The beloved French abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel has reached an advanced age. Have passed 1,000 years since the laying of its first stone.
The millennium of the UNESCO World Heritage site and Normandy’s key tourist magnet will be celebrated until November with exhibitions, dance performances and concerts. And now a presidential visit.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron, went there on Monday and gave a speech calling on the French to “try harder” on global and existential challenges like climate change. He made a comparison to the abbey which has stood strong over time and embodies the “French spirit” of “resilience” and “resistance”.
Since the former president François Mitterrand did so in 1983, France’s leaders have flocked to this symbolic site to deliver political messages. In 2007, the former president Nicolas Sarkozy he even launched his presidential campaign there.
Macron’s presidential advisers had said of this visit that the “walls and the eternity of the Mount” seem to carry “the notions of resistance and resilience” of the D-Day landings that are commemorated this week in the same region.
Macron also visited a new exhibition that traces the history of the Romanesque abbey through 30 objects and pieces, including a restored statue of Saint Michael. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared in 708, duly instructing the bishop of nearby Avranches to build him a church on the rocky outcrop.
The exhibition, which has been two years in the making, opened last month. Covers the complex construction process of what is considered an architectural gem on a rocky island joined to the mainland by only a narrow causeway at high tide.
were built four crypts on the granite tip along with a church on top. The exhibit explains how the original structure, built in 966, became too small for pilgrims, prompting builders to create the 11th-century abbey that stands to this day.
France has spent more than 32 million euros ($34 million) over 15 years to restore the building, and the job is about to finish. The authorities have also tried in recent years to protect the environment surrounding the monument from the impact of mass tourism.
One of the most popular French destinations outside of Paris, the island of Mont-Saint-Michel attracted 2.8 million visitors last year, including 1.3 million for the abbey. It was not closed to visitors for the presidential visit, but the local authorities were taking steps to make it run as smoothly as possible.
(With information from AP)
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