Dim light on Mont Saint Michel

Le Mont Saint Michel

Tiếng Việt

It’s one of France’s most iconic images: a monastery with its slender spires and stout ramparts and rocky slope seemingly rises from the depth of the sea. Said by Celtic mythology to be a sea tomb to which souls of the dead were sent, Le Mont Saint Michel is rich in legend and history.


Mont Saint Michel – a masterpiece of religious and military architecture – is situated in the heart of an immense bay in Normandy that has Europe’s highest tidal variations. Annually, it welcomes over 2.5 million visitors and is counted as France’s most popular attraction outside Paris.

The first construction at the summit of the island dated back to the year 708, following the vision of Bishop Aubert of Avranches. In his vision, Archangel Michael – commander-in-chief of the celestial militia – request him to “build here and build high”. Aubert repeatedly ignored the Archangel’s request until Saint Michael burnt a hole in the bishop’s skull by his finger. From then on, a church was built on the island known as Mount Tomb and the mountain where the church is located has been known as Mont Saint Michel.

Mont Saint Michel in the morning
Mont Saint Michel in the morning
The abbey at the top of Mont Saint Michel
The abbey at the top of Mont Saint Michel

In the following centuries, Mont Saint Michel was turned into a centre of learning under the Benedictines. During the Hundred Years War, it developed into an unbreakable fortress that successfully defended against the English assault. In fact, Mont Saint Michel was the only place in Northern France that withstood, and thus it has become a symbol of French national identity. However, after the French Revolution, this place was once again repurposed to an inescapable prison. In 1966, the abbey was finally returned to the Benedictines, and in 1979, UNESCO declared Mont Saint Michel and the surrounding bay as a Heritage Site.

Dim light on Mont Saint Michel
Dim light on Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel at dusk
Mont Saint Michel at dusk

After going through the Boulevard Gate and then the King’s Gate fortified with its portcullis, you will find yourself at the Grande Rue (Main Street) filled with restaurants, shops and a small parish church dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Blended in with the stonework all around, the church is dedicated to Saint Pierre – the patron saint of fishermen. Continued walking along this street will bring you to the Grande Degre (Grand Stair Case) whose majesty is a prelude to La Marveille – the Gothic cloître with double rows of delicately carved arches. Here you will also have the chance to explore the rooms of the abbey and catch a glimpse of the golden statue of the winged Michael crowning the tip of the abbey’s spire. After admiring the abbey, you can enjoy the stunning view over the bay when going down the ramparts path.

Travel from Paris to Mont Saint Michel

  • The nearest SNCF station is Pontorson (about 10km from  Mont Saint Michel). Train from Paris takes around 3.5 to 4.5 hours, and you usually have to change at Caen or Dol de Bretagne.
  • Bus 1 (every one hour or two) links Pontorson and La Caserne. The bus is timed to coincide with the trains to/from Caen and Rennes. Price: 3€.
  • The shuttle bus from La Caserne to Mont Saint Michel runs frequently and free-of-cost. If you are energetic, you can walk from La Caserne and enjoy a superb view. Duration: 30-45 mins.

Practical Information

  • Explore the surrounding bay with caution. Even when the tide is out, only do it with a guide. Do not underestimate the danger of the tide and the surrounding area.
  • Be prepared for lots of steps if you want to explore the abbey. Price: 10€, but free for 26-year-old and younger.
  • Aside from the architectural wonder, Mont Saint Michel is also known for its lamb. In fact, it was the best lamb dish that I have ever tasted. Other specialities include seafood, apple cider and the Breton galette – a pancake made with buckwheat flour usually with a savoury filling.

Le Mont Saint Michel – Tu viện trên biển

Khi nhắc đến Mont Saint Michel, người ta sẽ nghĩ ngay đến hình ảnh của một tu viện với tháp cao, có tường thành bao bọc, và dường như được xây dựng trên mặt biển. Mont Saint Michel có lẽ không mấy nổi tiếng với du khách Việt Nam nhưng nó là một trong những tuyệt tác về tôn giáo và quân sự, và đồng thời là một biểu tượng của nước Pháp, thu hút khoảng 2,5 triệu du khách mỗi năm.

Mont Saint Michel in the morning
Mont Saint Michel in the morning
The abbey at the top of Mont Saint Michel
The abbey at the top of Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel là một hòn đảo thuộc vùng Normandy, phía Bắc nước Pháp. Nó nằm giữa một vùng vịnh nơi thủy triều có cường độ dao động mạnh nhất châu Âu, với mức thủy triều ở có thể dâng lên đến 15m. Tu viện trên Mont Saint Michel được khởi công vào năm 708 theo yêu cầu của Giám Mục Aubert vùng Avranches. Tương truyền rằng, tổng lãnh thiên thần Michael đã gặp Aubert trong giấc mơ và ra lệnh cho ông xây dựng một nhà thờ ở đây.

Dim light on Mont Saint Michel
Dim light on Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel at dusk
Mont Saint Michel at dusk

Trong những thế kỉ tiếp theo, Mont Saint Michel đã phát triển thành một tu viện, rồi thành một pháo đài bất khả xâm phạm trong suốt Cuộc Chiến Trăm Năm, và cuối cùng là một nhà tù sau thời kì Cách Mạng Pháp. Đến năm 1966, Mont Saint Michel lại được trả về cho nhà thờ dòng Benedictines và đến năm 1979, tổ chức UNESCO đã công nhận Mont Saint Michel và vùng vịnh xung quanh là một Di Sản Văn Hóa Thế Giới.

