Mont Saint Michel On the Shore of Normandy
On the rocky shores of Normandy, France sits the wondrous Mont Saint Michel. UNESCO designated the monument in 1979 as a World Heritage Site. Mont Saint Michel, “the Mount of Saint Michael,” is dedicated to the Archangel Michael, who defeated the serpent there. The Bishop of Avranches founded the site, and also initiated the construction of Mont Saint Michel. Today he is more commonly recognized as Saint Aubert.
Born in 695 AD, Aubert, who is also known as Autbert, lived in France during the Eighth century and during the reign of Childebert III. The small amount of biographical information regarding Aubert references his position as Bishop of Avranches for the diocese of Coutances.
Most of what we know about Saint Aubert pertains to the legend surrounding the mount. The story claims that Saint Michael directly inspired him with regard to the building of Mont Saint Michel.
According to this legend, the Archangel visited Aubert during the time he was serving as Bishop of Avranches. These visits occurred in a short series of visions and dreams. Aubert claimed that the Archangel adamantly instructed Aubert to begin construction of an oratory. The oratory would honor Saint Michael, patron saint of mariners as well as fearless Archangel.
Mont Saint Michel needed some encouragement
Unfortunately, Aubert was somewhat slow to respond to Saint Michael’s direct and specific instructions. In desperation, the Archangel apparently gave Aubert some prompting by burning a hole into the poor bishop’s skull. This event provided the encouragement Aubert required in order to dedicate the site on which Mont Saint Michel currently stands. Dedication occurred on October 16, 708 AD. Saint Aubert died just a short time later.
St. Aubert’s Day
Today, the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Orthodox Catholic Church recognises Saint Aubert. His feast day is on September 10th each year. The spiritual relic of his skull lies in the Saint-Gervais Basilica in Avranches, France.
Regardless of the validity of the legend, St. Aubert’s source of inspiration for the construction of Mont St-Michel was clearly the Archangel Michael. While the legend contributes a sense of allure, intrigue, and mystery surrounding the site, it is Mont Saint Michel itself that prompted the Church to recognise one of its earliest bishops as saint and remains the primary reason the church honours him today.