Mont Saint Michel
is a small island, separated by approximately a half mile of
waves from the mainland at high tide. It is a little over a half mile in
diameter and about 262 feet high.
At low tide it is separated from the mainland by approximately a half mile of sand. Before a causeway was built in 1879, the only approach to the Mont was by foot over the wet sand.
Walking on the sand was never a casual stroll, however. The tides here are among the greatest in France, with a swing of up to 46 feet between the high and low water marks. The unwary pedestrian could easily be drowned by the sudden onslaught of high tide.
The force of those terrible tides shifts the sands unpredictably, leading to moving quicksand fields. Pilgrims needed great faith to visit Mont St. Michel!
Today's visitors can drive above the water and sand on a causeway built in 1879. However, there are signs that warn everyone to be careful when they venture onto the sand and to not park their cars in the lower parking lot when high tide is approaching. The tide will come in at the speed of a fast-walking man.
In 966, a Benedictine monastery was established. In 1020, Richard II began the Abbey Church, and supported Abbot Hildebert's construction efforts. Over time, the spiritual foundations of the abbey waned, and in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was used as a prison. In 1874, the French government assumed responsibility for the abbey's upkeep and restoration.
Some of the rooms have additional columns to support the building.
A giant wheel was used to bring things up to the monastery rather than have to carry them. Someone would get into the wheel and walk to make it work. The picture on the right shows the view from the opening where the wheel is and the chain that is lowered by the wheel.