France’s iconic Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey is celebrating 1,000 years since its foundation stone was laid in 923, with President Emmanuel Macron marking the occasion in Normandy ahead of the 79th anniversary of the D-Day landings.

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The UNESCO World Heritage site’s millennium is being celebrated until November with exhibitions, dance shows and concerts.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the abbey, where he is called on the French people to “go beyond” the challenges of the 21st century, reflecting on the “tests of time” that Mont-Saint-Michel has withstood, calling it a symbol of a certain “French spirit”.

Macron also toured a new exhibition tracing 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 a rocky outcrop.

Millions for the restoration of the “architectural gem”

The exhibition, two years in the making, opened last month and covers the complex process of building what is considered an architectural gem on the rocky island, which is only connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway at low tide.

Four crypts were built on the granite tip along with the church on top. The exhibit explains how the original building, built in 966, became too small for pilgrims, prompting builders to build the 11th-century abbey, which still stands today.

France spent more than 32 million euros on the restoration of the building over 15 years, and the work is nearing completion.

In recent years, the French authorities have also tried to protect the surroundings of the monument from the impact of mass tourism.

One of France’s most popular destinations outside of Paris, Mont Saint-Michel attracted 2.8 million visitors last year, including 1.3 million to the abbey.

The site was not closed during the president’s visit on Monday, but local authorities took steps to ensure everything went as smoothly as possible.

D Day Commemoration

Meanwhile, Emmanuel Macron will travel to Colville-Montgomery – the site of the D-Day landings – on Tuesday morning to take part in an annual celebration organized by the French marines, instead of the traditional June 6 ceremonies in Verre-sur-sur-Mer. -Mer and will be held under the chairmanship of the Minister of Armed Forces Sebastien Lakornia.

Macron will be joined by 100-year-old Léon Gauthier – the last living Frenchman to take part in the D-Day landings – to present green berets to recruits who have recently completed their commando training course.

The presence of the French head of state is intended as a tribute to the 177 Frenchmen who landed on June 6, 1944, as part of Kiefer’s commando unit, along with 132,000 allied forces.

President Macron also used the occasion to officially create a public interest group that will be in charge of preparations for the 80th anniversary celebrations, which will take place in 2024.