France's Centre des Monuments Nationaux is continuing its multi-stage restoration of the island abbey of Mont St Michel. This year the Norman-Gothic cloister and its 13th-century courtyard garden will get a €2.2m makeover. This follows repairs in 2016 to the 19th-century gilded-copper statue of Archangel Michael that tops the abbey spire, and earlier projects to restore the roof and stained-glass windows.
The abbey’s site and topography presented its builders with particular architectural challenges, and the cloister now requires both structural and cosmetic treatment. Rainfall into the garden is causing water to seep through the ceiling of the abbey scriptorium below. In the 19th century, the courtyard was paved over and rain was channelled into a cistern that fed water to the kitchen. However, the removal of the paving slabs and re-creation of the garden in 1965 has made remedial drainage work and improved damp-proofing necessary to better insulate the garden soil from the stone vaulting below.
The cloister’s arcades are light and airy, but also fragile. They have suffered from erosion and fungal attacks exacerbated by exposure to the salty sea winds blowing in from the English Channel. This year’s programme will treat and repair the woodwork on the cloister ceilings; clean and consolidate the stonework of the arcades, which are decorated with sculpted floral and figurative bas-reliefs; improve the ventilation of the cloister roof; and lower the floor by around eight inches to restore the original Medieval proportions.