Mont-Saint-Michel is a small town located on a bantam island off the seashores of Normandy, in France. Surrounded by the Mont Saint Michel bay, the site is a tidal island: portion of the land at low tide, but an island at high tide. Previously called the “ Mont Tombe ” , its current name comes from the St Michel Abbey ( built in the eighth century ) , which is one of the several historical edifices of the site. It belongs to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites ( since 1979 ) , and is nicknamed “ the Wonder of the West ” . It is the more visited site in Normandy and the 2nd one in France. Merely 46 people are populating in the small town, but more than 3 million people visit it each twelvemonth ( Pierre Le Hir, inA«A Le Mont-Saint-Michel rendu a l’eauA A» ) . Mont Saint Michel is a portion of Gallic Culture and has inspired a batch of celebrated instrumentalists and authors ( for case Guy De Maupassant ) .

In prehistoric times the saddle horse was land. It became an island because of eroding. But this position was compromised by several human developments: polderisation, canalisation of the Couesnon River ( the chief river around the mont ) , building of a causeway to entree the siteaˆ¦the Gallic province had to get down the “ projet Mont-Saint-Michel ” in order to take the accrued silt and do the Mont-Saint-Michel an island once more. More late, its position of “ World Heritage Site ” was threatened by a windmill undertaking nearby the Mont Saint Michel. These windmills could blow the position and denature the landscapeaˆ¦

This illustrates the job of sustainability when working a cultural heritage site for touristry. Except the Saint Michel abbey, owned by the Gallic province, the all site belongs to merely three households. Why can we state that Mont-Saint-Michel belongs to the Gallic cultural heritage? What do attract people so much and do them pass money on sing this topographic point? Who manage such a symbolic topographic point? Is at that place a danger in runing civilization and concern?


I-A cultural Heritage

1 ) A topographic point steeped in history

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2 ) A touchable cultural heritage

3 ) Which intangible heritage?

II-Tourism in Mont-Saint-Michel

1 ) Pilgrimage

2 ) A touristic topographic point

3 ) The impacts of mass touristry

III-Managing Mont-Saint-Michel

1 ) Stakeholders

2 ) Main beginnings of tenseness

3 ) A win-win equation

I ) A cultural heritage

1 ) A topographic point steeped in history

Mont Saint-Michel was antecedently called “ Mont Tombe ” . In 708, the archangel Saint-Michel appeared to Aubert, bishop of Avranches, to inquire for the building of a edifice to lease its virtues. Thinking to go fool the bishop do n’t make anything, but the 3rd clip the archangel appears, it last a cogent evidence of its powers: a round hole in Aubert ‘s skull. This fable explains the beginning of the building of the first edifice on the Mont Tombe, a little church dedicated to Saint Michel, in 709.

In 966, Benedictines monks settle in the abbey. They are great builders: they build a church and a batch of adjustments around it. This day of the month is considered as the foundation of the abbey. The topographic point becomes celebrated and many pilgrims come to see the abbey, and small town appears in the undermentioned old ages. After several catastrophes that discouraged the monastics, Robert De Thorigny is elected abbot in 1154. He contributes to do the Mont Saint Michel more powerful, rich, and wholly revitalized spiritually talking.

During the Hundred Years ‘ war, Du Guesclin is named head of the saddle horse ‘s fort. He wins all his conflicts and, although all Normandy is occupied by the English ground forces, Mont Saint-Michel remains free. This triumph is told to be due to Saint Michel, and of all time more pilgrims come to the abbey. After the war, in 1523, Louis XI decides to turn it into a prison. He now nominates the archimandrite, who is by and large non ecclesiasticaˆ¦this system raises immense controversies and eventually destroy the abbey. The Revolution makes thing worst, the site becomes a full-time prison, and all monastics are driven out the Mount in 1790

From this day of the month the Mount is falling in ruins, but many authors like Hugo or Flaubert drive force per unit area on the authorities to reconstruct the chief edifices. The prison is closed in 1963 and the abbey is classified Historic Building in 1874. In 1898, the reparations are done and give to the Mount its current visual aspect. Tourism become to turn and a new community of monastics settle in 1963.

