A rocky islet on Coonon River is home to quaint 11th-century Mont Saint-Michel castle. Despite small area of the island, there are several museums here, so in addition to stunning architecture of castle, visitors can also visit many interesting exhibitions dedicated to history of Mont Saint-Michel, history of ships and much more.
In Historical Museum, visitors can get acquainted with collections of ancient objects, sculptures and paintings. The periscope, made in 19th century and very popular with tourists, allows you to see bay. A beautiful panorama appears before eyes of tourists, because castle is located at an altitude of about 80 meters above sea level. A small museum called Archeoscope gives you an insight into history of Mont Saint-Michel itself. The Tiffana Museum recreates living quarters built by Bertrand Dugkling in 1365 for his wife Lady Tiffana, an avid astrologer.
The Maritime Museum of Mont-Saint-Michel presents various types of ships. Tourists saw Viking dragons and sailing ships of medieval European powers here. It is quite interesting to listen to a guide talking about tides in area, about characteristics of flora and fauna of bay.
Museum of Château de Mont-Saint-Michel
The tides in these places are so strong that on some days tourists are forbidden to walk unaccompanied along ramparts of citadel. The water rises so fast that it opens up and you don't have time to go back to walls of fort. Twice a year Mont Saint-Michel castle becomes an island, and in one day water level rises almost 11 meters and comes to castle gates! The once famous writer Victor Hugo was shocked by beauty and unusualness of this castle, he called it "a pyramid in sea"...
The construction of castle of Mont Saint-Michel began in 709 by order of Archbishop Aubert. At that time, buildings were a monastery: first a stone church was built, later a monastery was built for Benedictine monks. The popularity of castle of abbey increased with every decade, and soon Mont Saint-Michel became a very popular destination among pilgrims.
The owner of castle, abbot of monastery, is trying to unite with ruler of country. So, in 1066, abbot of abbey donated a huge amount of money for construction of ship, to great joy of then ruler William Conqueror. As a result, after a successful military campaign and capture of English lands, the abbey received a substantial fortune in return for William.
In 12th century, during reign of Roger Abbey, castle acquired a stone tower on northern slope of cliff. Today, visitors can see Knights' Hall and Refectory, whose architecture resembles a Romanesque nave, as well as Refectory, which is also known for its excellent acoustics.
Château de Mont-Saint-Michel was visited by French and English monarchs at various times. Of course, endless war between these two great powers is reflected in appearance of castle, power of which is trying to get one or other ruler. At same time, fantastic architectural structure has such a geographical position that disputes about its location remain unresolved: in Brittany or in Normandy?
During capture of Normandy by French king Philippe Auguste, abbey of Mont Saint-Michel was badly damaged, but king paid for restoration and rebuilding of castle as atonement. At end of 1228, a complex of buildings built in "flaming Gothic" style was completed on territory of Mont Saint-Michel. Later, complex went down in history as a "miracle".
During Hundred Years' War, French kings found strongest stronghold of sovereignty in Mont Saint-Michel. The defenders of fortress consisted of only 119 knights who swore to defend castle to last drop of blood. For more than three decades, British troops have tried with varying success to capture small but fortified castle. But after a long siege, they were forced to retreat. The city walls located outside the city walls were ruthlessly destroyed.
The revival of Mont Saint-Michel occurred in middle of 15th century, and it again became a major object of pilgrimage, and fortress of citadel even had honor of being place where King Louis XI established main fortress of country. national award - Order of St. Michael. To this day, this order recalls invincible defenders of fortress of Mont Saint-Michel (Saint-Michel - from Saint-Michael in France).
But century after century, cannibalism and religious wars overshadowed greatness of castle. The castle served as a prison from time of French Revolution until time of Second Empire. At same time, up to 300 prisoners could be kept here, most of whom were political prisoners, hence name "Provincial Bastille".
Since 1863, castle entered a new phase of existence: prison was abolished and reconstruction and restoration of its former grandeur began. As a result, castle gradually became a tourist attraction, and in 1979 it was included in UNESCO list of valuable architectural monuments as a World Heritage Site.