An Island Once More
Getting to Mont Saint Michel from the mainland hasn’t always been an easy trip. The edifice was originally connected by a tidal causeway. In 1879, the causeway was raised, keeping pilgrims’ feet dry but allowing the sand and silt to clog up the bay around the base of the Mont. The salt marshes were drained to create pastureland, effectively making the island closer to the land, and over time the Cousenon River was canalised, reducing the flow of river water. All these factors encouraged the gradual silting-up of the bay, and by the 20th-century Mont Saint Michel was barely an island anymore.
In June 2006 Dominique de Villepin, the French prime minister, announced a €164 million project to build a hydraulic dam at the mouth of the river Couesnon and remove the causeway and visitors’ car park. This huge civil engineering project was designed to allow the tidal and river flows to disperse the accumulated sand and silt, and make Mont Saint Michel an island once again.
In April 2012 a new car park on the mainland 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) from the island was built. In July 2014 the new bridge by architect Dietmar Feichtinger was opened by President François Hollande. The light bridge allows the waters to flow freely around the island and improves the efficiency of the now operational dam. The project eventually cost €209 million.
During particularly high tides the Mont is surrounded by the sea – a rare sight well worth seeing. This video by Normandy Tourism captures the moment perfectly.
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