A brief history of L’Arche

L’Arche began in France on August 4, 1964. Jean Vanier, a Canadian professor of philosophy and retired naval officer, was searching for his calling. He was invited by his spiritual director to visit some institutions for men with intellectual disabilities in France. He was disturbed by the rejection and loneliness of the men he met, yet also moved by their openness. He felt called to share his life in community with some of them.

With support from benefactors and professionals, Jean renovated a small home in a village called Trosly-Breuil, France. He called it “L’Arche” (the ark) and invited a few of the men to live with him. Life together was challenging, yet full of joy. It was a place of growth for them and inspiration to others.

From these humble roots, L’Arche grew quickly, attracting many young people. Jean spoke about what he was discovering through mutual relationship with the men and later women in his growing community. In 1969, L’Arche opened in Richmond Hill, Ontario. In 1970, L’Arche expanded to India thus becoming interfaith and multi-cultural.

Today, there are 149 L’Arche communities and 14 projects in 37 countries around the world.



Jean Vanier, Companion of the Order of Canada, is a philosopher, writer, religious and moral leader and the founder of two major international community-based organizations, L’Arche, and Faith and Light, that exist to share life with people with intellectual disabilities. The over 150 L’Arche communities in 37 countries and 1,500 Faith and Light communities in 82 countries are living laboratories of human transformation.
L’Arche Canada belongs to the International Federation of L’Arche Communities linking us to the communities of L’Arche in 37 countries around the world.