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New Norcia Benedictine Community New Norcia Road New Norcia WA 6509
People visit New Norcia for many reasons; for spiritual retreat, to join a tour and see inside the magnificent buildings or sometimes just to walk around the town and enjoy the peace and beautiful scenery.
In this section you will find all the information you need for your visit to New Norcia. Details of places to eat and places to stay, details of the town tours and information about some of our favourite things to do in Australia’s only monastic town.
We recommend your first port of call is the Museum & Art Gallery to speak to one of the staff about the attractions and experiences New Norcia has to offer. The Museum & Art Gallery is also a Visitor Information Centre and is the point from which town tours leave.
Stay at New Norcia
There are so many different options for accommodation at New Norcia.
The Guesthouse is perfect for a quiet, retreat like experience - a world away from the rigours of modern life. You can join a Benedictine retreat here or be housed in the Hermitage for a silent retreat. Groups can be accommodated in the Old Convent or the historic boarding school colleges. Smaller groups are also able to book the Hostel, with its comfortable rooms, neo-classical architecture, scenic deck and heritage veranda, as well as St Ildephonsus' Cottage.
Please click on the areas on the right for more information.
Eat & Drink
Hospitality is a tenet of the Rule of St Benedict, the Rule by which the monks of New Norcia live, so wherever you choose to eat in town, our aim is for you to experience warm monastic hospitality.
Education & Research
From the earliest days of its foundation New Norcia has been focussed on education. The first Abbot, of New Norcia (Rosendo Salvado) established the Aboriginal girls and boys schools and the second Abbot of New Norcia, Fulgentius Torres built and opened the European girls and boys schools, which closed in 1991.
Since the closing of the schools, New Norcia's school buildings and grounds have been utilised by groups undertaking education programmes.
However, New Norcia also has a tradition of research and academia, with its impressive archival records and library collection, and scholars and researchers alike have delighted over the years in the information available in the town's records.
This section also provides information on the archives and library and provides link to forms which will give you access to the records of New Norcia.
Protecting a Unique Heritage
New Norcia is Australia’s only monastic town and has a unique heritage. Founded in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine Monks, the town has had many purposes; a mission, a monastery, a provider of education and now as a place of spiritual retreat.
Delve into the town's unique history, discover the ongoing and completed work necessary for the upkeep and restoration of this special part of Australia.
But it is not only the majestic buildings set amongst the Australian bush that sets New Norcia apart; its history is also encapsulated in the archival records of New Norcia and in the library and museum collections.
In this section we also have information about how you can donate to New Norcia to help the Community restore and maintain this treasure.
What's Happening at New Norcia
We hold a diverse array of events throughout the year at New Norcia.
Each year we host a full programme of events including a spiritual retreat programme presented by the Institute for Benedictine Studies, dinners at the New Norcia Hostel and a few other surprises!
Watch this space for all the updated information about "What's on at New Norcia".
On Saturday 12th August 2023, we were treated to a wonderful all day celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first playing of the Moser organ on 2nd September 1923.
The organ had been purchased by the then organist, Fr. Stephen Moreno OSB under the authority of the third abbot Anselmo Catalán. It was under construction for five months in 1923, under the direction of Moreno with assistance from members of the community.
The concert programme honoured the long tradition of fine musician composers at New Norcia from our founding abbot Rosendo Salvado right up our current liturgist, Fr. Robert Nixon.
Patrick Elms delivered a very comprehensive and engrossing description of the organ from his perspective of having maintained this beautiful instrument for so many years, ably assisted by John Beaverstock at the keyboard, demonstrating the many voices and features of the organ.
The 70 attendees were treated to an excellent smorgasbord luncheon in the two newly renovated dining rooms of St Ildephonsus’ college.
The Abbot’s Table – Winter 2023
The winter Abbot’s Table, held on 19th August at the New Norcia Hostel was another huge success with great food, conversation, wines and entertainment.
It is not uncommon for the Abbot to ask himself (out loud) “what was I thinking?” when it comes to the long preparation process for these dinners, resulting from his menu selections.
For this Abbot’s Table, that question centred around the entrée where there was a lot of preparation and fiddly assembly work with the spring rolls and ravioli.
Above, Abbot John is pictured rolling his pasta dough and assembling the ravioli. If you look carefully at the photo, you will see that the Abbot was working so fast that his hand fell off!!
The entrée was worth all the hard work.
Geraldton Probus Club Visit
On Tuesday September 5th, sixteen members of the Probus Club Geraldton arrived for an overnight stay at the Hostel.
Guests started the afternoon with a look through the Museum and Art Gallery, followed by pre-dinner drinks in the Hostel bar and a Monastery dinner in the Hostel dining room. Guests concluded the night with a cake and champagne to celebrate one of the member’s birthday.
On Wednesday morning, after breakfast, the group enjoyed a two hour private town tour before their departure.
Guests said that the overnight stay exceeded their expectations, the hospitality, open fireplace, venue, meals and friendly staff made for one of the better outings they have had in a long time.
The old blacksmith’s shop.
Over the last few weeks, we have been moving more of our large artefact displays into the old flour mill, blacksmith’s shop and olive shed, ready to open these three new displays.
The old blacksmith’s shed needed the entrance way upgraded so, between local contractor Scott Metcalf and Moora BGC, a new entrance path was laid.
The monastery guesthouse.
Concreting the new access pathway from the bottom of the oratory steps to the kitchen was a far more difficult job, on several fronts. The only access for the BGC truck was the road below the lower guesthouse so all the concrete had to be barrowed uphill by the grounds and maintenance crew, Ian, Shady, Alex and Chris. Scott then had the additional complication of laying the concrete downhill, rather than uphill. After a few hours the team completed the task and the monastery guests are now much safer as they traverse uphill from prayers, particularly when it is dark.