2 ) An intangible heritage

The undermentioned map of Mont-Saint-Michel was taken from the web site “ hypertext transfer protocol: //www.le-mont-saint-michel.orgA A» .

Figure 1: Map of Mont-Saint-Michel

It is truly of import to depict, even briefly, the memorials of the small town. Peoples come with some outlooks of what they will see here.

a- The Abbey

The first payoff of the abbey was built in 708 by the bishop of Avranches, Aubert. Since that clip the edifice wholly changed due to many causes like the reaching of new monastics, the demand to welcome more pilgrims, the fright to confront a war or calamities such as fires or prostrations. The building of the concluding edifice took 1200 yearsaˆ¦We can now watch three different manners of architecture: Romanesque, Gothic and Flamboyant. The abbey is divided in 2 parts: the abbey church ( where the monastics lived ) and the Wonder ( which is divided in 2 suites themselves divided in 3 suites each ) . The religious residence is located inside the Wonder.

An of import thing to understand is that the abbey is built on a pitched stone. Furthermore the site was truly difficult to entree, particularly when transporting heavy natural stuffs. The simple fact of constructing something on here can be considered as a existent circuit de force.

b- Other points of involvement

The abbey entirely does non belong to the UNESCO list of World heritage site, but the full small town. 63 edifices are protected as Historical Buildings by the Gallic curate or Culture: houses, fountains, garden, towers and walls, churches, chapelsaˆ¦

Some of them are truly celebrated, as for case:

-The wall around the metropolis. Built to defy to the English invasion during the Hundred Years war, the munitions are truly good conserved. A short walk on the wall gives the chance of sing the towers and offers an astonishing position on the bay environing the small town.

-Tiphaine ‘s house. Built by the Gallic hero Du Guesclin for his married woman during the Hundred Years war, it is all furnished like it was during the Middle Age. It gives a existent thought of how knights were populating at that clip.

-The Bourg. In the South East of the saddle horse stand the small town. It has truly narrow and weaving streets. 12 houses built between the XIVth and the XVIth century still exist.

Mont-Saint-Michel could be a good illustration of “ the universe as exhibition ” ( Bella Dicks, 2004 ) , each “ common thing ” tourers do here ( have a java, walk in the streetaˆ¦ ) is a cultural experience.

-Food! It is an of import portion of the civilization, which must non be forgotten. The omelet Poulard is a peculiar omelet, where the white and the yalk have been battered individually. Another reputed repast is the pre salted meat ( lamb or sheep ) . Lambs and sheep frequently graze grass, that have been covered by saltwater, that gives a truly peculiar gustatory sensation to their meat.

c-The bay

The bay environing the small town offers an astonishing landscape. Medieval pilgrims nicknamed the site “ Saint Michel in hazard of the sea ” because of the amplitude of the tides: 14 metres between high Markss and low Markss. This tide is the biggest in Europe. Victor Hugo usage to state that those tides change “ every bit fast as a galloping Equus caballus ” ( original citation: “ a la vitesse d’un cheval gold gallop ” ) . Because of this velocity and the presence of quicksand, a batch a pilgrims use to decease seeking to entree the small town by walking outside the common manner. Owing to polderisation and human buildings, Mont Saint Michel became an island merely during high tides of equinox ( 53 yearss a twelvemonth ) . The spectacle of H2O coming rapidly to environ the small town is told to be the most dramatic thing to see when sing the saddle horse.

The bay belongs to the UNESCO list of World heritage site ( since 1979 ) . When the tide is low it becomes a natural modesty, and a great topographic point for promenades.

3 ) Which intangible heritage?

By its history, the beauty of its edifice and the stateliness of the landscape around it, Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the most visited touristic sites in France. It belongs to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 1979, honoring both the human created beauty and the natural beauty of the landscape. But the “ Wonder of the West ” is non merely a nice topographic point, beloved for the beauty of its architecture and landscape. The captivation for the saddle horse began during the in-between age in France and was since so transmitted by art.

Mentions can be found in “ classical humanistic disciplines ” like literature, paintingaˆ¦a few illustrations:

-Claude Debussy may hold been inspired by the small town when composing his piano preliminary La Cathedrale engloutie ( written between 1909 and 1913 ) .

