By: April Carson
A millennium ago, construction began on a magnificent island building off the coast of France. As it rose from the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it became an enduring symbol of national fortitude. Even today, the edifice serves as a reminder of the strength and resilience of the people who built it.
The stunning medieval abbey that crowns Mont Saint-Michel is a breathtaking masterpiece. Its cascading walls and buttresses, descending from a lofty central spire, have played a crucial role in French history over the centuries. This is reflected in its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, testament to the enduring beauty and significance of this remarkable building.
Today marks a millennium since the work began, and now the site is among the most renowned tourist attractions in the country after Paris. However, its own success has sometimes become its downfall, with its caretakers urging visitors to stay away due to overwhelming crowds. This has led to a rise in the development of nearby tourist facilities, which can distract from the natural beauty of this historic building.
For centuries, the abbey off the coast of France's Normandy region, west of Paris, has been a destination for pilgrims. Attracting 1.3 million tourists annually, the site's spiritual significance has evolved into a cultural and historical landmark.
“In the span of 1,000 years, its silhouette has become an emblem of French universalism,” French President Emmanuel Macron said of Mont Saint-Michel. “It stands at the confluence of our country's civilizational forces — secular and sacred, rural and urban, local and universal — in a perpetual dialogue between past and present."
The abbey's birthday is being celebrated with a series of events at the Mont, including concerts, conferences, and a visually stunning "Millennium Solstice" light show on June 23. In addition, visitors can explore an exhibition showcasing the fascinating history and architecture of the abbey, which will be available until November 2023.
In 1944, Ernest Hemingway, a war correspondent at the time, supposedly recounted the D-Day landings and one of the pivotal battles for the liberation of France and Europe. He did so while seated at La Mère Poulard's table, near the town of Avranches which had been completely destroyed. The battle in question occurred just a short distance away, near Mont Saint-Michel.
It is clear that Mont Saint-Michel has long been a symbol of strength and resilience. In the face of a turbulent past and an uncertain future, it stands strong as one of France's most beloved landmarks.
Throughout its history, Mont Saint-Michel has been an exceptionally popular pilgrimage site, attracting millions of devotees. According to Thomas Velter, Managing Director of Mont Saint-Michel National Public Establishment, it was once the largest pilgrimage site in the West, surpassing even Santiago de Compostela. And while the numbers have dwindled in recent times, its spiritual significance still remains.
This historical site is a timeless reminder of France’s rich cultural legacy and stands as an example of how strength and resilience can rise out of even the most tumultuous circumstances. As we celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Mont Saint-Michel, let us take this moment to reflect on its grandeur and remember the inspiring story of how it came to be.
According to Velter, "We set a new record by selling 10,500 tickets at the abbey. Despite the usual hustle and bustle of Ascension weekend, there were a lot of people who came all at once and the atmosphere was amazing. This is a testament to how much Mont Saint-Michel really means to people all over the world – it's an experience that transcends borders, language, and culture."
While not a record, the number of visitors on site - roughly 33,000 - was still significant for Mont, which typically receives this volume of tourists in August during peak season. Moreover, the number of visitors was particularly high considering the pandemic. This shows Mont Saint-Michel's enduring appeal and how it is still able to attract people from all over the world despite current events.
“Mont Saint-Michel is not only an architectural feat, but a beacon of history and faith,” concluded Velter. “For 1,000 years it has stood as a symbol of France's cultural heritage and remains a popular tourist destination which is also cherished by pilgrims who come to experience the spiritual power of this ancient site.”
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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