Mont-Saint-Michel – Work in Progress 5: The Abbey


The  abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is both amazing and complete madness. Every map I have of it (and I have a lot) disagrees with the rest about what rooms are on what floor.

The thing is, the floors here don’t just neatly stack on top of each other like most buildings. Imagine a house with five basements. Each one has a staircase leading down to it and each one goes to a different depth. One goes 10 feet down, another 15, another 20. Now imagine that the one that goes 15 feet down has two more staircases: one that goes up to the 10 foot basement and another that goes down to some other room 5 feet lower. Now imagine that, because this house is built on a steep rock, some of these basements lead outside. That’s what the abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is like.

There’s some pretty interesting stuff down there, though. In the lower-left corner is a collapsed building that used to be a hotel. And just north of that, past the toilets, are the dungeons. Yes, this abbey has dungeons. God and the church maintain differing policies on the issue of forgiveness.

To the right of the dungeons is one of the oldest parts of the abbey, a church known as Our Lady of the Underground. You’ve also got the Crypts of Aquitaine, a disused cistern, a chapel undercroft and an old kitchen which may actually be a toilet (sources disagree).

I’m going to do the rest of the abbey next. I’ve finally managed to wrap my head around what goes where in this place and I don’t want to forget and have to figure it out again. I’ll be back with the second level, which has a bunch more underground tunnels, an ossuary, crypts and assorted other dead people storage facilities.

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