The Nave

The Nave of the Mont Saint Michel

The nave of the church consisted, as we have already said, of seven arcades, the first three of which were destroyed in 1776. After its alteration, the nave was closed by a façade built in the fashion of that time, in the style called the jésuite’s style the peculiar architecture of which makes us regret the suppression of the nave and of the old portal. In front of the old portal was a court built on the romanesque substructures. 

The work of restoration commenced in 1873 under the direction of the commission of historical buildings, necessitated, in 1875, excavations under the flagstones of the large platform of the west, which revealed the foundations of the first three arcades. The plan shows these discoveries; it indicates also: the constructions made in front of the Romanesque portal by Robert de Torigni, this abbot’s grave, and his successor Don Martin’s. 

These traces have been covered over — after the useful works of preservation — by the flagstones making the ground of the large plateau. 

Plan of the Church. Actual Nave.


A — Chancel (rebuilt in the XVth century). 

B — Transept 

C — Romanesque constructions 

D — Foundations of the three destroyed arcades.

E — Foundations of the towers and of the porch, built by Robert de Torigni 

F — Grave of Robert de Torigni.

G — Grave of Don Martin de Fiunicdeio.

H — Empty graves (XIth century) 

I — Traces of the flag-stones of the old court in front of the church. 

J — Ruins of the room called de Souvré’s Room (old Dormitory). 

J’ — Traces of the flagstones of de Souvré’s Room. 

K — Platform, called Saut-Gaultier. 

L — Cloister (XIIIth century). 

M — Ruins of the staircases leading down to the charnel-house of the Monks 

N — Front rebuilt in 1780. 

O — Old abbatial buildings (end of the XIth century). 

The front nave of the church is formed of three parts, i.e. a large nave and two collaterals, rather narrow. Like most of the churches built at the beginning of the XP century, especially in Normandy, the central nave was covered by visible timberwork. The actual vault which seems to be in stone is really in wood and old dry plaster; it was made after the fire of 1834. The aisles are alone vaulted by projecting, lateral and transverse arches, the intervening spaces of which are full of plain groined vaults. The square piers are cantoned with engaged columns |at the third of their diameter, as shown in the plan.

Plan of an arcade of the romanesque nave.

The columns at the side of the large nave, rise to the higher cornice: ended by the capitals, they supported the outside timber trusses. The other three columns crowned by capitals, support the transverse arches of the lateral wall and those of the aisles which longitudinally join the piers together and transversally these to the exterior walls.

The excavations made in 1875 at the actual entrance of the nave, have disclosed in the north aisle — M of the plan — the passages and the ruins of the staircase leading from the nave to the charnel-house or cemetery of the monks. A passage and a staircase both stand on the south, running parallel with Saint-Stephen’s chapel — in J and in Z of the plan. These communications were intercepted by the construction of the front in 1780. 

At the intersection of the nave and the transepts stand the triumphal pillars erected in 1058, which supported the steeple, rebuilt several times but entirely destroyed at the end of the XVIth century. In its place the massive square pavilion was unhappily built-in 1620 which still exists and which is proportionally too large for the four pillars; of these, two remain almost perpendicular as well as the transverse arches which join them; but the two pillars joining the chancel suffered much damage from the fire of 1421. They are injured and split, and it was impossible to support them but by building the chancel in the XVth century, the arches of the first arcade of which have been put to support them. The arches of the south transept and of the west nave, calcined by the fire of 1834, have been newly plastered but not restored; they are terribly cracked especially those of the south, and they were obliged to place supports in January 1883, in order to avoid the threatening downfall.

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