Noirlac Abbey

Ethan Map Noirlac
Map Credit:

From Bourges we headed south to Noirlac Abbey. The abbey is set in the Bocage de Noirlac, a beautiful nature preserve composed of meadows, rolling hills and forest land. Seeing the Abbey required us to depart from the speedier A71 hiway from Bourges to Vichy and take the D 2144 which roughly parallels the A71 on the opposite side of the Cher River. The country has changed from the flat farmland around Paris. Here it is lovely rolling hills and small valleys.

The Abbey of Noirlac dating back to the 12th Century is surrounded by a fortified wall and moat erected in the 15th Century to protect the Abbey from roving bands of marauders, a result of the lawlessness that descended on the country as a result of the Black Death. Once inside the walls one climbs a stone stair up to top of the walls surrounding the cloister to enter the complex. The Abbey has been in reconstruction since 1950 and has been restored to its state at the time of the French Revolution when it suffered much devastation.

The Abbot’s room featured a balcony reached through glass doors, fireplaces and a sleeping alcove.
Graceful stone stair with restored iron work railings and light fixture connecting the lower and dormitory levels
Looking down the night stair from the dormitory to the church. The monks would have descended this stair to say their offices

Traditionally recited prayers were;

Matins (during the night, at midnight with some); also called Vigils or Nocturns or, in monastic usage, the Night Office Lauds or Dawn Prayer (at Dawn, or 3 a.m.)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (First Hour = approximately 6 a.m.)
Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (Third Hour = approximately 9 a.m.)

In winter the church would have been unheated.

The Monks used the cloister for circulation between the rooms and for prayer and contemplation. The cloister at Noirlac features vaulted ceiling and arched openings with Gothic stone tracery.



The Chapter is the room where the community began its day after breakfast. A chapter from the rule of St Benedict is read and the events and issues of the day are discussed. The precursor of the modern board meeting in the precursor of the modern corporation.

The Chapter is designed in typical Cistercian arrangement with two interior columns supporting a ceiling composed of two fan vaulted halves. The column capitals that can be seen here in the entry to the Chapter follow the Cistercian tradition of simplicity and gracefulness, taking their form from plants instead of human or animal sources.

The Refectory or dining room of the monastery has been beautifully restored. Here the Monks gathered for their meals. A lectionary occupies one wall with a pulpit reached by a short flight of stairs built inside the wall. There, one of the monks was chosen each day to read from the bible as the monks ate their meals in silence.



Great place to pause for a selfie. The day was typically beautiful, hot in the afternoon with  brilliant sunshine and blue skies. Ideal weather to be out and about. On leaving Noirlac we passed the small restaurant at the entrance to the Monastery but did not stop as we were pushing to get to our next stop in Vallon-en-Sully.

To visit the website, click here

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