Mont Saint Michel is a small rocky tidal island in Normandy, roughly one kilometre from the north coast of France at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches, close to the border of Brittany, which has led to Breton claims to the mount. Originally the Couesnon formed the border between the two duchies, and every so often the river would shift its bank, leading to ownership of the mount shifting between them. The river's bed has now been fixed and Mont Saint Michel is now firmly in Norman hands.
It is home to the unusual Benedictine Abbey and steepled church (built between the 11th and 16th centuries) which occupy most of the one-kilometer-diameter clump of rocks jutting out of the waters of the English Channel. The church is crowned by a gold leaf statue of St. Michael by Emmanuel Frémiet, reaching a height of 510 feet (155 meters) above the sea.
In prehistoric times the bay had been covered by the sea, which retreated during multiple glaciations, allowing erosion to shape the coastal landscape over millions of years. Several blocks of granite or granulite emerged in the bay, having resisted the wear and tear of the ocean better than the surrounding rocks. These included the Mont-Dol, Tombelaine, Lillemer and Mont Tombe, later called Mont Saint Michel.
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