(Paris) The beloved abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, in France, has reached an advanced age. A thousand years have passed since the laying of its first stone.

The millennium of the site listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Mecca for Norman tourism is celebrated until November with exhibitions, dance performances and concerts.

For the past month, the site has offered a new exhibition which traces the history of the abbey through 30 objects and pieces, including a restored statue of Saint Michael. Legend has it that the Archangel Michael appeared in 708, duly instructing the Bishop of nearby Avranches to build him a church on the rocky outcrop.

The exhibition, which was designed over two years, covers the complex process of building what is considered an architectural gem, on a rocky island connected to the mainland only by a narrow causeway at high tide.

Four crypts have been built on the granite point with a church on top. The exhibit explains how the original structure, built in 966, became too small for pilgrims, prompting the builders to create the 11th-century abbey that still exists today.

France has spent more than 32 million euros (46 million CAN) over 15 years to restore the building, and the work is nearing completion. The authorities have also tried in recent years to protect the environment of the monument from the impact of mass tourism.

One of the most popular French destinations outside Paris, the island of Mont-Saint-Michel attracted 2.8 million visitors last year, including 1.3 million for the abbey.