The spectacular French abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel celebrates its 1000th anniversary

PARIS (AP) — France’s beloved Mont-Saint-Michel abbey has reached a ripe old age. 1000 years have passed since the laying of its first stone.

The millennium of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and high place of Norman tourism is celebrated until November with exhibitions, dance performances and concerts. French President Emmanuel Macron will go there on Monday.

Macron plans to deliver a speech and view a new exhibit tracing the history of the Romanesque abbey through 30 objects and exhibits, 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 ran for two years, opened last month. It covers the complex process of building what is considered an architectural gem on a rocky island connected to the mainland only by a narrow causeway at high tide.

Four crypts have been built on the granite point with a church on top. The exhibit explains how the original structure, built in 966, became too small for pilgrims, prompting the builders to create the 11th-century abbey that still exists today.

France has spent more than 32 million euros ($34 million) over 15 years to restore the building, and work is nearing completion. The authorities have also tried in recent years to protect the environment of the monument from the impact of mass tourism.

One of the most popular French destinations outside 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 local authorities were taking steps to make it as smooth as possible.

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