The Legends of Mont Saint Michel Abbey

The first story of Mont Saint-Michel

The Mont Saint Michel rises up amidst an immense bay with the most spectacular tides of Europe, with its church steeple piercing into heaven. The splendor of this monument and the wonder of its natural setting inspire many a story- teller. Here are a few of the legends of Mont Saint Michel.

The first story of Mont Saint-Michel starts in the 8th century, when Archangel Michael, leader of God’s armies against Satan, appeared to Aubert, bishop of Avranches. He instructed the bishop to build a church in the Archangel’s honor. Aubert ignored the Archangel’s request until Saint Michael burnt a hole in the bishop’s skull with his finger. A church was built on the island known as Mount Tomb. From then on the mountain has been known as Mont Saint Michel.

mont saint michel

The legend by Guy de Maupassant

Later another tale was spun by the famous French author Guy de Maupassant, considered father of short stories in French literature. He wrote this story in 1882.

A traveler comes upon the magnificent island. He is awed by the splendor.

A country peasant tells him this tale…..

On one side lives Archangel St. Michel on a majestic rock island. He surrounded his island by moving sands to protect himself from his capricious neighbor, the Devil. The Devil owns all the surrounding fertile grounds.  After a few years of poverty and hunger, Saint Michel concludes a deal with the Devil.  He offers to work the Devil’s land in exchange for half of its harvest. The lazy Devil accepts.  So Saint Michel asks the Devil « Do you want the half that grows on the ground or the half that grows in the ground? »

The Devil replies “ontheground”.

Six months later is the first harvest.  It is bountiful. There are full of carrots, turnips, onions, and salsifies.  The Devil is furious. These are all crops from in the ground. St Michel apologizes and offers for the next harvest all that grows in the ground.  The Devil agrees.

But six months later the fields are full of wheat, barley, linseed, and colza; things that grow « on the ground ».  The Devil is furious and takes back all his lands.

St Michel has another plan.  He invites the Devil for lunch, serving him all kinds of good dishes, cider, wine, and alcohol. The Devil gets drunk. St Michel pursues the Devil to the summit of his island and gives Satin a big kick in the … behind sending him far away to Mortain, another part of Normandy. We can still see today, evidence of the impact of the Devil’s fall.  The Devil learned his lesson.  Never mess with Saint Michel.

mont saint michel legend

Whenever the Devil should look across the bay, he would be reminded of the all-mightiness of Saint Michel.

Now it is us who are awed by the beauty of the Mont Saint Michel.