Part 6: Mt. St. Michele


Navigation Links
 Trip Home Page     


The Trip

From Caen, we loaded up the rental car (a BMW 530 diesel) and headed to Mt. St. Michele (MSM).  MSM is a small island off the coast that is separated from the mainland by tidal mud flats.  These mud flats, combined with the fortifications on the island have provided un-failing protection from a number of determined attacks since 760 A.D.  These combined defenses allowed the MSM inhabitants to even resist repeated English assaults during the 100 Years War.  Generally, MSM served as a monastery and church.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

From a distance, the scope of the obstacle presented by attacking MSM becomes apparent.  The lowest walls are high, but the upper walls are much, much higher.

It was a beefy walk to MSM from the parking area.  The walk takes you along a causeway that was constructed "recently" (given that construction started in 750 A. D.

We were concerned about the chill of the wind, but after we got to the island, the issue was the heat.  We are still more than a mile away at this point.

Getting closer, the details of the defenses become visible.

Even the low walls are high and would be very difficult to overcome even with scaling tools.

Inside the walled city we started to see religious artifacts.

Over the past 1,000 years, erosion has taken its toll on MSM's walls and arches.  Extensive restoration efforts have been underway for years to stabilize the structures.

Imagine arriving on a boat after crossing the shallow mud flats with the intention of scaling the sea facing walls.  The defenders would be shooting at you through the portals and pouring hot oil on your head.  But mostly, they just wait for high tide to carry you away.

MSM was both a church and a monastery with the monks living in isolation.

It would be virtually impossible to scale these walls with the monks shooting arrows at you from above.

The battlements on the top of the turrets are visible in the photo above.

Like all good medieval structures, the rain gutters have gargoyles.

The water spigot was retrofited with a brass faucet to come out the mouth of a gargoyle

There was a museum about mid-way to the upper reaches of MSM.

One of the intermediate levels had an awesome view of the surrounding ocean and mud flacts.

The angel that sits atop the highest pinnacle on MSM was recently repaired.  It required a special helicopter to perform this task as climbing up the tower was just too dangerous (the wooden beams underneath had rotted).

The main chapel had a very high ceiling.

Some of the statuary was very intricate and impressive.

The stained glass was impressive because of its scope, but less so because of color.

The detailed stone work in the interior arches were impressive.

The date of the organ was not given, but I have to assume that it is a recent addition (recent = last 200 years).

Some of the stone carvings in the chapels were well preserved.

This carving was very detailed and protected by glass.

This was one of the very few that had color.

Only half way up MSM, the upper tower loomed over us like the hand of God.

This section of MSM represented a later style of architecture as evidenced by the narrow columns.

At an even higher level, we encountered yet another chapel with vaulted ceilings.

The stained glass was interesting for scale, less so for detail or color.

We are still nowhere near the top of the structure.

This is a human powered winch.  A person gets inside the wheel and starts walking like a hamster in a wheel.  The wheel turns and wraps the rope around the axle.

The rope is hooked to a chain and the chain is used to hoist up a sled with supplies.

The scope of the wheel is more apparent in this shot.

The logs at the bottom of the sled roll thus allowing for an easier hoisting task.  Around the French Revolution, MSM was turned into a political prison and the sled was used to hoist supplies to the prisoners.

The head of this statue has broken off.

Yet another chapel with excellent examples of the intricate stone carving techniques that typified the era.

This statue was cleaned and restored.  This is a replica of the statue on the top of the spire.

We came down about half way on the north side of the island onto a terrace.  The height of the walls, more correctly half the walls, can be judged from the people in the photo.

On the terrace, we spotted a cannon with 1264 stamped into the breech.

The upper spire at MSM.

On our exit from MSM we spotted this monster cannon with a bore of about 350mm.

A parting shot of the angel on the top of MSM taken from the sun side.

Mt. St. Michele puts American history and timescale into perspective.  Any facility that has been in use for over 1200 years has to get your attention.  The amount of effort and stone that went into MSM is truly impressive.

Next: A small road trip to the Vitre then on to La Mans.

Navigation Links
Previous Adventure
Top of this Page
  Next Adventure
Trip Home Page  
Bill Caid's Home Page

Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2013, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.