My destination of Marché d’Avranches last Saturday,  found me stumbling into grace …

It’s peak holiday season here right now and the A84 is packed and slowed with cars heading home to Paris from a month in the South of France … heading to the baie beaches and Granville … heading to the Abbey of Mont St Michel – Françoise and I took the backroads and avoided it all.

Twenty minutes up the road, and there we were. We parked across from Église Notre-Dame-des-Champs d’Avranches, just left off the main rond point (General Patton’s) when entering the town, and walked into the old center.


Marché d’Avranches


It’s late in the season to find much in the way of starter plants, but I did snag my leeks and am halfway through preparing the bed for them tomorrow.

One of the wonderful things about Françoise  is she will spontaneously say ‘oh, look this is the place where …’ and off we trot.

We took a nosedive through the unrepaired, humble front doors of the Basilica of St Gervais, she having noticed the outer doors were standing open. This, by the way, was over my shoulder from the pre-occupation of purchasing enough garlic from the polders of the baie. Waiting for my change, I caught up with her at the top of the steps.

A little background here … the Abbey of Mont St Michel was founded by virtue of the bishop of Avranches, St Aubert. This was the 8th century.

He had a vision, a visitation, from Archangel Michael, instructing him to build an oratory on the rock, just off the coast at the mouth of the River Couesnon.

According to legend, it was the third visitation that got his attention when Michel ‘drove his finger through his skull’ the hole of which is prominently and sacredly displayed within the basilica.


St Aubert: Basilica St Gervais

Encased in its own gilded shrine, surrounded by forces unseen but represented, the relic of St Aubert was right in front of me.

It’s this juxtapositioning in France that grabs me every time; you’re busy with an ordinary day at the market, getting your produce for the week, when out of the blue you’re transported back in time – this time the year 709 – to grasp what unfolded then and is enshrined now.

That’s 1,309 years ago.

Science has stepped in to say it is probably a ‘trepanation’ or the result of a surgical tool used way back then to remove (perhaps) a tumor.

Myth and legend, enshrinement, belief and homage to the sacred would beg to disagree.

Personally, as far as I’m concerned it could have been the tumor itself (if indeed there was one) that opened his vision.

Either way, Mont St Michel stands prominently off the shores of France …