-Paul Feval wrote about fables of the Mont-Saint-Michel in La fee des greves in 1850

-In Le Horla ( Guy De Maupassant ) in 1887, the narrative ends in the Mont-Saint-Michel

But mentions can besides be found in more modern signifier of art: film, sketch, and even pictures gamesaˆ¦

-Bruno Bertin created in 1999 and 2000 two sketchs taking topographic point at the Mont-Saint-Michel ( called Les archanges du Mont-Saint-Michel: le testament, which means: Archangel of Mont-Saint-Michel: the testimony )

-The architecture and construction of the small town inspired Peter Jackson to make the metropolis of Minas Tirith, in his movie The Lord of the Ringss: the Return of the King.

-Several scenes of the movie Pauline a La plage ( Pauline at the beach ) from Eric Rohmer take topographic point at the saddle horse ‘s bay.

-The Mont-Saint-Michel is proposed as map for multiplayer games in the picture game Assassin ‘s Creed Brotherhood ( Microsoft )

A batch of other illustrations could be found. The of import thing to notice is that the “ Wonder of the West ” has been and still is a existent beginning of inspiration for creative persons. We can happen mentions in old fables, in literature of the Renaissance, but besides in new signifier of civilization as for case picture games.

II ) Tourism in Mont-Saint-Michel

1 ) Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage can be considered as the first signifier of touristry, induced by spiritual believing. The first pilgrim who went to the Mont Saint-Michel was the franc monastic Bernard, between 867 and 868. In the undermentioned old ages the inflow of pilgrims kept turning, particularly during the XIth century. A truly heavy web of paths heading to the saddle horse appeared, and with them infirmaries, inns where pilgrims received charity. Among those paths, called “ manner to heaven ” , many churches and monasteries were built to give a small remainder to the pilgrims. The inflow grew so much that during the XIVth century, some people died from the overcrowding of the sanctuary. Pilgrims had the wont to convey back from Mont-Saint-Michel a little shell, symbol of the metropolis.

But during the undermentioned century, pilgrim’s journey decreased because of the Hundred Years war, but did non halt wholly. The fable of Saint Michael, last guardian of the land, was reinforced by the heroic opposition of the small town and pilgrims came from Netherlands, Rhinelandaˆ¦But pilgrim’s journey continued to diminish, largely after the Gallic Revolution. Now pilgrims are non legion to travel to the Mont Saint-Michel, but another sort of visitants took their topographic point: tourers.

2 ) A touristic topographic point

In this paragraph, all informations are taken from a survey about touristry in Mont-Saint-Michel realized by Odit France ( which is a group created to ease the development of touristry in France ) . This survey has been realized in 2004. Odit France is a dependable organisation ; its work is used by a batch of professionals in the touristry industry.

Who is sing Mont-Saint-Michel?

In sum more than 3 million people visit the site each twelvemonth. 75 % of them go at that place by auto: it means that about 1 million autos take the route to the saddle horse. 75 % of the tourers are Gallic, and 25 % semen from foreign states: largely Belgium and Great Britain, but besides Japan, North America, Italy, Germany.

Most people come at that place in twosome ( 40 % ) or with household ( 30 % ) . Then follow friends groups ( 15.5 % ) and organized Tourss ( 14 % ) . The staying 0.5 % contains people going entirely ( frequently pilgrims ) or for concern intent.

Why do they travel at that place?

Peoples who already came there before are truly faithful: it is in the mean the 6th clip. If two 3rd planned their trip a few months or hebdomads ago, merely on 3rd took the clip to garner some information before. Merely 26 % go to the Tourism Office. For more than a half of them ( 53 % ) , Mont-Saint-Michel is the chief ground of the trip. 63 % of entire people take benefits from being in the country to travel to Saint-Malo, and 25 % to Avranches. Merely 26 % of them know the bayaˆ¦

What comes out is that Mont-Saint-Michel has a existent attractive force power, which contributes to do Normandy the 2nd part for touristry in France. Mont-Saint-Michel is a primary finish, which means that most of tourers here truly wanted to travel at that place, that was the first aim of their trip. But tourers frequently profit from being here to see other parts of Normandy, about two 3rd go to Saint-Malo during the same trip.

