FRANCE -- The fourth day of the Raider Battalion Cadet’s trip to France saw the group travelling to Mont Saint Michel on the southwest side of the Cotentin Peninsula. This would be a day to explore more of the long history of France and the Normandy region while mixing in some Airborne culture as well.
The long history of Mont Saint Michel (Mountain of Saint Michael) is thought to date back to the year 708, when Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, had a sanctuary built on Mont-Tombe in honor of the archangel Saint Michael. Saint Michael, head of the heavenly militia, was of great importance to medieval religions sensibility. In the New Testament, Saint Michael appears in the book of Revelation: He fights and defeats a dragon, symbol of the devil.
Saint Michael is the patron saint of Paratroopers which ties this trip into our history of the D-Day landings. Many Paratroopers throughout the history of Airborne forces in the United States and allied militaries have clung to Saint Michael for protection as they perform their duties of protecting freedom and liberty for our people.
Mont Saint Michel has housed a Benedictine Abbey since the 10th century. The abbey is built on the rock of Mont Saint Michel which is an island when the tide is in. The protection of the water and the dominant ground that the abbey was built on made it an impregnable fortress for centuries. After the French revolution, the abbey and island were used as a prison for a period of time. That didn’t last long and the abbey returned to its normal purpose of study and meditate. Outside the walls of the abbey, the rest of the island contains a working village and shops.
In 1874, Mont Saint Michel underwent significant restoration. It’s beauty and splendor attract countless visitors every day. The day the group went was no different. Even with an early arrival, the group waited about 45 minutes for the shuttle ride to the island and fought through the heavy crowds to get to the top and tour the site. Mont Saint Michel has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1979.
“I honestly don’t think the Eiffel Tower can be anywhere close to as interesting as this place,” Cadet Billy Wilson said in summing up the visit.