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Mont-Saint-Michel, Abbey of


A former Benedictine foundation and the principal shrine of the Archangel michael in northern Europe, situated in the Diocese of Coutances and the arrondissement of Avranches, Manche Department, France, on a rocky island connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway. In obedience to a vision of St. Michael, aubert, Bishop of Avranches, built an oratory on this site c. 708, and in 966 Richard I, Duke of Normandy, endowed a benedictine monastery there, giving the abbot temporal jurisdiction over the island. In c. 1023 Abbot Hildebert II caused a platform to be leveled on the summit of the rock in order to build a new church, and this was only the first stage of a plan to cover the entire rock with monastic buildings, an undertaking that was made difficult by the nature of the terrain as well as by the hazards of war and fire. Nevertheless this grand design was accomplished in 1520 when the choir was completed; and because the monastery occupied so important a strategic position in the wars between France and England in the later Middle Ages, it was also strongly fortified. From 1523 to 1622 the house was administered by commendatory abbots (see commendation), and the community declined. It was then given to the maurists, who remained there until the French Revolution, when the house was secularized. From 1789 to 1863 the monastery was used as a prison, but in 1874 it was recognized as a public monument, and necessary restorations in the structure were undertaken. Since 1922 the monastery church has been restored to use as a place of worship.

Bibliography: l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâon 193539) 2:18971908. s. luce, ed., Chronique du Mont-Saint-Michel, 13431468, 2 v. (Paris 187983). É. corroyer, Description de l'abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel et de ses abords, précedée d'une notice historique (Paris 1877). p. gout, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, histoire de l'abbaye et de la ville, étude archéologique et architecturale des monuments, 2 v. (Paris 1910). g. bazin, Le Mont-Saint-Michel (Paris 1933). k. hofmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 7:593. h. adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (new ed. London 1950).

[b. hamilton]

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