Mont Saint-Michel
The booklet of the album
Châteaux de la Loire | Mont Saint-Michel
Brocéliande | Icônes | International Press
A Secret World
Here, you can discover the booklet of the Mont Saint-Michel album.
Texts: © NathalieHureau - Miniatures: © HervéThibon  
English translation: Catherine Roussey

The archangel's finger

At that time , the Mount wasn't cut off yet from the Continent by the sea . The legend says that, one night of the year 708, the archangel Saint Michel appeared in a dream of the bishop of Avranches, Saint Aubert, and ordered him to erect on his behalf a sanctuary on Mont Tombe. Suspicious, the bishop chose to ignore the celestial order, all the more so because Mont Tombe's rock rose far from any roman way at the time, deep inside the vast forest of Scissy inhabited by wolves and wild beasts. The archangel apparead again to the bishop who was terrified but only prayed and fasted without accomplishing the command. Wrathful, Saint Michel intervened again. He brandished a blazing finger on top of the unbelieving bishop's head and hit him. The archangel left a deep mark, as big as the hole, in the bishop's skull. That's how, in the sweat of effort and the ecstasyof faith, Saint Aubert built a chapel at the top of Mont Tombe which became Mont Saint-Michel.

Thirty Candles quartet

This chapel, known as the chapel of thirty candles, built in the 11th century to support the north transept of the church, was suddenly immersed in darkness when, in the 13th century, the massive building called "La Merveille" (the Marvel) began to lean against it, depriving it of any natural light. How many candles were needed then to light up the chapel? At least thirty must have been needed as that was the number of candles constantly burning in front of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. The monks gathered traditionally in this chapel to sing the Salve Regina. Mightn't these thirty candles symbolize the living flame of their prayers?

The crypt of the Large Pillars

It was a time of war between France and England. The Abbot of Mont Saint-Michel defected to the enemy, the town was besieged and, to crown it all, in 1421, the choir of the Romanesque church had collapsed. Reconstruction had to be done later, at the end of the hostilities. Another century, another style. Gothic followed Romanesque, vines followed the purity of the lines, and the resulting union stood the test of time. But how to raise a stone more than 40 metres high? A gigantic base, called the Crypt of the Large Pillars, was erected in 1446 to support the new choir of the church. Nowadays, in this subterranean forest where light is cloistered, the stone trunks have legendary dimensions. The strength of their base which takes the shape of a colossal cluster of trees, is very impressive.

A night in the abbey

The monks walked under a cold moonlight. They moved slowly. The gravel crunched under their feet. During the dark hours, while the doors of the church were closed, they recited a psalmody : Vade Retro Satanas, Numquam Suade Mihi Vana ; Sunt Mala Quae Libas, Ipse Venena Bibas. (Withdraw Satan, never advise me what is conceited. The beverage you serve is evil, drink your own poison). It is said that entering the church was forbidden as this was the hour when the angels sang. They sang marvellous songs and a light brighter then the sun slowly filled up the church. The incandescence was such that no living creature could penetrate it without dying.

Theme of the pilgrim

The pilgrim walked. He set off banner ahead, with a beggar's bag and a calabash. Named Miquelet, he followed the "Paths to heaven" which cut across France and led to Mont Saint-Michel. In the Middle Ages, even children would join the pilgrimage. They were under twelve years old and had left their parents to gather in thousands in spontaneous processions. Pilgrims came from many different countries. They went through towns and villages. In all weathers, through many winds, they kept on walking. Sustained by their faith, they moved on, full of hope. Each step was a step nearer from the sea. Even before they could hear the murmur of the waves, the tall black outline of Mont Saint-Michel would come into sight, rising up from the pasture land like a mirage.

Gothic gargoyles and lace

Out of reach for the one who hasn't got wings, the gargoyle leans forward towards the world below. Sarcasm pours out of its mouth. Like a bestiary of heights, a crowd of weird beings clings to a mineral flora rooted in the powerful bulk of the stone. Creepers, flowers and corollas cover the buttresses, the pinnacles and the flying buttresses. The lacy granite rises up towards the light. Elegance, harmony, virtuosity. The choir of the church, fruit of the profound science of gothic architecture, was erected in the 15th century (1420-1521) onto the ruins of the tumbledown Romanesque choir. The exhilaration of the true gothic style brings the chevet to a new life. The stone darts towards the sky, suspended, longing for soaring.


The slow tremolo of strings heralded the floodtide of the ever moving sea. Guided by the song of oboes, a group of pilgrims returned to the coast over the tidal flats. Among them was a pregnant woman. They made their way through the hard and wrinkled "paumelles" (sand flats). But how insidious was the sea! The water was overtaking them, the water rose, the water licked the sands. The men hurried. The woman was left behind, caught in the whirlpools of the rising sea. At this very moment, the sword of the archangel stopped the waves. Saint Michel protected the woman who was giving birth in the cold sand and wind. When the floodtide receeded, they were still alive and the baby was christened Peril. Is it a true story or just a legend? It is said that a cross was erected in this spot, in memory of the miracle of the tidal flats' new mother.

A feast in the Guest Hall

Kings, Queens and generous donors were welcomed by big feasts in this room lavishly decorated with tapestries, stained glass and glazed tiles. Although it is quite lacking of ornamentation at present, the Guest Hall is still the most handsome room of the six which compose"La Merveille", erected in only twenty five years time (1203-1228). Architectural feat, La Merveille is the material representation of spiritual elevation. The rhythm of its composition is achieved through figures and symbols. Three is the Trinity symbol. Three flights on the rockside. Mastered balance of the stone. Seven is a perfect figure. Each room has seven vaults, symbolizing totality. Seven, uncommon rhythm chosen for this dance, evokes the magic of forgotten festivities.

In the crypt of Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre

The pre-Romanesque church, built on the ruins of the primitive oratory is recalled by the simplicity of the leitmotiv played on a classical guitar. Abbot Mainard and the twelve Benedictines settled there in 966. The rectangular chapel with its massive stonework nearly two metres thick, was transformed into a crypt during the building of the Romanesque church. Nowadays, one can enter it through a long flight of stairs which seems to descend into the heart of the universe. Forgotten for a long time and even obstructed, Notre-Dame-Sous-Terre is buried in the primeval heat of the earth. Even in the depth of winter, heat oozes up, warm and motherly. In the deepest part of this sanctuary, behind a small altar, one discovers the exposed rock of the initial Mont Tombe.

Immensi Tremor Oceani

The leading theme of the album is defined on one hand by the bass of the organ and the arpeggios of the synthesizer, on the other hand by voices taking up the motto of the knights of Saint Michel's Order : Immensi Tremor Oceani, dread of the vast ocean... This Order, reserved for the noblest knights, was founded in 1469 by Louis XI, who was an ardent pilgrim of Mont Saint-Michel. This Order was supposed to compete with the famous Golden Fleece. Thirty six knights took the oath of protecting, supporting and defending the Royal Crown. They wore long coats of white damask with ermine and embroidered shells edgings and around their necks, heavy golden medals bearing the effigy of the archangel. The Script-Room of Mont Saint-Michel, where the monks were performing their copying task, was given the name of Knight's Hall although the Order was never really based there.