How do they act?

The tourers frequently stay a few yearss: merely 34 % stay one twenty-four hours, 16 % two yearss, 21 % three yearss and 31 % stay four yearss. It seems of import sing to the propinquity of where they come from: merely 18 % travel more than 5 hours to travel at that place. For 40 % of the visitants, the travel last less than 2 hours. An mean visit of the saddle horse takes 3h10 and 25 % purchase a keepsake ( for an mean monetary value of 28 euros ) . The most surprising information is that merely one tierce of the tourers go to the Saint-Michel abbey!

It means that the small town is an attractive topographic point by itself, and non merely because of the abbey. Peoples come for the ambiance, the history, the landscape, the planetary architectureaˆ¦and merely sing the small town is an experience of cultural touristry.

3 ) The impacts of touristry

Such a mass touristry phenomenon has several impacts on the topographic point where it occurs. 3 million people visit each twelvemonth a topographic point which has merely 46 inhabitantsaˆ¦

The most obvious is of class the economic impact. It is divided in two classs: direct incomes and induced incomes. Direct incomes symbolize the sum straight given by tourers to the cultural establishments. For illustration entryway fees, ushers, keepsakes… In the instance of Mont-Saint-Michel, the sum is non truly high. For illustration, the full monetary value to see the abbey is 13 euros, but of import decreases exist ( for groups, studentsaˆ¦ ) . So this direct beginning of income represents a little portion of the entire sum generated by touristry. The most of import portion must be measured at a regional graduated table. All tourers spend money for adjustment, eating house services, conveyance, shopping. This impact is difficult to insulate from the “ normal ” incomes of the leisure sector. In the part the Manche, where the saddle horse is located, touristry is the 3rd beginning of incomes ( estimated at 475 million euros ) , after edifice and civil work and agribusiness[ 1 ]. The most portion comes from annex activities ( such as eating houses, bars, stores, other services ) with 65 % of the entire sum. Accommodation comes following with 22 % and eventually leisure activities with 13 % . In 2007 8 % of the entire employment in Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay was due to tourism[ 2 ]. To compare, the mean rate in France is 4.6 % , in Normandy 4 % . Thankss to the touristry sector, Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay is the country where employment raises the more in Normandy[ 3 ].

But aggregate touristry can besides hold immense negative impacts. Pollution is of class one of them. Buildings are deteriorating faster, the small town is overcrowdedaˆ¦40 % of the visitants declare to hold been annoyed because of the overcrowding. 50 % met circulation jobs on the span. Another job of mass touristry is the deficiency of genuineness. Tourists want to see what they are happy to believe to be the genuineness of a topographic point, but non needfully its world ( McKercher and du Cros, 2002 ) . So the topographic point alterations to run into the tourer ‘s standardsaˆ¦the tourers are given what they wanted to see, how they imagine it was ( Bella Dicks, 2004 ) . For case, Tiphaine ‘s house has been wholly made up, decorated with old furniture from everyplace in the small town, to demo how life was at this clip. But it is presented as her house, because people want to hold an accurate position on it. Tourism has become responsible for rendering most events superficial ( Boorstin, 1964: 77-117 ) .

What is the mechanism taking to such state of affairss? Who have to pay for the edifice of new substructures, which will let to welcome more tourers, and to be more respectful of the environment?

III ) Pull offing Mont-Saint-Michel

1 ) Stakeholders

Even if the all island belongs to the Gallic cultural heritage, the Gallic province merely owns the abbey. The direction of Mont Saint-Michel was given to the National Building centre, which is in charge of more than 100 historical edifices. It missions are to heighten the site, to reconstruct and protect it, and besides to print literature that have a nexus with the Mont Saint-Michel.

