Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Happy Birthday Mont Saint Michel

Photo by Flickr user afloresm. Creative Commons licence.

On 1 May a mass conducted in the abbey by the Archbishop of Paris marked the start of the celebrations of the 1300 year history of Mont Saint Michel. The celebrations will continue until October 2009. Eighteen months - some birthday party!

The site is visited each year by 3 million people, making it one of the most popular in France, after the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles. It is deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site. I visited during the late 70s and even then, off season, it was obvious the huge impact of so many tourists on the area.

The island itself is a breathtaking sight and can be spotted from quite a distance, but the whole bay is beautiful. Because of its popularity, a causeway was built about 120 years ago to help access for visitors. It carries a road which, according to the official site, doesn't flood, and car parks which do sometimes flood, in the exceptionally high tides in the area.

The result of this structure has been that the tides can no longer carry away coastal sediments and without any action to prevent it, the island is liable to become land-locked, and the rich environmental habitat of the sea and surrounding marshes damaged.

The proposal is to remove the causeway and the car parks (quite an eyesore in all honesty) and replace it with a one-kilometre pedestrian bridge stretching from the relocated car parks to the island. Alternatively there will be an environmentally friendly shuttle running between the two.

At high tide, visitors will still be able to visit the island, but for a few hours every year, at exceptionally high tides, the island will be cut off.

I had thought that these projects would be finished by 2008, but I believe it will be 2009, perhaps in time for the end of the festivities.

Details of the project can be found at Project Mont Saint Michel, in French.


  1. A stunning photo...I'm sure it would be an amazing place to acutally visit!

  2. We were there, Pierre and me for our weeding trip in september 1982!
    Such marvelous memories! This a such marvelous and mysterious place! Without tourists you could really believe you live at the middle age!

  3. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon before the marriage in 2000. It is beautiful and I agree that the parking lot is a huge eyesore.

  4. I visited there many years ago, and thought that it was, indeed a magnificent place, marred only by all the shops lining the path up the hill selling tourist tat.

  5. Nice pic, You asked about the "Castle" on windwhispers.co.za. Its not actually a castle. Its just some government buildings in London town. I believe they call the place Whitehall.

  6. Finir un marathon au pied du Mont Saint-Michel à la tombée du soleil, au début du mois de juin, est une expérience inoubliable ! (site web du marathon)

    Mon impression est que les travaux sont destinés à préserver l'intérêt touristique du site (attention, je trouve cela bien raisonnable et légitime), plutôt que pour des raisons écologiques (préserver l'environmental habitat, comme tu dis). Et d'après ce qu'on m'a expliqué, ce qui allait conduire à la disparition de l'insularité du Mont Saint-Michel, c'est principalement l'action de la nature, indépendamment de celle de l'homme... Mais peut-être je me trompe, hein !

  7. Thanks to the owner of this blog. Ive enjoyed reading this topic.

  8. @azure islands, you're right, it's stunning.
    @claudie, a wonderful place for your honeymoon!
    @pumkin pie - a honeymoon for you too:)
    @elaine, I agree about the shops and tat. I haven't actually been there for many years and I do wonder if they still allow that. Hard to stop though, I should think.
    @Guy, thanks
    @Pablo, I can well believe finishing a marathon at sunset around Mont St Michel would be unforgettable.

    I'm not sure I agree that the build up of sand is entirely natural, more because of that causeway, at least according to the couple of reports I've read. I confess I haven't read very deeply on the subject though so no doubt there are conflicting opinions.


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