In August 1964, having giving up his job teaching philosophy at the University of Toronto, he bought a small, rundown house without plumbing or electricity in the village of Trosly-Breuil, north of Paris, and invited two men with learning disabilities – Raphaël Simi and Philippe Seux – to share it with him. Both had been living in an asylum and were without family.
Today L’Arche (the ark) has 150 communities, in 38 countries, supporting 3,500 people with learning disabilities.
Vanier wrote 30 books on spirituality and community, including Community and Growth (1979), Becoming Human (1998), Befriending the Stranger (2005) and Life’s Great Questions (2015). In 2015 he was awarded the £1.1m Templeton prize, for making “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.