The Library at Mont Saint-Michelle Is Virtually Reborn in Digital Form

Source: FSSPX News

The idea behind this project is to bring back to life the riches of a Benedictine library that no longer exists.

The sons of St. Benedict first settled on Mont Saint-Michel in 966, when the Duke of Normandy, Richard I, decided to bring monks from the Abbey of Saint-Wandrille to replace the few canons who were no longer fulfilling the role that had been entrusted to them of welcoming pilgrims.

The 10th century can thus be considered as the resurrection of Mont Saint-Michel-au-Péril-de-la-Mer (in the danger of the sea), a name it received because the moving sands all around it. It was at this time that the abbey’s library was developed.

In 1622, after several centuries of decline, nine monks of the Congregation of Saint-Maur replaced the Benedictines. These learned religious helped develop the abbey’s collection. They opened a school where they taught classes for a handful of students.

The patrimonial library of Avranches has launched the project of an unprecedented virtual library that consists in digitizing the manuscripts of the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. 

The French Revolution signed the abbey’s death sentence. In 1790, the monks were driven out, then two years later all the goods were sold and the Mont became a prison where three hundred priests were locked up. In 1799, they were replaced by ordinary prisoners.

From that time on, most of the manuscripts were collected in Avranches. Some works, however, were pilfered; several of the manuscripts that survived the revolutionary torment were scattered to all four corners of the world. Today they can be found in New York, the Vatican, London, Figeac, Bordeaux, Maredsous, Berlin, and even St. Petersburg.

There have been three series of digitization since 2004. The first scanned about fifty manuscripts. The idea of a virtual library for Mont Saint-Michel was born with the second series. The third began in 2016 and was finished this year.

Thus out of 250 manuscripts, 205 have been put online, giving birth to the virtual library and granting access to a 1,000-year-old Benedictine library.