How The Mont Saint Michel was controlled by the Vikings and Normand dukes.

In 933, the dukes of Normandy ceded the Cotentin Peninsula to the Viking Rollo and his descendants. The Mont Saint Michel Abbey, located on the peninsula, was subsequently controlled by Benedictine monks from Fontenelle. These monks were accused of being friendly with the Bretons and were driven out by the Vikings. In 966, Menard, abbot of Fontenelle, became the first Benedictine abbot of The Mont Saint Michel. However, due to the intervention of the dukes of Normandy in its election process, the community was still under laical control.

In 1023, William of Volpiano, the Cluniac abbot of Fécamp, placed one of his disciples at the head of Le Mont Saint Michel. The disciple’s successors were also imposed from outside and had difficulty gaining acceptance from the monks. Eventually, the monks freely elected their own abbot. Despite struggles for influence, Le Mont Saint Michel flourished; it received numerous donations from the Dukes of Normandy while pilgrimage to the mountain continued to grow in popularity. In order to accommodate the community’s growth, a Romanesque complex was built to replace the first monastery.

The abbey church was constructed between 1023 and 1085. Abbot Roger, who was later imposed by William the Conqueror at the head of Le Mont Saint Michel, knew how to attract favor from powerful individuals and institutions. However, he faced hostility from the monks and eventually resigned.

In 1138, the abbey church was spared while the rest of the abbey was burned down in a quarrel over the succession of the dukedom. The monks tried to choose their own abbot but were unsuccessful. Abbot Bernard the Venerable had established discipline in the abbey and added a central tower. When he died, there was no clear successor and the monks became embroiled in a fight for power. The property was seized and the elected abbot was expelled. This left the abbey church standing alone, a symbol of hope and resilience in spite of adversity.

In 1154, the most important abbot of the Mont was elected, Robert de Torigni. The number of monks increased, the scriptorium became so important that the abbey was nicknamed the city of books. Numerous constructions were undertaken: towers were added to the façade, a monastic complex was built on the southern flank… But most of these constructions collapsed at various times. The Mont then suffered from its attachment to the Plantagenets when Normandy was attached to France by Philip Augustus.

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