Mont Saint-Michel and its reflection in the waterMont Saint-Michel and its reflection in the water
©Mont Saint-Michel and its reflection in the water|Pauline Vidinic
The Wonder of the WestMont-Saint-MichelAnd its bay

Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay

A breathtaking natural setting and outstanding architecture

In a large sandy plain, scene of the greatest tides in Europe, rises a granitic rocky islet about 960 meters in circumference and 92 meters high. This islet is the Mont Saint-Michel. On this rock stands a monumental abbey of prodigious architecture, the first stones of which were laid over 1000 years ago! This edifice is the Mont-Saint-Michel.

A little history

Du Mont Tombe

At Mont Saint-Michel

Before becoming the Mont Saint-Michel, the famous granite rock was called the Mont Tombe, probably because it was shaped like a Roman tumulus or tomb.

Historical sources indicate that the first buildings on the islet date back to the 6th century. Construction of the Mont is said to have begun in 708.

According to legend, during the reign of King Childebert III (695-711), the Archangel Michael appeared in a dream to Aubert, bishop of Avranches, to order him to build a shrine in his honor. But to convince Saint Aubert, it took three apparitions from the archangel Michael. On the third appearance, the latter did not hesitate to leave his finger mark on his forehead, even piercing his skull, as can be seen at the Saint-Gervais basilica in Avranches where it is on display. Aubert realized that this was no dream! He did indeed have a divine mission to accomplish: to build an oratory in honor of Saint-Michel.

From then on, the rock was gradually dubbed Mont-Saint-Michel-au-péril-de-la-Mer. Despite the islet’s location, the shifting sands and threatening tides that surround it, pilgrims soon flock to this new spiritual place, where a dozen churchmen officiate. What’s more, the population of the surrounding area came here to seek refuge from Viking raids. A village then developed on the rock and the church grew.

From 966, Richard I of Normandy (943-996) permanently installed a community of Benedictine monks here – the latter remained on the Mont until 2001. The abbey church was erected on the tip of the rock in 1023.

As the centuries passed, the abbey, on the borders of the duchy of Normandy, had to fortify itself. During the Hundred Years’ War, the royal army even moved in to prevent an English invasion. At the same time, the abbey expanded, and its famous “merveille” (the monastic living building of Gothic architecture) was built in the first half of the 13th century. The construction of the abbey, which continued from the 11th to the 16th century, adapting to a very difficult natural site, was a technical and artistic tour de force.

For a time left abandoned – and even partly transformed into a state prison – the monument was restored at the end of the 19th century, with the addition of a spire raising the Mont to 157.10 meters.

Sources: Geo, Le Monde, Le Journal du Dimanche, Culturez-vous

Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

The “Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay” was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1979, one of the first French cultural assets to appear there. Some twenty years later, the complex was listed once again, this time as part of the “Chemins de Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle en France” serial property. This double recognition illustrates the universal and exceptional value of the site.

The Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel

Europe's biggest tides

Over an area of around 500 km², the baie du Mont-Saint-Michel stretches between Cancale to the west (Brittany) and Granville to the north.

It is in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel that we observe the greatest tidal range in Europe: with an average amplitude of 10 meters, it reaches 12 meters in average spring tides, 15 meters during exceptional spring tides. These coefficients are accentuated by the shallowness of the bay and the barrier effect of the Cotentin peninsula.

The high tidal range in the region allows a large part of this bay to be uncovered at low tide: up to 250 km² of estran, grèves and herbus.

This immense space is spectacular! The sea disappears on the horizon, giving way to a desert of sand in the middle of which stands an impregnable sanctuary: the Mont-Saint-Michel. This spectacle can be seen from various vantage points located between Brittany and Normandy. Locals particularly enjoy observing the “mascaret“, the sea wave that runs up the estuaries. It’s the result of the shockwave between the sea and the rivers.

The tides cause significant mixing of the waters, which favors biological production. To the rhythm of Europe’s largest tides, a very special fauna and flora evolves from hour to hour and season to season. The area is home to a great variety of birds and calf seals.

Bay crossings

A unique experience

Would you like to walk across the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel with a guide? We’ve put together a list of guides for you to contact right away!

Guides are men and women lovers of nature. This love they gladly pass on to the day’s many “pilgrims”. All along the 7 km crossing (14 km with the return), they tell you stories of yesteryear, legends around the Mont-Saint-Michel and the rocher de Tombelaine, and provide valuable information on the geology, fauna and flora of this unique landscape.


Discover all the wonders of

Destination Granville Terre et Mer

In the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel
A bird's eye view of Le Bout du Monde and the havre de la VanléeA bird's eye view of Le Bout du Monde and the havre de la Vanlée
©A bird's eye view of Le Bout du Monde and the havre de la Vanlée|Office de Tourisme Granville Terre et Mer
View of Tombelaine and Mont Saint-Michel from the Champeaux and Carolles cliffsView of Tombelaine and Mont Saint-Michel from the Champeaux and Carolles cliffs
©View of Tombelaine and Mont Saint-Michel from the Champeaux and Carolles cliffs|Estelle Cohier
The Abbey of La Lucerne d'Outremer and its pond in the foregroundThe Abbey of La Lucerne d'Outremer and its pond in the foreground
©The Abbey of La Lucerne d'Outremer and its pond in the foreground|Estelle Cohier
La Vallee Des Peintres A Carolles Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 33787 1920pxLa Vallee Des Peintres A Carolles Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 33787 1920px
©La Vallee Des Peintres A Carolles Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 33787 1920px|Estelle Cohier
Aerial view of Granville's Upper TownAerial view of Granville's Upper Town
©Aerial view of Granville's Upper Town|Philippe Fauvel
The dunes of Bréville-sur-Mer, a protected natural siteThe dunes of Bréville-sur-Mer, a protected natural site
©The dunes of Bréville-sur-Mer, a protected natural site|Estelle Cohier
The main tributary of the Sienne, the Airou winds its way for over 35km through the hard rock of a sinuous, steep-sided valley.The main tributary of the Sienne, the Airou winds its way for over 35km through the hard rock of a sinuous, steep-sided valley.
©The main tributary of the Sienne, the Airou winds its way for over 35km through the hard rock of a sinuous, steep-sided valley.|Syndicat Intercommunal d'Aménagement et d'Entretien de la Sienne
Spectacle Des Marees Sur La Plage De Jullouville Credit Otgtm Pauline Vidinic 36675 1920pxTidal show on Jullouville beach
©Tidal show on Jullouville beach|Pauline Vidinic
The Chausey archipelago from the airThe Chausey archipelago from the air
©The Chausey archipelago from the air|Julie Hurricane
THE DIOR GARDENS AT THE MUSÉE DIOR IN GRANVILLE. NORMANDIE, FRANCE. SEPTEMBER 2016.THE DIOR GARDENS AT THE MUSÉE DIOR IN GRANVILLE. NORMANDIE, FRANCE. SEPTEMBER 2016.
©THE DIOR GARDENS AT THE MUSÉE DIOR IN GRANVILLE. NORMANDIE, FRANCE. SEPTEMBER 2016.|Thomas Jouanneau
Jersey 04Jersey 04
©Jersey 04|Visit Jersey
Randonneurs Aux Cent Vergees A Jullouville Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 35154 1920px 1Randonneurs Aux Cent Vergees A Jullouville Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 35154 1920px 1
©Randonneurs Aux Cent Vergees A Jullouville Credit Otgtm Estelle Cohier 35154 1920px 1
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