Located approximately half a mile off the coast in a bay in Normandy, France, Le Mont St. Michel is a marvel of medieval engineering. It lies in the mouth of the Couesnon river and is surrounded by water at high tide. At low tide one can carefully circumnavigate the island via the mud flats – but care must be taken to stay on the trail, otherwise you risk getting stuck in quicksand.
The island has been inhabited since the sixth century and in the eighth century the first monastery was established. Since then, there have been several modifications and additions to the monastery that make it into the marvel that it is today. An entire community has been constructed within the confines of the island, all to serve the needs of the monks that inhabit the monastery and also the pilgrims that came to visit.
Today, although the island is swarmed with visitors, especially during the summer months, they usually depart en masse when the high tide approaches, which is said to arrive “at the speed of a galloping horse”. Since the sea covers the causeway at high tide it cuts off the only means of access to the mainland, leaving any remaining visitors stranded for several hours. With a permanent population of only 50 or so people, when the masses depart you are presented with an ideal opportunity to experience the atmosphere of what it is like to live here. Early in the morning or late at night the silence is broken only by the subdued and eerie chanting of the monks as they attend their religious rituals.
I have visited Le Mont St Michel on only two occasions. During the first visit I was in awe of its magnificence and also the atmosphere that accompanied the sense of the place. On my second trip I wanted to take images that captured the simplicity of the complex structure in it’s isolated surrounding.