National Geographic : 1966 Aug
( R()SSI) TIF RIVI R (()ISN(ON HERE DUKE HAR()ID PUIIED THEM FROM THE QUICKSAND AN) IITHEYHIAVt COML 1() IX)t With William and Rescues Two Warriors From Certain Death at-arms lifttheir shields above their heads as they cross the estuary. Suddenly, treacherous quicksand clutches at the feet of men and horses. Harold comes to the rescue. In a heroic feat long remembered, he carries one man on his back and drags another to safety on the shore. Seagirt sanctuary of Mont St. Michel this year celebrates its 1,000th anniversary. Wil liam's great-grandfather Duke Richard I of Normandy founded a Benedictine abbe\ here in 966. But long before, the rock had become a place of pilgrimage. I)ruids wor shiped at a pagan temple atop it. In 708, St. Aubert dreamed that the Archangel Michael commanded him to build a chapel on the site, then surrounded by the huge forest of Scissy. Soon after, the sea swirled in over the area, leaving Mont St. Michel an island. Thereafter, many of the devout who trav ersed the treacherous route to the shrine perished in quicksand or drowned in the inrushing tide, one of Europe's strongest. Duke Richard's church disappeared under larger and more elaborate structures built by succeeding abbots. Today's concert of spires, turrets, buttresses, and belfries spans more than nine centuries-a living history of French architecture. During the French Revolution, the monks and their treasures vanished and the shrine became a prison. In the 19th century, pleas from prominent Frenchmen led to its desig nation as a historic monument. "Mont St. Michel is for France what the Great Pyvramid is for Egypt," said Victor Hugo. "It must be kept from mutilation." Like pilgrims of old, tourists now swarm to the site. Construction of a causeway in 1879 erased the danger of drowning. The Mont's millenary will last until October, 1966. Ben edictines from the Abbey of St. Wandrille near Rouen and their brothers from the Abbey of Le Bec Hellouin hold services at the shrine during the celebration. And in the silence of the day's end, their reverent voices singing Vespers fill the old church.