Regilded archangel back atop France's Mont Saint-Michel

26th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

The gilded Archangel Michael, resplendent after an expensive 10-week facelift, was airlifted on Thursday back to the top of the historic abbey on the French island of Mont Saint-Michel.

Dozens of tourists cheered as engineers successfully lowered the 520-kilo (1,100-pound) copper statue, glinting in the sun, from a helicopter to the top of the church, one of France's most stunning sites.

Artisans from the same foundry that produced New York's Statue of Liberty stripped the statue down to its original copper, which they restored and coated with protective paint.

Then came the gold leaf -- twice the amount that was used in the statue's last renovation in 1987, according to Philippe Belaval, head of the French Centre for National Monuments (CMN).

The overhaul costing some 450,000 euros ($500,000) should help the statue, perched 160 metres (530 feet) above the rocky tidal island, to withstand whippings by sand-laden winds -- as well as lightning strikes -- for at least the next 50 years, he added.

One of France's most recognisable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel and its 11th-century Benedictine abbey were put on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1979.

According to legend, a local bishop built a monastery at Mont Saint-Michel in the eighth century after a visit from the Archangel Michael who repeatedly asked him to erect a church on the island.

The statue depicts the archangel ready to strike an evil dragon with his sword.

Mont Saint-Michel, which lies just off the northwestern coast of France, attracts up to three million visitors a year.

© 2016 AFP

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