These are the halls, walkways, and prayer alcoves of the island commune of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. This island fortress and monastery has been around since the 8th century. The island during the early years was only accessible during low tides, which also made it useful as a garrison, a prison and now a monastery once again. Today, you can walk a land bridge or take a tram to the island. The bottom half of this fortress/monastery is full of gift shops and restaurants, like any tourist destination. Once you get near the top you start to encounter the gardens, vaulted walkways and nestled alcoves that are still used today for prayer and worship. We were lucky to get there early when there weren’t hundreds of tourists filling these spaces. It’s hard to get a full sense of the architecture and space when you are surrounded by a few hundred people. So with a little patience and waiting for the clouds to clear, I was able to capture these spaces free of people and filled with cascading light.
When I was in art school, part of our art history classes consisted of studying ancient cathedrals and castles of the world. These grand edifices took centuries to build in some locations. Generations would build, live, pray and die in the time it took to finish one cathedral. You would start off as a beginner in your craft and end up as a master/teacher at the end of your days. Your profession, devotion and service to god all circled around the church. A simple beautiful life. The architecture was used to inspire, humble and educate the masses. But most of all, if the architects could, they would focus on letting the “light of god” fill these spaces. So in more ways than one, these were the enlightened spaces of the age. This is also the reason why I show these images to you as black and whites, to focus on the light and spaces full of memory.