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The 1,000-year-old citadel that rises out of the Atlantic Ocean

France/ Exactly 1,000 years ago this month, construction started on a magnificent island building off the coast of France that, as it rose improbably from the choppy waters of the Atlantic Ocean, would become a lasting symbol of national fortitude.

The medieval abbey atop Mont Saint-Michel, a cascade of walls and buttresses descending from a lofty central spire, was a spectacular creation which has played crucial roles in French history over the centuries.

Today, as it marks a millennium since work began, it’s one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions outside of Paris – at times overwhelmed by its own popularity to such a degree that its custodians have urged people to stay away.

The abbey, which lies off the coast of France’s Normandy region, west of Paris, has pulled in legions of pilgrims over the centuries. Today, it attracts 1.3 million tourists each year.

“In the span of 1,000 years, its silhouette has become an emblem of French universalism,” French President Emmanuel Macron wrote on Twitter on June 5 following an official visit to the site. “Its abbey, the symbol of what we are: a people of builders.”

To celebrate the abbey’s birthday, the Mont is hosting concerts, conferences and a visual show called the “Millennium Solstice” on June 23 that will feature an unprecedented light show. Visitors can also enjoy an exhibition about its history and architecture until November 2023.

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