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Mont-Saint-Michel, France

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Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Le Mont-Saint-Michel is an island and mainland commune in Normandy, France.

The island is located about one kilometer (0.6 miles) off the country's northwestern coast, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches and is 7 hectares (17 acres) in area. The mainland part of the commune is 393 hectares (971 acres) in area so that the total surface of the commune is 400 hectares (988 acres).

As of 2015, the island has a population of 50.

The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th 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, the great halls; then stores and housing; and at the bottom, outside the walls, houses for fishermen and farmers.

The commune's position — on an island just a few hundred metres from land — made it accessible at low tide to the many pilgrims to its abbey, but defensible as an incoming tide stranded, drove off, or drowned would-be assailants. The Mont remained unconquered during the Hundred Years' War; a small garrison fended off a full attack by the English in 1433. The reverse benefits of its natural defence were not lost on Louis XI, who turned the Mont into a prison. Thereafter the abbey began to be used regularly as a jail during the Ancien Régime.

One of France's most recognisable landmarks, visited by more than 3 million people each year, the Mont Saint-Michel and its bay are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Over 60 buildings within the commune are protected in France as monuments historiques.

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