Mont Saint-Michel (pronounced: [mɔ̃ sɛ̃ mi.ʃɛl]; English: Saint Michael's Mount) is an island commune in Normandy, France. It is located approximately one kilometre (0.6 miles) off the country's northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. 247 acres (100 ha) in size, the island has a population of 44 (2009).
The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the eighth century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this the Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen and farmers' housing.
One of France's most recognisable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites and more than 3 million people visit it each year.
Now a rocky tidal island, in prehistoric times the Mont was on dry land. As sea levels rose, erosion reshaped the coastal landscape, and several outcroppings of granite or granulite emerged in the bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the surrounding rocks. These included Lillemer, the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine (the island just to the north), and Mont Tombe, later called Mont Saint-Michel. The Mont has a circumference of about 960 meters and is 92 metres (301 feet) above sea level at its highest point.
The tides can vary greatly, at roughly 14 metres (46 ft) between high and low water marks. Popularly nicknamed "St. Michael in peril of the sea" by medieval pilgrims making their way across the flats, the mount can still pose dangers for visitors who avoid the causeway and attempt the hazardous walk across the sands from the neighbouring coast.
Polderisation and occasional flooding have created salt marsh meadows that were found to be ideally suited to grazing sheep. The well-flavoured meat that results from the diet of the sheep in the pré salé (salt meadow) makes agneau de pré-salé (salt meadow lamb) a local specialty that may be found on the menus of restaurants that depend on income from the many visitors to the mount.