Located in Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel is an island that can only be accessed by bus or foot. Like any other major French landmark, it has an interesting history.
The original site was founded by an Irish hermit. First used as an Armorican stronghold in the 6th and 7th centuries, it was then ransacked by the Franks. Legend has it that, in the 8th century, the archangel Michael appeared to Bishop Aubert of Avranches and pressured him into building a church at the top. The adjoining monastery draws its name from the latter as well.
Mont-Saint-Michel withstood the assaults of the English during the Hundred Years' War. Due to the lack of monks in residence, the abbey was closed after the French Revolution and converted into a prison. In 1836, a campaign led by influential figures like Victor Hugo helped restore the status of the religious monument. The prison was closed in 1863, and the mount declared a historic monument a decade later. Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay have been part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1979.
Visiting the Mont-Saint-Michel is like stepping back in time (if you can overlook the large number of tourists that swarm the island all year long). Indeed, the town is built as an example of how feudal society worked: "At the top there is God. Lower, there are the abbey and monastery. Below this, there are the Great halls, then stores and housing. At the bottom, outside the walls, there are the houses of fishermen and farmers." (Wikipedia)
Mont-Saint-Michel has a circumference of about 960 metres and is 92 metres tall. It currently has 44 inhabitants.
One thing I learnt during my visit to Mont-Saint-Michel is that the population was massacred at the beginning of the 13th century. Apparently, the Duke of Brittany, set fire to the village but was unable to conquer the abbey because of its stone fortifications.
During the Hundred Years War, the abbey resisted attacks from the English army for three decades!