Location: Mont St. Michel, France // Googlemaps
Mont Saint-Michel is close to the border of Brittany, which has led to Breton claims to the mount. Originally the Couesnon formed the border between the two duchies, and every so often the river would shift its bank, leading to ownership of the mount shifting between them. The river’s bed has now been fixed and Mont Saint-Michel is now firmly in Norman hands. It is home to the unusual Benedictine Abbey and steepled church (built between the 11th and 16th centuries) which occupy most of the one-kilometer-diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the waters of the English Channel.
The Mount was connected to the mainland via a thin natural land bridge, which before modernization was covered at high tide and revealed at low tide. Thus, Mont Saint Michel gained a mystical quality, being an island half the time, and being attached to land the other: a tidal island.
However, the insular character of the mount has been compromised by several developments. Over the centuries, the coastal flats have been polderised to create pasture. The coast south of the mount has thus encroached on the distance between the shore and the mount. The Couesnon River has been canalised, reducing the flow of water and thereby encouraging a silting-up of the bay. In 1879, the land bridge was fortified into a true causeway. This prevented the tide from scouring the silt round the mount. Now there are plans to remove the causeway and replace it with a bridge and shuttle.
On 16 June 2006, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced a 150 million project (Projet Mont Saint-Michel) to build a hydraulic dam that will help remove the accumulated silt and make Mont Saint-Michel an island again. It is expected to be completed by 2012.