The abbey of Mont Saint-Michel is famous not only for the beauty of its architecture but for its selling.It was built on a rocky outcrop arising from the bay of the same name.Both the site of a site of convent and a palce of pilgrimage, the abbey is completed with defensive works and the buildings of a small market town. The configuration of the site ment the task of the builders was very difficult and dictated a layout of much complexity to the numerous buildings witch spread out during the Xth to the end of the XIXth centuries.Instead of being able to spread out horizontally the buildings had to be staggered skywards, unusual for an abbey.
In the 11th century, William de Volpiano, the Italian architect who had built the Abbey of FÃ©camp in Normandy, was chosen by Richard II of Normandy to be the building contractor. He designed the Romanesque church of the abbey, daringly placing the transept crossing at the top of the mount. Many underground crypts and chapels had to be built to compensate for this weight; these formed the basis for the supportive upward structure that can be seen today. Today Mont Saint-Michel is seen as a Romanesque style church.
Robert de Thorigny, a great supporter of Henry II of England (who was also Duke of Normandy), reinforced the structure of the buildings and built the main faÃ§ade of the church in the 12th century. In 1204, the Breton Guy de Thouars, allied to the King of France, undertook the siege of the Mount. After having set fire to the village and having massacred the population, he was obliged to beat a retreat under the powerful walls of the abbey. Unfortunately, the fire which he himself lit extended to the buildings, and the roofs fell prey to the flames. Horrified by the cruelty and the exactions of his Breton ally, Philip Augustus offered Abbot Jourdain[disambiguation needed] a grant for the construction of a new Gothic-style architectural set which included the addition of the refectory and cloister.
Charles VI is credited with adding major fortifications to the abbey-mount, building towers, successive courtyards, and strengthening the ramparts.