June 18, 2013

0684 FRANCE (Normandy) - Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay (UNESCO WHS)

"Rising from a hazy expanse of sand and waves, Mont Saint-Michel appears like Man's defiance of the elements and of time. A rock lost in a landscape smoothed by the wind." I think this description, present in many tourist guides, is very suitable for this rocky tidal island located in Normandy, one kilometre off the country's northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The island's highest point is 92m above sea level.

The island has held fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name.  The legend say that the Archangel Michael appeared in 708 to St. Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on its islet. Aubert ignored the angel's instruction until Michael burned a hole in the bishop's skull with his finger. The king of the Franks granted the Cotentin peninsula, including Mont-Saint-Michel, to the Bretons, but in 933 William Longsword annexed it and made it definitively part of Normandy.

The Romanesque church of the abbey was designed by the italian architect William de Volpiano in the 11th century, and the structure of the buildings was reinforced in the 12th century, when was also built the main façade of the church. In the following century was erected a new Gothic-style architectural set which included the addition of the refectory and cloister. Charles VI added major fortifications to the abbey-mount, building towers, successive courtyards and strengthening the ramparts.

The tides in the area can vary greatly, at roughly 14m between high and low water marks. Mont Saint-Michel was previously connected to the mainland via a tidal causeway, but it has been altered over the centuries. The coastal flats have been polderised to create pastureland, and in 1879 the tidal causeway was converted into a raised or dry causeway. In 2009 was began the construction of a dam, now completed, but the project will continue, the causeway being replaced by a light bridge, allowing the waters to flow freely around the island. Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1979.

About te stamps
The first five stamps are from the definitive series  Marianne et l'Europe, issued on July 1, 2008, about which I wrote here. The last stamp is commemorative one, issued on January 4 2013 for the Year of the Snake.

Mont Saint-Michel - Wikipedia

sender: Marie Morlon (direct swap)
sent from Metz (France), on 04.03.2013
photo: Jo Labbe

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