The French Island Where Archangel Michael “Visited” Centuries Ago
Le Mont-Saint-Michel is an island and mainland commune in Normandy, France. It is a rocky islet and famous sanctuary in Manche département, Normandy région, off the coast of Normandy.
It lies 41 miles (66 km) north of Rennes and 32 miles (52 km) east of Saint-Malo and around its base are medieval walls and towers above which rise the clustered buildings of the village with the ancient abbey crowning the mount. One of the more popular tourist attractions in France, Mont Saint-Michel was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
The original site was founded by an Irish hermit, who gathered a following from the local community. Mont Saint-Michel was used in the sixth and seventh centuries as an Armorican stronghold of Gallo-Roman 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 460.
From roughly the fifth to the eighth century, Mont Saint-Michel belonged to the territory of Neustria and, in the early ninth century, was an important place in the marches of Neustria.
Legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared in 708 to Aubert of Avranches, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on the rocky islet. It rapidly became a pilgrimage destination, and in 966 a Benedictine abbey was built there.
In 1203 it was partly burned when King Philip II of France tried to capture the mount. He compensated the monks by paying for the construction of the monastery known as La Merveille (“The Wonder”).
Today the houses now mainly hotels or tourist shops along the narrow street winding up to the abbey date in some cases to the 15th century.