In addition to visiting the abbey, the mediaeval village’s four museums offer tourists the chance to immerse themselves in the rich past of the Norman rock.
HOURS UNTIL CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS : Historical Museum, Maritime Museum and Logis Tiphaine: open from Friday to Tuesday, from 10.30am to 4pm (closed on Wednesday and Thursday). Archéoscope: closed.
The tourism boom at Mont Saint-Michel
Having served as a religious site for centuries, it wasn’t until the Mont Saint-Michel housed a prison that it began to welcome different types of visitors: first the inmates’ relatives, and then the romantic artists. As soon as the prison closed, and thanks to the development of seaside tourism on the Norman coast, the number of visitors increased exponentially: From about 10,000 in the 1860s, to over 30,000 in 1885, and up to 100,000 by 1910. The Mount is now fully open to tourism: in 1879, a dike was built to facilitate access and the welcoming of visitors was organised.
The Musée Maquaire: ancestor of today’s museums
The first museum was opened in 1888, by Amédée Maquaire. This Parisian public figure was also the author of the The Mont Saint-Michel and its Wonders, the Abbey, the Museum, the Town, the Ramparts (1889) guide. This three-storey Gothic Revival building was located on the western escarpment of the rock, just above the main entrance. Its collections recounted the key events that took place on the Mont Saint-Michel, its legends and the lives of its “great men”. In 1936, as part of the work carried out by the Historical Monuments Department to restore the historical nature of the village, the State bought and demolished this building. Part of its collections can now be found in the Historical Museum.
This museum, located in the lower part of the Grande Rue, helps visitors to understand the tidal phenomenon in the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel: the site of the strongest tides in continental Europe. It also explains the issues at stake in the recent restoring operation of the Mont Saint-Michel maritime character. Unmissable pieces: a collection of 250 antique model ships.
Located opposite the village Parish Church, the Archéoscope is a multimedia show that retraces the long history of Mont Saint-Michel, in an exciting and immersive way. From its geological formation to the site we know today, through all the major stages of the abbey’s construction, the story is told through videos, reproductions of engravings and various lighting effects.
By visiting this historical 14th-century residence, you’ll be able to discover the living conditions of a Medieval knight. It contains period furniture, tapestries, the armour of the knight Bertrand du Guesclin, and the astrology study of his wife, Tiphaine de Raguenel.
Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, made a name for himself during the Hundred Years’ War. According to legend, he had a mansion built for his wife at Mont Saint-Michel because it was, in those dangerous times, one of the safest and best protected strongholds in the kingdom. While her husband fought on the battlefields, Tiphaine de Raguenel predicted his successes and read the fate of the world through the stars.
At the foot of the abbey, this museum retraces the 1,300 years of Mont Saint Michel’s history, through wax figures representing the monk-builders and the prisoners of the abbey. A reconstruction of the dungeons and cells allows us to better understand living conditions in the “Bastille of the Seas”.
The museum also exhibits a collection of ancient objects (weapons, sculptures, paintings, watches), mediaeval torture instruments, an iron cage belonging to Louis XI, and the Enlisé dans les sables mouvants sculpture, a recurring figure in local history. In the museum’s enclosed garden, one of the last five periscopes in the world, dating from the 19th century, allows you to view a large part of the Bay.