Saturday, March 15, 2008

Mont St Michel

Mount Saint Michael. The Archangel Michael. Legend has it that the archangel appeared to the Bishop of Avaranche (?) and asked him to build a chapel on top of a mountain. The Bishop doubted the angel. St Michael appeared to the Bishop not once but twice more, and still the Bishop resisted. Why, I have no idea. But on the third visit, the archangel pointed his forefinger at the forehead of the Bishop and burnt a small hole straight through the brain/skull of the Bishop. No, the Bishop didn't die, but he did build the church :)

And that Church grew into this enormous, beautiful castle-like village that rises from the mountain into the sky. At high tide a few times a year, the whole structure is isolated as the sea surrounds it. It is a magnificent structure! According to Boydee, this was used as the inspiration for the City of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings.

Climbing up the steep stairs to the top to see the monastery, I believe him. It took us some 30 minutes or so, including the times we had to help Bishop, the poor man. His leg was bothering him and was cramping a LOT because he seemed to be in so much pain. Apparently, his body does not produce enough potassium, which causes the cramping and the pain.

Anyway, we were greeted at the top by a sister of the Jerusalem Order. There are Brothers and Sisters of this Order who live at Mont St Michel: the brothers at the top and the Sisters at the bottom. And the poor Sisters have to go up and down 3 times a day on the average!!! Typical eh? Hehehehe.

Anyway, when we got there, St Monique brought Bishop to the rectory so that he could concelebrate the mass with the monks. We went down down down into the crypt---it was FREEZING! It was small and quiet. The thick stone of the fortress-like structure surrounded us and it gave us a feeling of being safe, of being enveloped in this quiet, holy atmosphere.

Some sisters were there early, praying, kneeling on the floor. Some monks arrived and had stools to sit on. The sisters had some small benches that looked like they knelt on them. But the MOST BEAUTIFUL part of the entire mass was that the people of the Order sang the psalms. The word singing is truly an understatement. Their voices seemed to lift our spirits and clear our minds.....and seemed to transport us into heaven. Being way up high would probably give anyone that feeling, but oh, to hear these beautiful, clear, pure voices singing! There was musical accompaniment, but it sure sounded like they had a whole orchestra playing to support them! There was a mixture of different voices and it really seemed that the philharmonic was there in the tiny crypt with us. I wish I had had the sense to record at least part of their angelic voices with my phone but I was just so entranced from just listening. I should have brought along ipods to at least do the recording or download some of their beautiful, lilting songs. It just took one's breath away!

A sister also played the Sitar and even by itself it made beautiful music. Technology had come to this Order I am guessing, because even I know that a sitar is played by plucking strings, am I correct? But the sister had some sort of pad on top of the strings and she played it like a piano, sort of. Basta, it was just soooooo beautiful, so moving.

Bishop was invited to say mass with them and I was able to take a few photos, although I was slightly embarrassed since everything was so quiet and I could hear each whirrr of the camera's lens and each click of the shutter! :) But obviously, I got over that really quick!

We were *supposed* to have lunch with the monks as well, but I think they forgot and so we found ourselves going down the steep stairs to the little village that had evolved around Mont St Michel. Sr Moniqe suggested Madame Polard's (?) Omelets, a world-famous place.....but she didn't know how expensive it was, hehehe. So of course Mother dear footed the bill. Wawa Sr Monique, she was counting money....and we didn't need to know French very well to see that she was highly embarrassed and shocked that the food was expensive. But it was totally delish, for omelets! Very different, very fluffy, very tasty! Mom got hers with salmon, I got mine with mushrooms. Mom's appetizer was seafood hors d' ouvres and mine was oysters. Yum yum yum! Surprisingly, for the seemingly, light fare, we were stuffed without dessert!

By the time we were done with lunch, it was raining very hard. I had to take my wool socks out because they were starting to get wet....I was wearing my ortho crocs, hehehe. By the time got to the car, my feet were soaked :) They dried out a little bit by the time we got home hours later.

It was a tiring but wonderful day :)

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