Mont Saint-Michel

Due to the small size of the island, builders had nowhere to go but up.


One of the most famous sites in France, the abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel sits on a small, rocky island between Brittany and Normandy. The first chapel was probably built in the eighth century and surviving buildings in the Norman Romanesque style date from the 11th century. That's not the end of the story, though. In 1203, the Bretons burned portions of the abbey, and Gothic style buildings replaced those sections during the 1200s.

The island is quite small, with a circumference of about 3,000 feet (900 meters). Because it was impossible to build out, subsequent renovations built up instead. La Merveille, a group of monastic buildings covering three stories was added in the 13th century and is considered a masterpiece of Gothic design, and a tower and spire addition sporting St. Michael and the dragon was erected in the 19th century, over 1,000 years after the first buildings were begun.

Mont Saint-Michel was converted into a state prison under Napoleon's rule and later restored yet again.

From Mont Saint-Michel, let's hop across the pond and take a look at the U.S. Capitol Building.