This painting belongs to a collection painted by an English man called Richard Harpum. His style is realistic and his paintings are mainly painted with acrylics on canvas or board. Particularly, this one is an acrylic painting on canvas and it shows the Mont Saint Michel which is located on a rocky tidal island of the North-Western coast of France, near Arvanches.
This landscape had just been painted after sunset when the floodlights have been switched on. It portrays in the foreground the Mont Saint-Michel, where you can find mainly The Abbey surrounded by a little village and protected by the fortifications, laying on the English Channel.
At the bottom, the nearest mass of water bordering their banks is known as The Bay of Saint Michel which is rich in seafood, shell fish and crustaceans. Concerning this landscape, it is curious to note that the tides are the highest in Europe; there is up to a 15 meters difference between low and high water. These phenomena are accentuated (spring tides and neap tides) because of the rock being in the back of The Bay; during neap tides, the sea doesn’t reach the Mount. But on the other hand, the sea reaches the Mount during spring tides after 4 hours and 30 minutes from the start of the rising tide. As a remarkable fact, from a high water height of 12.20 metres, The Bay is covered, but whatever the height of the water, you can always access it on foot because the sea wall is never submerged. The highest tides take place after full and new moons.
In the top of the mountain we can see The Abbey which was built as a tiny church thanks to Aubert’s effort, Bishop of Avranches, who consecrated it due to the request of the Archangel Michel «chief of the celestial militia» on the 16th October 709.
Then, in 966 the Duke of Normandy requested that a community of Benedictines settled there, in the pre-Romanesque church. Its Gothic section was made gradually in the 13th century by Philip Augustus, King of France. Throughout the history, a housing area grew around The Abbey where nowadays you can find some museums, gardens (located behind The Abbey) and people living there. Due to its medieval origin, the structure of this area is not regular, that is why its streets are irregular and narrow.
In the left margin of the painting, we can see a big path which connects The Abbey with the French continent. Across these paths, called «Paths to paradise», nearly one thousand men, women and children arrived there during the Middle Ages, hoping for the assurance of eternity given by the Archangel of judgement «Peseur des âmes» (weighing of souls).
Interestingly, because of that, it was one of the most important places of pilgrimage for the Medieval occident and it was the religious centre for the Medieval occident. In the image we can appreciate this fact on the golden bronze statue which represents the eponymous Saint Michel defeating the dragon. We should mention that it is located 170m above the sea level and it was made by Emmanuel Fremiet during the first restorations at the end of the 19th century.
In addition, we can distinguish the Chapel of Saint-Aubert that it is also represented at the left, next to the «Paths to Paradise». It was built in the 15th century and it is said that it is the place where a rock, previously immovable, was pushed by a child who was hold by Saint-Aubert when they worked in the first construction of the sanctuary in the year 708.
In the 14th century, due to the Hundred Years War, it was necessary to protect The Abbey behind military constructions and later, in 1421, it broke down and it was replaced by the Gothic Flamboyant chancel. Then, in the 19th century it was turned into a prison during the French Revolution and Empire and it was necessary to restore it again. Few years later, in the year 1966, with the celebration of monastic’s 1000th anniversary, a religious community went back to recover the original vocation.
To conclude, we want to highlight that nowadays we can find friars and sisters from “Les Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem” since the year 2001. Furthermore, Mont Saint-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which is a touristic place that attracts more than 3 million visitors per year, making it one of the most popular tourist sites with its beautiful landscape.
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María Gismero Señorán