Một số thông tin cần thiết

  • Trạm xe lửa gần nhất là trạm Pontorson (cách Mont Saint Michel khoảng 10 km). Từ Paris đến Pontorson khá xa, khoảng 3,5 đến 4,5 tiếng đi tàu và thường phải chuyển tàu ở Caen hay Dol de Bretagne.
  • Bus 1 nối giữa Pontorson và làng La Caserne (1-2 tiếng có một chuyến bus), thường là sẽ khớp với giờ xe lửa đến Pontorson. Giá vé: 3€
  • Từ La Caserne có free shuttle bus đến Mont Saint Michel (10-15 phút).
  • CHÚ Ý: Khu vực xung quanh Mont Saint Michel khá nguy hiểm, ngay cả khi nước rút. Chỉ đi ra khu vực này khi có hướng dẫn của tourguide địa phương.
  • Đường lên tu viện khá xa với nhiều bậc thang không đồng đều, nên mặc trang phục thích hợp với việc leo núi. Giá vé vào tu viện: 10€ nhưng free cho những ai dưới 26 tuổi.


  1. Wonderful article and pictures. One of my favourite places in England is St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall which is like a younger brother of the Mont. Hope to visit here one day!

    1. Just google the one in Cornwall, and as you said they look very similar, except the spire 🙂 Thanks for letting me know that. Very interesting!

    1. Thank you! I hope you will bring a lot of warm clothes with you. We were there in May, and it was freezing because of the very strong wind. Now we have minus degree so it must be cooler now 🙂 Enjoy the time there!

  2. Awesome pictures as always! Great tips and info as well, I didn’t know that story about the Archangel Michael! “Build here and build high”: it seems he had a clear idea of what he wanted, lol. Also in Italy, there are plenty of stories about “holy figures” who wanted a church built. For example in my city the Virgin Mary allegedly draw with a stick the perimeter of the church that was later erected in that precise point xD

    1. Interesting story! I think as holy beings, they know which spot is the best in town 🙂
      Regarding the legend of Mont St.Michel, the bishop at first ignored the building request of Michael. Then on the third time, Michael burned a hole in the bishop’ skull to show his power (I guess he must be angry haha). The skull with a hole on it can still be seen in the abbey 🙂

  3. Len, your photos are STUNNING! Mont Saint Michel has been on my bucketlist for a while now, and I hope to visit next time I’m in France. Bookmarking this because your info is very helpful!

    1. My pleasure. I suggest to spend 1-2 days there, because the nearby town Beauvoir is worth visiting as well. And lamb from this region is the best! As a culinary expert, I guess you would much like it 😉
      Btw, I like your blog’s new look 🙂

    1. Another reader mentioned that as well 🙂 In Cornwall if I am not wrong. I googled that and they look very similar. The only differences are the spire and the size of the island 🙂

  4. Incredible place!
    I’ve been there last year, it’s so inspiring…
    When I got there, I remember very well that some sunbeams where lighting up the tower of the abbey, whereas all around it was dark and cloudy. It was amazing.

  5. This place reminds me of the Disney castle even more than the one it was actually inspired by which I actually got to see. This is soo pretty though!

    1. Many thanks 🙂 They look indeed similar. But I guess Disney did not choose St.Michel as the icon because of its dark history as a prison.

    1. Thanks a lot! I was lucky to have this photo. It was shot by another photographer whom I just incidentally met at the Abbey 🙂

  6. Great photos of an incredible monument … the problem with this world is there are too many awesome places to visit and it’s hard to prioritise 😃😃

    1. I totally agree with you! Planning a trip is excited, but prioritizing destinations can sometimes break your head. Some destinations are beautiful, while some have extremely good food. In such cases, I usually let my stomach decide 🙂 Thanks for the compliment!

    1. Many thanks! I highly recommend to spend one night in a nearby hotel because the Mont looks most impressive during high tide. In the morning, the sea level might be low, so you cannot see the Mont’s reflection. The place is also more crowded during the day, though it’s not as bad as Versailles or Paris 🙂

  7. A stunning historical site. I have visited the place years ago but it still amazed with the beauty. I remember there was also french “galettes” store outside the area..

    1. You are right! I cannot remember the exact location, but there was indeed a famous store which specialises in galettes. The shop front is pretty small, but I recognised it thanks to a queue of hungry visitors 🙂

  8. Len, Mont St. Michel has been on my list for so many years and your photos (especially that dusk one) make me want to get on the next plane. Were you just there…how is April/May for crowds? Did you go to Saint Malo (another top priority for me)?

    1. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to Saint Malo. We travelled by train, so it’s a bit difficult to go there from Mont St. Michel. There are buses, but they are scarce.

      I visited Mon St. Michel in May 2016. During the day, it was crowded, though not as terrible as in Paris. But when all the tour buses left, serenity returned and you can have the place for yourself. I would recommend spending a night in a nearby hotel, so you can watch sunset on Mont St. Michel. It’s breathtaking!

  9. I was there so long ago I don’t think the well-developed road was even there at the time. It’s a magnificent spot altho the shops etc were pretty tacky at that time as well. I was actually a student then and am retired now so that gives you an idea of how much time has gone by. it’s just as beautiful now as it was then! Beautifully captured.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Tina! May I ask how you reached Mt. Saint Michel at that time? Was there a bridge or did you have to walk across the muddy bay? I saw groups of pupils did that. It looks fun, but quite strenuous 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: