Liste des sites de l'Avranchin et du Mortainais

Photo DRAC de Basse-Normandie Mont-Saint-Michel
(canton de Pontorson, Manche)

The Romanesque Abbey

    At Mont-Saint-Michel, the configuration of the rock formation prevented the use of the traditional plan for Benedictine monasteries. Instead of ordering the buildings horizontally around a cloister, they were built on three different levels which are superimposed on the sides of the rock below the abbey church which dominates the whole. Of the buildings erected in the Romanesque period, only a group of structures forming a semi-circle remains around the pre-Romanesque church. The largest of these located in the north part was built at the end of the 11th century, but was modified from the beginning of the 12th century; from bottom to top, this consists of the Aquilon room, the Promenoir and the dormitory.

Divided into two naves by monolithic columns carrying vigorous capitals, the Aquilon room has groin vaulting reinforced by pointed arches. This attractive room was probably used as an almonry before the 13th century. The Promenoir built above it is longer as the profile of the rock was used to extend it to the east by two bays. This structure is also divided into two naves by two rows of columns; it is covered by vaults with pointed arches which are fairly crudely executed but appealingly so; very similar to those at Lessay, these vaults form one of the earliest experiments with this means of roofing. Little is known of the original use of this room. Finally, the dormitory which communicates with the abbey church, has been so extensively modified that it is now of only limited interest.

During the second half of the 12th century Abbot Robert de Torigni completed the Romanesque monastery by erecting buildings in the west and south, some of which survive today. In the west two sinister dungeons lie one on top of the other, and there is the lodge for the porter who must also have had the role of gaoler, and there are the abbot's apartments. In the south, Robert de Torigni built a mortuary chapel, dedicated to St Stephen, which, in the 13th century, was given vaults with pointed arches. Next to this chapel, he built an ossuary in the monks' cemetery where the Administration for penitents installed a large wheel in 1820 which can still be seen today. 

Henry Decaëns


- Nortier (Michel). - Millénaire monastique du Mont Saint-Michel, tome IV: bibliographie générale et sources, 2e éd. par Henry Decaëns. Lethielleux, 2001, p. 167-170