Below L-R: Ian, Alex and Chris take their turn on the barrow.
An appreciation of our volunteers Part 1: The Archives
The Archives, Museum Collections and the Library (now jointly known as ACL) have enjoyed the goodwill, enthusiasm and generosity of volunteers for many years but have not perhaps received the acknowledgement and gratitude they fully deserve.
Without our volunteers, our work would have been immeasurably more difficult and protracted and some of the grand visions for projects that we aspire to, and have aspired to, would never have materialised without their help. In many instances, volunteers have simply shared the workload of the various managers in the past, performing routine tasks such as shelving books in the Library, helping move artefacts and vestments in the Collections area or scanning the seemingly endless documents, maps, plans and photographs that are to be found in Archives. Other volunteers have brought specialist skills to New Norcia such as a proficiency in another language to Archives, professional cataloguing skills to the Library or previous museum experience and valuation expertise to Collections.
I should like to start our appreciation of volunteers with the Archives for two reasons: firstly, it begins with an A! (as in ACL) and secondly, as archivist, I have enjoyed their company most over the last sixteen years. Among our earliest volunteers, all those years ago, were Barbara Young and her husband Mike Keenan (who volunteered in Grounds) and Christine Dale. Barbara was one of the earliest to work on the photographs whilst Chris created a Salvado education resource for the (then) Education Centre. Others that followed were Michelle Levings, an archives student at Curtin on work experience, Lillian Bellandi and Diana Davies (also photographs).
Transcription of chronicles is still a very important facet of archival work and we are grateful to Larrie Strautmanis (a retired Adelaide lawyer) and Rob Hart for their early work on the later English language monastery chronicles and to Patricia Fuster for continuing the projects, though Patricia is both transcribing and translating the Spanish language chronicles but from Argentina! Another overseas volunteer, Sonsoles Lopez from Colombia, volunteered at New Norcia too and was very much appreciated for her translation work on the Spanish letters.
We seem to have been blessed with international visitors for, in 2012 and again a year or so later, I was indeed fortunate to have Leen Charles as my locum archivist when I was off work for health reasons. Leen was the former City Archivist for Ghent in Belgium who ran our archives like clockwork while I was absent – a true godsend! Her partner, Marjan, did a brilliant job too, volunteering for the Education Centre.
More recently we have had longer term volunteers such as Andrew Walton who sorted the archives’ extensive map collection as part of an Abbot Placid Scholarship. Two long-term volunteers I would like to mention especially are Geraldine Byrne who spent eleven years analysing some 20,000 photographs and adding tags to them on their digital reverse – a fantastic accomplishment which has proven so useful in so many ways. And Christine Choo who, over ten years, built up a family tree database of over 2,500 names from New Norcia’s records so that we now possess a very powerful tool for family history research, particularly for Aboriginal families.
Lastly, chronologically speaking, but by no means least, are Vida Whale and Jim Longbottom, both of whom volunteered not only in Archives but also Collections (Vida) and the Library (Jim). Vida was with us for three years during which time she scanned all the Salvado correspondence collection which amounts to thousands of letters, many of the Salvado era registers, finalised the sorting of the photographs and, amongst other things, wrote an instruction manual for the overhead A3 scanner we procured for all those Salvado era registers.
Jim has been with us for three years now, mainly in the library and grounds but also, on occasion, in the archives where he has proved to be a skilled and accomplished photographer, recording both artworks and maps and plans.
In the second part, we will pay tribute to the volunteers who have contributed so generously to the other areas of ACL – Museum Collections and the Library.
Digitising the Archives
Over recent years photographic works have been undertaken by the New Norcia archives to progressively digitise the collections. Vida Whale spent three years here and scanned many documents and small photographs. Jim Longbottom photographed the nearly 900 works on paper by Fr.Lesmes Lopez, and we have captured some precious audio from Dame Maria Boulding when she presented a series of lectures here at New Norcia many years ago.
It is quite clear from the 1905 image of Torres’ design of the façade of St Ildephonsus College why we need to be about the work of digitising such precious images. This image has been hermetically encapsulated, but the decay of time is eminently apparent.
In recent months we have been capturing our collection of plans (as distinct from maps) and to date some 760 of them have been photographed and processed. (about halfway)
In the process certain images do cause delight and amusement. Here are a couple of playful images from the pen of a graphic artist from an architectural firm. I just love the rabbits!
Welcome Old Friends
On Thursday 24th August, we were blessed with a visit from our dear friends and annual Paschal Triduum Pilgrims, Neil and Ann Anderton.
They brought with them two German priests, Fr Thomas (a relative) and Fr Christian, who are enjoying a holiday down under.
On the journey from Perth to New Norcia, they were struck by the Australian landscape, the luscious crops, and the intensity of the blue sky.
After enjoying the treasures of the museum and art gallery, we were pleased to have them join us for Midday Prayer in the oratory and lunch in the refectory.
Abbot John treated them to a short tour of the monastery, including the hall, library, archives, Spanish chapel and the bakery, still warm from the daily bake.
If it’s not the roof...it’s the boiler!
Along with the insurmountable challenges of conserving one of Western Australia’s most significant heritage sites, daily life at New Norcia includes ongoing maintenance.
Lead by property manager Ian Smith, our skilled grounds and maintenance team, and often times the expertise if specialist contractors, all manner of jobs are undertaken to keep the place ticking. Pictured: in-house scaffolding has been assembled to repair the boiler servicing the cells of two monks, the abbot’s suite, and the bishop’s room, presently occupied by retreat master Fr Bede.
Fr Robert Nixon, OSB Live at Fremantle Basilica
Friday, 27th October 2023
Performing original compositions from his new album Celestial Void, as well as beloved works of Chopin and Liszt.