Operation Archangel: statue airlifted for restoration

After heavy winds thwarted earlier attempts, the statue of the Archangel Michael was lifted by helicopter from its perch, 156m above the abbey of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, on 15 March so that it could be restored. The 520kg, 4.5m-tall gilded-copper statue is by Emmanuel Frémiet, best known for his equestrian statue of Joan of Arc in Paris. Dating from 1897, it depicts St Michael, sword in hand, trampling the dragon Lucifer. The piece 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 metal-repair firm Socra and the Parisian gilders Ateliers Gohard. It is likely to be reinstalled at the end of May, says Xavier Bailly, the abbey’s manager. The €450,000 project is part of a larger, €7m programme, funded by France’s Centre des Monuments Nationaux, to preserve the island abbey-fortress, which has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1979.