26 June 2009

The Abbey of Noirlac

Noirlac — the name looks like "black lake" but I'm not certain that's the origin — the one of the most beautiful places CHM and I visited during his 2009 visit to the Loire Valley. Noirlac is the name of an abbey — a monastery — located in the very center of France, on the banks of the Cher River about 100 miles southeast of Saint-Aignan.

L'abbaye de Noirlac, dans le Berry

The abbey was founded in the 1130s by Robert de Clairvaux, who was a cousin of the influential Saint Bernard. Bernard had founded an abbey at Clairvaux near Dijon a few years earlier. He was a fundamentalist of his time. He rejected the worldly ways of the 12th century Catholic church and advocated a stern, almost severe lifestyle. He broke with society, took vows of poverty, silence, and manual labor, and tried to live a simple day-to-day life. The order he helped to shape was called the Cistercians, after the name of the Abbey of Cîteaux in Burgundy. Robert de Clairvaux, the founder of Noirlac, was also a Cistercian.

Stark simplicity in art, architecture, and religious ceremony was one of the Cistercians' guiding principles. The Abbey at Noirlac, which has been carefully restored, reflects that ideal. CHM and I were lucky to be there on a bright, sunny day, because the sun makes the local white stone look radiant and creates deep, dark shadows that highlight the architectural beauty of the complex. This is one of the most complete and best preserved monastery complexes in France today, according to the Michelin Green Guide.

More later... busy day today. Off to the bank in Montrichard and then to the supermarket. It's farmers' market day in Montrichard so it will be busy.


  1. Wonderful photograph of the light shining through the arched window.


  2. Beautiful place!

  3. Nadege, I just read your comment on Dedene's blog that you're going back to France for a stay in July... have a wonderful time!

    Ken, thanks for showing us the Abbey of Noirlac. I'd like to learn more about it. I like Cistercian chant music, and I'd like to learn more about the Cistercian architecture style. I'm wondering if this would just fall into the late Romanesque/early Gothic era, or if there are trademarks of Cistercian architecture. I'm going to have to look into this!

    Hope market day in Montrichard was great!


  4. Judy

    May be this site will help. I was referred to it by the "hôte" from whom we were renting a gîte in Gilly-les -Citeaux last year:

  5. Wow, it's stunning. Thanks for the great shots and history lesson about the Cistercian monks.

  6. Here is a link [in French] that gives more information about the Cistercian architecture. Some of the best Cistercian abbeys are Fontenay in Burgundy as well as Sénanque, Le Thoronet and Sylvacane in Provence. Unfortunately, I never had a chance to go to Fontfroide, but I understand it is worth the detour.



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