You drive along the northern highway 132 kms into the wheat belt area of the Victoria Plains and out of nowhere approximately a dozen or so imposing buildings appear, this is New Norcia, it is the only monastic town in Australia.
Two Spanish Benedictine Monks, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra founded New Norica in 1846 as a mission for aboriginal people. Fulgantius Torres took over the role from Rosendo Salvado and in the early 20th century Dom Torres was responsible for these buildings of New Norcia.
During the 20th century there were four boarding schools:
1. St Ildephosus run by the Marist Brothers for boys and later run by the Benedictine monks;
2. St Gertrudes run by the Josephine nuns for girls until the 1970's when it amalgamated with St Ildelphosus and became Salvado College which ceased in 1991;
3. St Marys for aboriginal boys until the 1970's and
4. St Josephs for aboriginal girls until the 1970's.
Today some of these buildings are utilised for tourism and educational purposes where day programs to overnight camps are conducted for school children and adults.
To fully experience New Norcia I would suggest taking the 2 hour tour, which will take you behind closed doors. You'll see the wonderful art work, architecture, beautifully carved timber furnishings by Juan Casellas and the amazing paintings of Lesmes Lopez. The museum and art gallery also have many interesting items on display including post renaissance works and modern art work.
|Looking across from the Museum & Art Gallery which is in the old St Joseph's school building|
|The Hotel where you can have an Abbey Ale with a counter lunch or stay the night|
|Inside the old chapel within the Monastery|
|Inside the Abbey Church|
|Painted carvings on the walls in the Abbey Church|
|The Abbey Church|
|An example of Juan Casellas craftsmanship - dining table in St Gertrudes (photo taken by Tim)|
|Ceiling in the chapel inside St Gertrudes|