A childhood dream becomes reality

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Leslie always wanted to see Mont Saint-Michel. 

When she was young, Leslie had a poster on the wall of her room. It was a picture of the iconic French abbey Mont Saint-Michel (MOAN san-me-SHELL), showing the awesome structure poised at the top of an immense rock with sunset (sunrise?) colors all around. She called it “ephemeral,” and has wanted to see the place ever since. So we did. No sunsets, though.

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Looking down on the causeway that leads to the abbey. At high tide, all those people would be swimming.

Seen from a distance, this 10th-century structure rises up like a fortress out of the landscape. When you get closer, it’s truly awesome — there’s the abbey way up on the top of an immense rock, and a village around the lower part. We were there at low tide so we saw people walking in the sand below. At high tide, the rock is an island. There’s a causeway now that leads to the entrance, but in ancient times you needed a boat or patience (waiting for low tide) to get there.

“I’ve always wanted to see Mont Saint-Michel up close,” Leslie said as we were headed back to our group tour van. “I never thought I would see the inside. It’s just amazing!”

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The sanctuary. See the rope on the left side? That’s how they ring the bells.

What she didn’t count on was all the steps we had to climb to reach the actual church where the monks worship. Lots of steps! But it’s worth the climb because you get to see the inside of a structure that was built over 1,000 years ago. We saw the sanctuary where the monks and nuns worship, and the cloisters where they go to meditate — or they did, before thousands of tourists started pouring in daily. There have been changes to the abbey over the centuries, including installation of a statue of Saint Michel himself on the pinnacle. It looks great, but its real purpose is a lightning rod. I’ll add more photos below.

The are only seven monks and five nuns now. Our guide, Caroline, said this is a plum assignment for servants of the Church. This iconic abbey is only inhabited by the best of the best, and only for three years at a time. We saw one nun walking around in a gray habit talking to people.

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Saint Michel gazes over the abbey that bears his name.

The last stop in our tour around Normandy was seeing the Bayeux Tapestry. Formerly housed in the Bayeux Cathedral, it’s now in a museum. The audio guide explains the whole story. The tapestry is an account of events leading up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066 when William Duke of Normandy seized the English throne from King Harold (who was, in truth, a usurper) in what we know as the Norman Conquest. We know William, the first Norman king of England, as William the Conquerer.

They didn’t allow photography in the exhibit, so click on the link above to see some of the scenes, or Google “Bayeux Tapestry” for more information.

Now it’s on to Ireland! We’re in Dublin for a few days, then back to Chicago. See you soon!

 

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Caroline explained that some of the artwork in the abbey, like this pieta, was defaced during the French Revolution.
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A model of the Saint Michel statue. This one overlooks the ticket counter.
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The front of the Bayeux Cathedral, where the Bayeux Tapestry was once housed. We stepped in after dinner at the restaurant on the right, and were treated to organ music. An organist was rehearsing for a concert scheduled for the following evening.
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The back of the Bayeux Cathedral, which was undamaged in World War II because the Allies did not bomb the town of Bayeux.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “A childhood dream becomes reality

  1. FYI … the tapestry is being moved to Englan in 2022 while the Bayeux museum is renovated. If you get the chance, get out of Dublin and head to Donegal in the wild Northwest. It’s worth the trip! — Jerry

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    1. Interesting. Nobody mentioned that, but then it is four years from now, so…
      We did Cliffs of Moher, so we got a bit onto the Wild Atlantic Way. Hope to have that up soon. We’ll get to Donegal and Dingle and Belfast next time!
      Give Eileen a hug for me.

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