Mont Saint-Michel

Mont Saint-Michel (James Hunter)

The tiny village of Mont Saint-Michel, France, sits on a tidal island off the west coast of Normandy. Its skyline is dominated by the Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, which was founded in 966 at the site of a chapel popular with Christian pilgrims for over 200 years. Over the centuries more pilgrims came, which contributed to its wealth, increased its political influence and helped with the development of the village.

Until a raised road was built in 1879, the island was only accessible by boat during high tide and surrounded by dangerous quicksand during low tide.

The area was occupied by German soldiers during World War II, and a small contingent of Luftwaffe members was stationed at the island to man an aircraft tracking station built atop the abbey. The island became a popular tourist destination for off-duty German soldiers.

On D-Day, the 6th of June 1944, Allied forces invaded France on the northern beaches of Normandy roughly 100 kilometers north of Mont Saint-Michel. As German soldiers fled south, some sought safety at the island with stories of men arriving barefoot and collapsing from exhaustion.

Over the course of the following months, the German military led a massive retreat as Allied forces liberated the region. On August 1, 1944, an Allied publicity unit was sent to Mont-Saint-Michel where they accepted the surrender of any Germans who had been unable to retreat.

In 1979, Mont Saint-Michel was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The abbey remains an active religious order with two monastic groups still welcoming pilgrims.

Photo by James Hunter.

This photo was featured in our January What’s Up magazine. Email your photo to for a chance to be featured.

author picture
Kat is a travel and lifestyle writer based in Kaiserslautern, Germany with a special interest in anything outdoorsy or ancient. She has a bachelor’s degree in geography from Penn State University and has been a travel writer for about 10 years. Currently, she is in the depths of dissertation research for an archaeology degree at the University of the Highlands and Islands. 

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