© Courtesy of Microsoft

Mont Saint-Michel – Digital Perspectives on the Model has just opened at the MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry). It is a collaboration between the Musée des Plans-Reliefs in Paris, Microsoft (which developed the HoloLens technology) in collaboration with HoloForge and Iconem companies and the MOHAI. The exhibition is a point of convergence between two technological achievements, the first dating from King Louis XIV (building of the Mont-Saint-Michel relief map) and the second from the 21st century (development of mixed reality).

© Courtesy of Microsoft

In this exhibition, visitors are immersed into the history and culture of a French landmark, Mont-Saint-Michel, using mixed reality device HoloLens 2. The model becomes reality and visitors are transported into the real Mont-Saint -Michel site. The model (relief map) of Mont-Saint-Michel has been lent by the Musée des Plans-Reliefs from Paris, for this first-ever display outside of France.

© Courtesy of Microsoft

Musée des Plans-Reliefs

The Musée des Plans-Reliefs hosts about 100 models of French and foreign cities of strategic significance. Under the reign of King Louis XIV, the Minister of War, Louvois, commissioned the manufacturing of relief maps of fortified sites in order to provide the king with a comprehensive vision of the kingdom’s defenses. The collection, initiated under King Louis XIV, was followed up for centuries, for strategic purposes, but also as a testament to the power of the Monarchy and as a tribute to great battles and sieges.

Scale Model of Mont-Saint-Michel before 1691
Close-up of the ramparts, south-eastern side, Musée des Plans-Reliefs
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée des Plans-Reliefs) / Adrien Didierjean

The Mont-Saint-Michel relief map is the jewel of the collection. It was made in 1701 under the supervision of the abbey’s monks.

Mont-Saint-Michel: History

© Courtesy of Microsoft

The history of Mont-Saint-Michel starts in year 708, when Bishop Aubert established a first sanctuary on Mont-Tombe, to honor Archangel Michael. The abbey, home to Benedictine monks as of 966, became a popular pilgrimage center of Western Christianity. The abbey underwent many changes between the 10th century and the renovations conducted in the 19th century. Generations of builders took turns building this abbey, which is a technical and artistic achievement.

Mont-Saint-Michel is located between Brittany and Normandy, and the fortress was built to offer protection against the English during the Hundred Years ‘war and the conflicts between the Normans and the English.

© Courtesy of Microsoft

1421 was a critical year for Mont-Saint-Michel for the choir collapsed. It was only rebuilt a century later, in Flamboyant Gothic style. In the 17th and 18th century, Mont-Saint-Michel’s religious and military prominence somewhat waned.

During the French Revolution, Church properties became national properties and the monks had to leave. In 1793, Mont-Saint-Michel was converted into a prison for refractory monks.

The prison was finally closed in 1863, leaving the Mont in very bad condition. Mont-Saint-Michel was declared a historic monument in 1874 and restoration work started. A causeway was built for easier access. In 1969, a small community of Benedictine monks settled at the Mont, replaced in 2001 by the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem.

Mont Saint-Michel was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1979. In 1998, the site was declared Way of Saint James of France.

From 1995 to 2015, a huge project was launched to remove the causeway and restore the connection between Mont-Saint-Michel and the sea.

© Courtesy of Microsoft

Enjoy your visit!

Exhibition in MOHAI from October 23rd, 2019 to February 15th, 2020. Languages available for the experience: English, French, Spanish.

© Courtesy of Microsoft