Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First Trip, Part Two - Blog 4


Go North, Young Man.

Our first destination was an island monastery called Mont Saint Michel. From Nantes it was a short, two-and-a-half hour drive. We made it in three. But we made it in one piece and with no tickets, police intervention or trips to the hospital so I think what speed we sacrificed was well worth it.



Mont St. Michel can trace its roots back to 708. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, said he saw Michael, the Archangel, in a vision. Michael commanded Aubert to leave Avranches and built a sanctuary in his honor on Mont Tombe, a tiny island just off the coast of Avranches. Now, if it were me, I'd be a bit skeptical about building anything on a tiny, rocky, coastal island - especially if I came from a town that bore a name suspiciously close to "avalanche." Aubert had some doubts, too, since it took the Angel several admonitions and finally burning a hole in Aubert's head before Aubert finally began construction.

In order to boost the local economy (I mean, increase the spirituality of the sanctuary), Aubert had several of his followers make a trip to Italy to find a certain grotto (holy cave) where Michael was already being worshiped. Aubert instructed the pilgrims to "obtain" a piece of the rock in the Italian grotto upon which Michael was said to have alighted and to get a piece of Michael's holy, golden mantle (which I guess Michael left behind). No one told me how the followers were able to get them but they returned with the relics and enshrined them at Mont St Michel (MSM). By the end of the 10th century MSM had become a popular pilgrimage sight and an order of Benedictine monks settled there.


A village grew up around the monastery on the island to support the vast numbers of pilgrims visiting the site. In 933 William, Duke of Normandy, annexed the area. Financed by the Duke, the monastery enjoyed expensive and grand Norman architecture.




Speaking of architecture, this place was INCREDIBLE. Because the architects were severely limited by the pyramid-shaped top of the island, they literally had to wrap the buildings around the granite dome of rock. They built several innovative crypts under the monastery, whose arched ceilings served to support the massive structure above. Given the spatial challenges MSM is unlike any other monastery in the world and represents unique examples of both style and mathematical precision.

MSM withstood English sieges during the Hundred Years War, thanks largely to its military fortifications (quite necessary due to its strategic placement near the English Channel). Thus, MSM has become a national French icon, much like Masada has for Israel.





MSM lost much of its prestige following the French Revolution and in the 1800s it became a prison. After becoming an official historic monument in 1874 MSM underwent extensive restoration and is listed as a World Heritage Site. I guess the prisoners were transferred. Or released. Or guillotined. Not that it really matters - dirty criminals.

Okay, now a bunch of pictures of MSM.

This one is of the narrow, winding, crowded village streets that lead the intrepid pilgrim up, up, up to the monastery.







This is one of the narrow, winding, uncrowded stone staircases that leads the pilgrim down, down, down within the monastery.







This is a stone pillar that was so perfectly illuminated I couldn't help but snap a pic. I wanted a wider shot but there were construction materials all around.









This one I did not take as my camera battery died just when evening fell. I borrowed it from Wikipedia (thanks, Wikipedia!).







18 comments:

skcoe said...

Your pics are flawless! I love the stairway and column.

...and I'm coming to go sight-seeing with you. Like tomorrow. Think my hubby will mind?

It's BEAUTIFUL there!

Rick said...

Naw, I'm sure Darren will be cool with it once we explain that you'll be visiting exotic destinations with a single guy in one of the most romantic countries in the world...oh, wait. Maybe he wouldn't be so cool after all.

Thanks for the compliments on my pics - I'm always a bit nervous to share them.

Babe in Boysland said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE the staircase photo! It looks incredible in B&W! Now I want to see the wooden wheel in black and white.

Dawnell said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I'm so jealous. Sometimes it sucks to be married and a mom.

Rick said...

When Dawnelly is jealous then you KNOW you've hit the jackpot!

But then again, YOU have a family and a stable life - I have increasing debt and receeding hair...

Laura said...

So incredible! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

Jocelyn said...

hey Rick, its Jocelyn, from years ago...I too have a receding hairline. Those pictures are beautiful. How fun that must be to travel! My Husbands younger sister lives in France, in fact she just bought an apartment in Paris and she shares many of your same view points as you. Very funny!

The Uffens Family said...

So, it's been fun reading - found your link from Dawnelle's blog. I too add to some of the drivel on the web - I like to think that it's a little less than meaningless for a few people... probably just my mom and mother-in-law who can't get enough pictures of their grandkids. Anyway - amazing to hear of your adventures. I'm beginning to think the only time I'll get to travel again may be after I'm twinkled (that's my plan anyway!)

: )
pollyp

Rick said...

Jocelyn - wow! Great to hear from you! Sorry about your receding hair - I totally feel your pain. And speaking of feeling pain, it's good to hear my observations about the French are shared by some. I just adored Paris (I know I am NOT unique in that regard) but I'm glad to be back where people shower...

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

I'm just as saddened by your misguided and overzealous copyright disclaimer as I am you making my wife jealous. Hopefully as a 2L you'll learn the importance of fair use, especially in non-commercial ventures. :-)

Rick said...

You can kiss my "fair use," you corporate sell-out! And while your at it, kiss my "non-commercial venture!" And you can finish it off by kissing your jealous wife!

Thanks for reading!

Rick said...

Polly - grandkids? As in you have more than one child? Wild. I'm glad you enjoyed reading. I hope all is well with you!

Leah said...

Sigh, so many places to see...

jo said...

i was just thinking, in the 8 years i've known you, you've been to
jerusalem
canada
costa rica
korea
china
italy
france

where else? i know i'm missing some...

Rick said...

You're only missing Panama. It sounds like a lot when you put them all together like that. And technically I visited Germany and Switzerland for a few hours each but I'll blog about that later...

Wendy Lady said...

Wow! You have seen some pretty awesome places. I've never left the country (unless you count spending a few hours in Ensenada, Mexico as part of a cruise). We're supposed to be traveling to Italy with the Killpack siblings next year, but I'm hesitant to spend the money. We're not getting any younger and I don't know how we'll EVER afford to retire!

Rick said...

Retirement isn't all they say it is, Wendy Lady. Italy, on the other hand, is and more. Good to hear from you!