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Part I

Mont Saint Michel, the Wonder of the West

Castillho de Andrade

View of the Mont Saint Michel

On the horizon the majestic Mont Saint Michel appears to astound the viewer

Anyone traveling through France from Avranches to Saint Malo sees on the horizon a fantastic sight as he nears the ocean: an imposing mount covered with medieval buildings topped by a church with a tower that launches a long arrow toward Heaven. At its pinnacle stands a gigantic statue of St. Michael the Archangel.

It is Mont Saint-Michel, sanctuary of the Prince of the Celestial Armies and center of universal pilgrimage, where Catholic pious faithful have traveled through the centuries to beg the help of the victor of Lucifer. It is the invincible fortress of France, never conquered by any enemy, the admirable and majestic monument of the artistic genius and piety of the Eldest Daughter of the Church. It is called "the wonder of the West."

Its history, as glorious as that of the nation that built it, goes back to the time of the Merovingian Kings, when Medieval Civilization started to burst forth through the work of Saints who, inspired by the grace, gradually formed the peoples in Catholic doctrine and Christian life.

The apparition of St. Michael the Archangel

At the beginning of the 8th century, Mount Tumba, as it was then known, was inhabited by some hermits. They had built two small chapels dedicated to St. Stephen and St. St. Symphorian and lived a life of prayer and mortification.

St. Aubert was Bishop of nearby Avranches. A member of the noble family of the Genetas and a very learned man, he had dedicated himself from his youth to the service of God, in which, the chronicles of the time tell us, "He behaved in such a way that all considered him an Angel of Heaven rather than a mortal man."

Dream of St. Aubert

St. Michael appeared to Bishop Aubert and touched his forehead
His election to the Episcopate occurred in a miraculous way. After a week of fasting and prayers asking the assistance of the Holy Ghost, the clergy and the people had gathered at the church to elect the Bishop when a powerful voice came from Heaven, saying: "Aubert the Presbyter will be your Bishop."

One night the holy Bishop had a dream. St. Michael the Archangel appeared to him commanding him to build a church in his honor on Mount Tumba, because he wanted to be venerated there as he was at Mount Gargano in Italy. St. Aubert was quite surprised and, after some hesitation, decided not to give credence to the apparition, which he judged to be a delusion of the Devil.

Some days later, the Archangel appeared to him again. With a severe countenance, he reaffirmed that it was his will that a church should be built where he had indicated and that St. Aubert should obey this command without delay. But since the latter still doubted the vision, he started to pray and fast with more intensity, asking God to enlighten him.

For a third time St. Michael appeared in dream to the Bishop and reprimanded him again for his incredulity. Then the Angel touched him on the forehead with his finger. He repeated his order and added that the church should be built in the exact place where he would find a bull that had been stolen and hidden by a thief.

Skull of St. Aubert

St. Aubert's skull, with the hole where the Archangel's finger touched it, at the Basilica in Avranches
Awakening, the Saint found a hole in his forehead where St. Michael had touched him. At this point he had no more doubts. He gathered his clergy and reported what had happened. His words were met with great jubilation. All were touched by the exceptional grace that God had deigned to give them by granting them the protection of the Prince of the Celestial Court.

Soon the group assembled to make their way to the mount, singing hymns and psalms. As the people learned of the apparition, they joined the procession with a corresponding joy. After walking three hours, they arrived at the foot of the mount. St. Aubert led the procession up it and, arriving at its summit, they found the sign the Archangel had indicated. The stolen bull that was hidden there marked the spot of the future church.

Building the first church

St. Aubert assembled a large number of workers and without delay started building the church. He decided not to leave the place until the church was finished. As the workmen labored, he supervised the work seated on a rock. For a long time that rock was preserved there in honor of him. Thus the first church, simple and pious, was built.

The holy Bishop was embarrassed that he had no relic to place in the church for the veneration of the faithful, as was habitual. Again St. Michael appeared to him and told him to send two monks to Mount Gargano in southern Italy, the only sanctuary in Europe consecrated to St. Michael, and that he would have the desired relics. The Archangel had appeared there in 493, leaving as a proof of his presence a purple veil and the mark of his feet on a stone.

After traveling six months, the messengers of St. Aubert arrived at Mount Gargano where they were amiably received by the Abbot. He was very happy to hear the news that St. Michael wanted a new sanctuary in the West. He gave them a part of the veil and a piece of that sacred stone where the Angel had left his footprint. The two grateful monks rushed back to France with their precious treasure. On their way back, the relics worked miracles, returning the sight of several blind persons.

St Michael the Artchangel

The statue of St. Michael that soars above the Mount to protect the area
St. Aubert, at the head of a throng of Bishops, feudal lords and people, was dedicating the church when the news arrived that his messengers were near. So, when the dedication ended, he went in procession to meet them. He received the relics, incensed them and brought them to the new church. Then the Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in that church.

After the Mass, St. Aubert declared that he had named 12 canons for the church and that he had donated the lands he had received as his family inheritance for its maintenance. And thus the veneration of St. Michael the Archangel started in the place he had chosen.

St. Aubert lived on for many years governing the Diocese of Avranches. When he died, his body was buried in the Church of St. Michael. His remains were honored by the faithful for centuries there until they were lost during the French Revolution, when the Abbey was looted. His skull, however, was preserved and still is venerated in the Cathedral of Avranches. On it one can distinguish a small cavity, where St. Michael placed his finger.

Continued here
Abbey of Mont Saint Michel

The church towers above the Mount with its spire and statue of the Archangel;
below, Mont Saint Michel glowing at night from a distance

Night view of Mont Saint Michel

Pictures from Crux et gladius blog & Internet

Blason de Charlemagne
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First published in Catolicismo, April 1953
Posted December 16, 2011

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