L'Arche was founded in 1964 by Jean Vanier, son of Canadian Governor General Georges Vanier, when he invited two men with intellectual disabilities to live with him in an old house in the town of TroslyBreuil, France. Inspired by the Beatitudes of Jesus, which begin by proclaiming “Blessed are the poor...” (Matt. 5:112), Vanier was among the first in our age to see that there is something fundamentally unjust about locking people up in institutions. He believed, instead, that “those the world would rather lock away have much to teach us and can even heal us if we give them the chance.” Together they called their home L'Arche, in reference to "Noah's Ark", the biblical symbol of deliverance.
Since then L'Arche has grown to include over 120 communities in 40 countries, and has evolved into an ecumenical organization welcoming of all religious traditions, and those with no tradition at all.
Each community is unique, yet we all share a common vision of the basic dignity of each human person. We seek to create homes and provide meaningful work for all our community members in an attempt to create a world where everyone, regardless of ability or disability, is recognized as being of equal value.
L'Arche has been called one of the most significant ministries of the 20th Century. Among other accolades, Jean Vanier received the Paul VI International Prize for his lay ministry work.
In recognizing Vanier 's work, Pope John Paul II stated,"L'Arche has grown to become a dynamic and providential sign of the civilization of love."
In the words of Jean Vanier,"L'Arche wants to seek new ways of living universal peace where all people, especially the poor and the weak, are held in honour, respected, and received."