photograph by John Speerstra
Its silhouette is one of the most recognizable in the world. Floating there, surrounded by water and sheep-grazed salt flats, Mt. Tombe, as the founding monk Aubert called it back in the 8th century, still beckons pilgrims of every ilk. Three million every year.
What is it about this Norman village/castle/church that draws us to such a remote place perched in the sea between Brittany and Normandy? Perhaps it's the gold steepled statue of the Archangel Michael who watches over the place. Perhaps it's the challenge of the climb. According to a friend's pedometer, it took 2,102 steps up the inner staricase to get to the upper cloisters and back.
Working our way through labyrinthine crypts, past ramparts, flying buttresses and pillars, we marveled at the gigantic wheeled winch that defied stones' gravity and brought building supplies up so precariously high. We breathed in the mystic air of this place once called by the Celts, Ynys Trebes. We paused in the scriptorium where monks once copied and illuminated manuscripts. Forty-two people presently live full time on the rock--merchants, prayers, chanters, administrators.
You enter Mt. St. Michel through the King's Gate and suddenly you're in a world apart. A stony world once home to Benedictines and then to prisoners during the French Revolution. And to miracles, some say.
Fritjof Capra's brother Bernt took his brother's Turning Point and made it into a movie called Mind Walk.At one point one of three people who accidentally meet there says, "You can feel the place watching you."
Indeed, you can.