel Mikael appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708 and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. Aubert repeatedly ignored the angel’s instruction, until Mikael burned a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger.
Photo Credit: Mikael