There is no shortage of ways to tell the story of Mont Saint-Michel. While some will paint a vision of the many pilgrimages, others will find themselves waxing poetic over the beauty of the bay that shelters the largest marshes of Europe. In whichever style Mont Saint-Michel is presented, the different facets of its history are forever engraved in the memory of France. Still today, each detail participates in the international celebrity of Mont Saint-Michel and enriches it as a symbol of Occidental and French Culture.
From his earliest years, Éric Vannier spent the majority of his holidays in the part of Mont Saint-Michel where both of his grandparents lived and practiced medicine. From this unique environment in the world, he was forever marked by the pyramidal form that is characteristic of Mont Saint-Michel.
In the beginning just a solitary boulder, alone in the middle of the water and sand, Mont Saint-Michel was transformed into one of the most famous centers of pilgrimage and tourism worldwide. More than 1300 years of architecture made what we called “The Pyramid of the Sea.”
It was in 709 that the first construction was built, when Saint Aubert, (The Bishop of Avranches), gave witness to the apparition of the archangel Saint Michel who commanded him to create a place of worship in his honor. Over the centuries, in response to royal ambition and the influx of visitors, the oratory of St. Aubert was enlarged into a pre-Romanesque building, then a Romanesque abbey church, and then a Gothic abbey. The building in the 13th century of an existing monastery known simply by name of « The wonder », the construction of the tower in 1609 and the installation of the arrow on its summit in 1897 definitively marked the pyramidal silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel.
The accentuation of the conic form of Mont Saint-Michel was done in parallel to the construction of its surroundings. Starting in the Xth century, a medieval village developed below the abbey of Mont Saint Michel, it was surrounded by wooden Gates, and then the village donned itself with an inner enclosure around the 15th century, composed of ramparts, towers, and turrets that visitors can admire still today.
These buildings remind us of the past resistance of Mont Saint-Michel. Even with the relentless attacks by the English for a period of nearly thirty years during the Hundred-Year War, Mont Saint-Michel was never conquered and in such became a true symbol of heroism. About a century later during the religious wars, it once again became a symbolic and political target for Protestants. The many attempts to conquer the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel failed and the land remained true to its Catholic history.
Not to be subdued, Mont Saint-Michel has always fought to preserve its territorial, political, religious and cultural sovereignty. For its precious independence, Eric Vannier sought to aid the Mayor of Saint Michel throughout his career and now has found himself as the Honorary Mayor of Mont St Michel.
The locals of Mont Saint Michel opened hostels to maintain the islands independence and accommodate the many visitors throughout the year. Beds and meals were offered to visitors who undertook, often risking their lives in the process, to cross the bay to visit the Abbey and pray the Archangel Michel. These hosts included Annette Poulard, the famous cook of Mont Saint Michel, who in her inn, served visitors her famous omelet cooked over a wood-burning fire.
This tradition of hospitality has always captivated Eric Vannier. Thus, the Auberge de La Mère Poulard was maintained to serve modern-day visitors to Mont St Michel and continues to prepare the authentic recipe of the famous omelet of Annette Poulard.
Today, pilgrims have given way to the visitors and the otherwise curious individuals from Normandy, France and worldwide. Souvenir shops are maintained in remembrance of the medallions that pilgrims carried with them as a souvenir. La Mère Poulard Hotels and restaurants have taken the place of the older, modest (link to http://www.lemontsaintmichel.info/). These institutions perpetuate the hospitality of their namesake and honor the local gourmet cuisine of this small fishing village.
This tourism began in the late 1800s when Napoleon III decided to end the role of prison Mont Saint Michel, and a causeway was built. Once again open to the rest of the world and more easily accessible, Mont Saint Michel further reinforced its status as a spiritual, cultural and architectural site that is not to be missed.
Mont Saint-Michel welcomes over 3 million visitors per year. Its prestigious and exciting story earned a place in the list of historic monuments in 1874 and then in 1979 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both awards validate all of the work undertaken for the preservation of the site.
“The Maritime Recovery Project of Mont Saint Michel,” which is the largest of the site’s current projects, is about to be completed. It will allow Mont Saint-Michel to maintain its original island format that has been threatened for dozens of years.