Brief History of L’Arche

L’Arche was founded in France in 1964 by Jean Vanier who was a former naval officer in both the British and Canadian Navy. In the early 1950’s he studied theology and philosophy at the Institut Catholique in Paris, where he completed a doctorate in the Ethics of Aristotle.

Through his spiritual director, Jean discovered the life of people with an intellectual disability who were confined in large institutions and was deeply moved by their suffering and their cry for friendship. He invited Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux to come and live with him in a small house he had purchased in the village of Trosly Breuil, near the town of Compiegne. They named the home ‘L’Arche’, which is French for ‘The Ark’.

From those early beginnings, L’Arche has grown to be a global Federation of communities across five continents. You can find out more about L’Arche in the world at