All the other edifices are owned by merely 3 households, which are sharing both economic and political power. Jean-Yves VETELE is the manager of the house Sodetour, which run several hotels in Mont-Saint-Michel. Patrick GAULOIS, city manager between March 2001 and March 2008, besides owns eating houses and hotels. But the most powerful is Eric VANNIER, the current city manager ( since 2008 ) . He is the proprietor of the group “ Mere Poulard ” , which is in charge of half the eating houses, hotels and stores of the small town. The group besides owns some museums. The group truly belongs to the traditions of Mont-Saint-Michel. Annette Poulard owned a eating house at the beginning of the 19 ‘s century. The topographic point rapidly became celebrated thanks to its omelettes, and Annette opened new eating houses and hotels in the small town. Now the group non merely ain hotels and eating houses, but it produces and exports biscuits all over the universe, and benefits from the image of genuineness of Annette Poulard. This stakeholder has a cardinal function because he takes portion both in the touristry industry and in the direction of cultural heritage.

2 ) Main beginnings of tenseness

Presents, Mont-Saint-Michel bay is threatened by the accretion of silt. This phenomenon is natural, and occurs in every bay. During high tides, the watercourse is fast and brings a big measure of deposits to the bay. But during low tides, the watercourse is much slower. The biggest atoms start to lodge. As the tide is traveling out, the atoms increasingly deposit. Normally, rivers clean up this accretion of silt, and decelerate down the phenomenon: that is called the “ flushing consequence ” .

But human buildings disturb this function in the instance of Mont Saint Michel bay. The long tradition of polderisation started in the VIIIth century. Many butchs were built to deviate rivers and make new fertile lands. In 1859 and 1863, two submergible butchs are built: they divert three rivers ( the See, The Selune and the Couesnon ) . But they do non protect lands from the higher tides, which carry the more silt: In 1879, a butch is erected to give a lasting entree to the saddle horse. It instantly raised controversies, both from environmental guardians and from creative persons ( Victor Hugo, Guy de Maupassant ) .Those intercessions accelerate the natural phenomenon and during the center of the XX century, this phenomenon was to be taken earnestly: the island could go a existent portion of the land in the decennaries to come.

To confront this job, the Gallic province started in 2005 the undertaking “ Mont Saint Michel ” .

-The first measure of this undertaking was the building of a new dike on the Couesnon. Built between 2006 and 2008, this dike stated to work in May 2009. It will follow the motion of the tide, in order to set up the flush consequence back. The old one was destroyed in 2008.

-Then the river has been cleaned from all the silt, in order the have a stronger watercourse and to reconstruct the “ flushing consequence ” .

-The devastation of the old causeway and the old parking started last twelvemonth. A new parking will be built 1.3 kilometres far from Mont-Saint-Michel ( the terminal is planned for 2012 ) . The saddle horse will be freed from auto noise and pollution and the visitants will be able to bask a small purest nature.

This cost of this undertaking is evaluated at 164 million euros: 75.43 from the Gallic province, 3.80 from the Water Company, 59.62 from the Mixt Syndicate ( construction composed by local Territorial collectivities ) and 21.15 from the European Regional Development Found ( ERDF ) .

Another argument began in 2009, after the acceptation of a air current farm undertaking near from Mont-Saint-Michel. An increasing figure of associations and personalities got revolted, fearing the waste of one of the most celebrated landscape in France. In fact, the air current farm undertaking concerns an country located 19 kilometres off from the saddle horse. Two other undertakings in the same country, non accepted yet, raise the same controversies. Powerless, the associations asked the aid of the UNESCO. During the summer 2010, the being declared to be preoccupied by those undertakings, and asked more inside informations about them. Mont-Saint-Michel could lose its belonging to the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. This happened merely twice since the signature of Convention Refering the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage ( Oman ‘s Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in 2007, the Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany in 2009aˆ¦because of the edifice of a span in the vale ) . The reply will be known on June 2011.

There is a large argument in France refering air current agriculture. Some defend it as a clean beginning of energy, others argue that it wastes the landscape and makes excessively much noise. The point is that with the figure of Mont-Saint-Michel, the “ against ” side have found a powerful symbol to support. Because it represents the Gallic civilization, it is easier to convert the public sentiment. For the touristry industry, the loss of the World Heritage site label could be a existent catastrophe.

