St Michael the Archangel takes flight

A 19th-century statue from Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy was airlifted from its perch above the island abbey to be restored

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The 19th-century statue of the Archangel St Michael was helicoptered from its perch, 156m above the abbey Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, on 15 March so it could be restored. The €450,000 project is part of a larger €7m programme financed by France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux to preserve the island abbey-fortress, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979. Since 2013, repairs have also been made to the roof and the stained-glass windows of the Medieval abbey.

The 410-kilogram gilded-copper statue, which stands 4.5m tall, sits atop the abbey’s spire and acts as a lightning conductor. Dating from 1897, it represents St Michael, sword in hand, trampling the dragon Lucifer. Sculpted by Emmanuel Frémiet, who is best known for his gilded equestrian statue of Joan of Arc in Paris, the work has undergone two previous restorations in 1935 and 1987; it has since suffered heavy storm and lightning damage.

The work is to be carried out by the Dordogne-based metal repair firm Socra and the Parisian gilders Ateliers Gohard. The statue is likely to be reinstalled at the end of May, says Xavier Bailly, the abbey’s manager.

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