A real hanging garden above the wooded countryside, Avranches offers a panoramic view of the bay of Mont Saint-Michel.
Get lost in the old town, then let our steps guide us to its cultural and heritage treasures: the castle and its keep, the ramparts, the Museum of Art and History, the Library, the Basilica and its Treasury, the garden of plants, and Place Patton, in which a genuine Sherman tank from the General’s mythical battalion takes centre stage.
Avranches, promontory on the bay
Upon a rock where the rivers Sée and Sélune meet, Avranches watches over the bay of Mont Saint-Michel. Due to its strategic position, Avranches has a rich and turbulent past.
Its origins go back to the depths of the time
In the 9th century B.C., it was the Abrincates (the people of the Abers) who occupied the region: under their authority, the town was already beginning to thrive!
After the Gallic Wars, the town became the Gallo-Roman capital, enjoying prosperity for three centuries.
Then came the raids of the Saxons (286), followed by the Franks who would go on to settle there (786).
For more than a millennium, the bishops were the most important figures of the town. One of them, Saint Aubert, founded in 708, upon Mont Tombe, a shrine that was to become the most famous pilgrimage site in the West: « Le Mont Saint-Michel ».
From the 11th century onwards, Avranches was a lively town where such great masters as Lanfranc and Saint Anselme taught.
The arrival of General Patton’s soldiers on 31 July 1944 and the Avranches Breakthrough – a prelude to the liberation of France – made the town famous.
Today, we can still stroll through its pedestrian streets, enjoying its shops and its crafts.
The Scriptorial and ancient manuscripts
The Scriptorial is a museum dedicated to the history of Mont Saint-Michel. With its secret manuscripts, it is an unmissable attraction for young and old.
Calligraphy, illumination, bookbinding and the art of writing … these are all secrets revealed by the Scriptorial, whose unique selection of manuscripts, dating from the 8th to the 15th centuries – presented in the “treasure room” – is refreshed every three months.
This contemporary museum has been designed to appeal to all audiences: The children’s booklet, the games and the interactive space will fascinate both children and adults alike.
Tip: Take advantage of the opportunity to discover the current temporary exhibition.
And where can we find the Treasure ?
The basilica of Saint-Gervais is an unmissable sight in the town of Avranches. Here lies the relic of Saint-Aubert.
Have you heard the legend ?
In the year 708, Aubert, bishop of Avranches, is said to have been visited by the Archangel Michael while he slept, ordering him to build an oratory in his honour, on Mont Tombe: a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon, between Normandy and Brittany.
When he woke up, Aubert thought it had been a nightmare.
On the third night, and to make sure the message really sunk in, Saint Michael is said to have pushed his finger so hard into his skull that a dent was created! Aubert hesitated no more and set to work building a place of worship on Mont Tombe.
The relic is preserved today in a shrine made of crystal, vermeil and lapis lazuli, dating from 1895.