This 12th century abbey near the French town of Bourges stands out as one of the best preserved, and extensively restored, historical monuments in the region.
The architecture of the Abbaye de Noirlac, and its sombre stone constitution, inspires calm and self-reflection. Every murmur and footstep echoes here. With its internal spaces, openings and ceilings of expansive dimensions, the abbey seems to have been built to make a human feel small. When monks lived here, their time was divided into three parts: praying, working and the last third dedicated to basic life-essentials.
The Abbaye de Noirlac was built for the most part in the 12th century. The church is built according to the Bernardin plan which had already used for the abbey church of Fontenay . It was consecrated in 1147. The construction of the choir, the transept and the last two spans of the church was completed between 1150 and 1160 . Between 1170 and 1190 , construction of the wall of the church along the cloister, the chapter house, the monks ‘room and the monks’ dormitory on the first floor to the east of the cloister.
At the beginning of the 13th century, a porch was attached to the front facade, and the refectory to the south of the cloister is high in the following years. From 1270 to 1280, construction of the galleries north and west of the cloister.
From the sixteenth century until the French Revolution, the few monks who lived there devoted themselves as much to managing the community’s property as to their spiritual life. In 1791, the abbey was confiscated to become a National Asset. It was then occupied by a porcelain factory for much of the nineteenth century.
The monument came into the possession of the Cher Department in 1909 and benefited from a remarkable restoration between 1950 and 1980, which restored the abbey’s authentic character in line with its original plans. It embraced modernity by commissioning new and contemporary stained-glass windows from Jean-Pierre Raynaud.
The new Gardens
Designed by the landscape gardener Gilles Clément, the new gardens structure the space by favoring a new perspective of the abbey from the entrance at the south of the monument; they create a link between the disorder of the bocage countryside and the sternness of the Cistercian buildings.
As soon as you arrive on site, the enclosure of the Judean trees, the alleys of grasses, the basin and the room of changing roses invite contemplation and underline the purity of the architectural lines of the monument.
In the cloister, around the flowery well, the sky is reflected in form of clouds of simple and aromatic. Further on, the oriental gardens in light white tones lead up to the magnificent avenue of bicentennial lime trees.