Mont Saint Michel in the Distance, France

mont saint michelThere's so much construction going on at Mont Saint Michel monastery off the coast of Normandy that the better photos of the exterior are probably shot from a distance. Like this one, from at least five kilometers away as a late afternoon front came in over the Atlantic. The monastery is a Unesco World Heritage site, and deserves to be so for its history, although it's now pretty much been turned into a tourist mecca, complete with grossly overpriced parking (€12.60) and bus after bus of Japanese and American tourists (at least on the day we were there.) The admission charge is €9, not including the museums, which are another €9. All in all, an expensive and unrewarding experience. There are a lot more interesting places to spend your money. Those would not necessarily include the overpriced gift shops in the abbey, or the bevy of restaurants and souvenir shops on the steep walk up to the abbey.

I'd have like to have seen it a few centuries ago. Like maybe 12 centuries ago, when it was founded as a combination abbey and fortification.

The abbey itself is utterly unadorned, but the massive construction and myriad galleries once frequented by the monks do provide some nice photos of the geometry of the construction. And the vistas back to the continent from the towers, even at low tide, are impressive. It's not all a waste. The busloads mostly abandon the tour when the flight after flight of stairs present themselves to legs already tired from the long climb up from the causeway.

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mont st michel tourist view
View from the causeway, where the shuttle bus from the overpriced parking drops you off.
mont saint michel tidal view
View back to the continent from one of the walkways at the abbey. At high tide, the water can be up to 12 meters deep.
mont saint michel chapel
A chapel below the main abbey church.
mont saint michel capital detail 2
Capital detail, chapel.


mont saint michel monks ambulatory
Ambulatory, where the monks said their daily offices.
mont saint michel view back to the continent
Another view, back toward the continent, showing the current works designed to remove the silt of centuries from the tidal flow around the monastery and deepen the sea again to what it was when the monastery was first built 10 centuries ago.
mont saint michel foundation pillars
Foundation pillars under the main church of the abbey.
mont saint michel refectory
The refectory.
mont saint michel apse
The apse of the main church of the abbey.
mont saint michel abbey from below
After a long walk up the winding road, a longer set of stairs awaits.

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10 thoughts on “Mont Saint Michel in the Distance, France”

  1. Tom, I finally just got to Mont St. Michel this last summer while staying one week in Brittany. I agree the scaffolding of the massive construction that is going on definitely takes away from the views unless you move back. I love your stormy sky and rape weed in front of it…gorgeous.

  2. Tom, thanks for sharing your inside photos of the Mont Saint-Michel abbey and thank you even more calling it an “expensive and unrewarding experience”. While this place was beautiful to look at from the distance, we too were stunned by the prices and masses of tourists. In the end we opted for a quick visit without the inside of the abbey and without paying for a full day of parking. Unfortunately it seemed to be overall quite a tourist trap under construction… :/

    • Dennis, I think we had the same impression. It was so different from the mountain top monasteries we’d just visited in Meteora, Greece, where they indeed make accommodations for tourist, you still get the impression that the monasteries are still places of worship, with the attendant solemnity and spirt that seems to have fled, screaming, from Mont Saint Michel.

  3. Great photos :-) We visited there today and thought much the same, it looks like a construction site hopefully when it is finished it will be better. Luckily only one tour bus when we were there :-). The prices at the restaurants were extortion 7.90 euros for two coffees.

    • I’m afraid, Michele, that they’ve turned the tourist corner and there’s no going back. It’s more like a Disneyland castle now than a medieval monastery. Kind of a pain to wait patiently for the never ending parade of Japanese tourists with their phones on selfie sticks so you can get an unobstructed shot or two.

    • Don’t know Dave, since we didn’t do that. We arrived just after midday, at the same time as a couple of buses. Ugh. Anything you could do to avoid that would probably be better. There are lots of hotels along the road leading to the abbey, so I imagine getting a room isn’t too tough.


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