3 ) A win-win equation

“ In entrepreneurial metropoliss, there no longer look to be clear limit between metropolis authorities, commercialism and civic civilization ” ( Hubbard and Hall, 1998 )

Many tensenesss could happen between the stakeholders that have to work together. But in each instance, both parts have the same involvement: the more diversified and qualitative the civilization show is, the more attractive the topographic point will be. And more tourers means more incomes for the touristry industry. This last makes easier the entree to civilization and by paying more revenue enhancements to the province, conveying more grants by the authorities.

Those attempts, made by both touristry industry and cultural establishments, are more of import when covering with heritage. The hazard could be to concentrate excessively much on the heritage, to remain fixed on the past. But these activities bring a dynamism that is extremely benefic for Mont-Saint-Michel. For case, concerts are organized about each month in the abbey. During the summer ( 5 July- 31 August this twelvemonth ) , it is possible to see the abbey by dark. Each twelvemonth, during the summer, the festival “ 13 centuries between the sea and the sky ” takes topographic point in the streets of Mont-Saint-Michel. This festival of Christian Art targets to do people more cognizant of the spiritualty of the saddle horse by utilizing art. Workshops, eyeglassess, concerts will be proposedaˆ¦but besides meetings with Christian creative persons and spiritual communities, a walk and the pilgrim ‘s roadaˆ¦Many Christian voluntaries take a portion in the organisation of the 4th edition of this of import event. It symbolizes a will to retrieve the Christians beginnings of the saddle horse, which have been relegated to the background by touristry. It is a manner to reactivate the spiritual life in Mont-Saint-Michel.

Herve Novelli, French honorary curate in charge of touristry ( 2009 ) : “ [ Mont-Saint-Michel ] meets success because of a invariable will to accommodate and regenerate its offer ” . He puts the accent of the importance for the touristry industry and the cultural establishments to work together, in order create ever more value, pull more tourers and bring forth more incomes.


Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the most visited topographic point in France. Steeped profoundly into the Gallic history, the saddle horse brings together the beauty of nature and the beauty of human creative activity. Every edifice on this island is a existent circuit de force, and contrast with the stateliness of the landscape. Mont-Saint-Michel truly belongs to the Gallic cultural heritage because it has both touchable and intangible assets. A big figure of tourers, “ modern times pilgrims ” , are ready to go and pay to see it. If touristry can hold immense negative impacts on the topographic points where it occurs, it besides brings the money needed to salvage and develop them. There are a batch of beginnings of tenseness in such a touristic country. They are even worse when touristry is by far the first beginning of incomes.

Tourism and cultural direction are auxiliary and can derive immense benefits by working together. In Mont-Saint-Michel, the weak figure of stakeholders is a existent advantage. One of them even belongs to both parts: Eric VANNIER, who owns hotels, eating houses and museums. It facilitates the cooperation and the common comprehension. This cooperation leads to a changeless renewing of the offer, an version to the demand, while continuing the cultural heritage. But wholly confluent concern and civilization would be unsafe, and could straight drive to a loss of genuineness. The balance is truly fragileaˆ¦

To protect it, each side must hold a truly specific function. The two parts are needed to make and maintain the balance. Tourism industry has to happen out what are the demands and the outlooks of cultural tourers. The cultural heritage direction has to protect the genuineness of civilization. The ideal cultural touristry would be a via media between those two points of position.


– The Entrepreneurial City: Geographies of Politicss, Regime and Representation, Tim Hall and Phil Hubbard ( explosive detection systems. ) , A 1998

-Histoire du Mont Saint-Michel Patrick Sbalchiero 2005

-Cultural Tourism: The Partnership Between Tourism and Cultural Heritage Management

McKercher and du Cros, 2002

– Culture on Display: The production of modern-day visitability, Dicks B, 2004A

-Cultural Tourism-Global and local positions, Greg Richards, 2007

-Newspaper Cent pour Cent Basse Normandie nA°182, article A«A L’emploi en Basse NormandieA : un role of import pour les etablissements pharesA A»

-Newspaper Le Monde, articleA«A Le Mont-Saint-Michel rendu a l’eauA A» , Pierre Le Hir ( ae/29/1997 )

-La Manche des pouvoirs naturelsA : lupus erythematosuss chiffres cles 2009 ( 2010 )

-International cultural touristry charter A ( Pull offing Tourism at Topographic points of Heritage Significance, 1999 )

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