Sunday, June 27, 2010

Le Mont Saint-Michel, 2

(This is the continuation of hubby's write-up on Mont Saint-Michel. Thanks to Warren and Michelle for photos.)

As I push my way through the crowd of wide-eyed visitors, I try to imagine medieval life in the abbey-fortress-village and imagine away the tourists and the numerous shops and restaurants that line the narrow streets that lead up to the summit, the abbey of Saint Michael.

The Gothic style abbey is built on granite and made mostly of granite, and has withstood centuries of climate change, invasions, wars and tourists.

It is said that in the eighth century, the archangel Michael had repeatedly told a certain Bishop Aubert to build the abbey but the stubborn bishop would not, until the angel burned a hole in his skull. Ouch! So if an angel appears to you and tells you to build a castle or a mall or a tourist trap, you better obey or else...!

The original chapel has long been destroyed and the Romanesque church that now stands on the mount was built in the 15th century. A golden statue of St Michael with his sword stands atop the tallest spire, ready to burn a hole into the skull of any wayward friar or tourist.

I liked the narrow streets, the stone ramparts, the moss, the architecture of the houses, and the view of course. Breathtaking. Awe-inspiring. Every so often you’d hear the bells tolling.

Up in the abbey, the Benedictine monks and nuns prepare for mass as tourists gather to witness ancient ritual unfold. One of the monks pulls the rope to ring the bell as another preps the communion stuff on the altar and nuns rush about, oh for whatever reason and settle finally, kneeling on the floor in front of the altar.

I would have stayed but I lost track of time and was afraid I wouldn’t find my group. I wanted to explore some more. Turns out my posse :-) had done more exploring than I did as evidenced by the numerous pictures they took of the abbey and its nooks and crannies that I never saw.

My three crazy nieces—April, Nikki and Michelle—and one taciturn but nonetheless willing accomplice, nephew Warren and designated mother hen, my sister Noemi, did their usual antics, mimicking the statues’ poses and jumping about (they love to jump). I actually envy them; I’m too old and too self-conscious to do these crazy, fun stuff.

From the main chapel, a door leads to the cloister, a squarish courtyard with numerous skinny pillars surrounding a nondescript garden. From there you get a view of the village down below and the shallow waters of the bay of St Malo.

I wander down to the village, trying a different path which led me to a tiny cemetery, the backs of convents and village houses, and a tiny chapel with a statue of St Michael slaying a demon underfoot.

The sun, thankfully, showed up and made the tour more pleasant. I reunited with my wife without the aid of a cellphone. At one point when it got lonely, I started looking for her and soon enough, quite by accident, we bumped into each other. All is well in the world again. :-)

We shared a gelato and decided to explore the town outside the mount, beyond the sandbar.

We rejoined the crazies back at the mount and yes, we found them snacking again, and now loaded with souvenirs too. Wifey and I explored the sandy beach surrounding the islet until it was time to go.

It had been an enjoyable day in a medieval village and now I was looking forward to St Malo, a fortified city just a few miles from Mont St Michel. But that’s tomorrow yet. Back in Rennes, I’m not sure now but I think we just ate inside our room at the hotel and watched French TV until we fell asleep.

Next, Saint Malo
Previous, Le Mont Saint-Michel, 1

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