Built from 1150 onwards by a small group of monks from Clairvaux, Noirlac Abbey reflects the monastic asceticism of the Cistercian order founded by Saint Robert and developed by Saint Bernard.
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.
1136 : arrival of the first Cistercian community in the place known as “La Maison-Dieu” (the House of God).
1150 : donation from Ebbe de Charenton for the benefit of the monks, making it possible finally to consider constructing an abbey.
1189 : confirmation of the donation by a formal act. The abbey prospers.
It receives tithes, rents and seigneurial revenues.
1290 : the abbey takes on the name of Noirlac.
1423 : to protect it from the armed gangs ravaging the countryside, the abbey is fortified.
Construction of a keep, surrounded by moats, as an extension of the pantry.
End of the 15th century: the community of Noirlac faces a deep moral crisis.
There are records of an apostate monk as well as of a murderer within the community.
1530 : Noirlac fell under secular rule. The abbot would henceforth be appointed by the King from outside the community.
1651-1652 : the buildings are seriously damaged in battles opposing royal troops and supporters of the Prince de Condé (the owner of the fortress of Montrond that was besieged for eleven months).
1730 : reconstruction work. The monks’ wing is substantially modified.
1791: Noirlac is acquired as a National Asset.
1822 : transformation into a porcelain factory, owned by the porcelain group Foëcy (Pillivuyt) from 1854 onwards. The monastic buildings house workshops, workers’ homes, ovens and warehouses.
1894 : first refurbishment. Removal of the industrial installations.
1909 : acquisition by the Cher Department.
1918 : the American Expeditionary Force sets up camp at Noirlac.
1936 : Noirlac offers shelter to Spanish Republican refugees.
1939 : Noirlac takes in elderly patients from the Saint Amand hospice.
1950 : beginning of the restoration under the guidance of the architects Ranjard and Lebouteux, who are part of the team officially charged with safeguarding national monuments.
1980 : end of the restoration project.
2001 : repair of the terraces and creation of a stone staircase.
2008 : the abbey obtains the national label “Cultural Encounter Centre”.