New Norcia
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New Norcia

New Norcia is a town in Western Australia, 132 km (82 mi) north of Perth, near the Great Northern Highway. It is situated next to the banks of the Moore River, in the Shire of Victoria Plains.

New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia. A ground station for the European Space Agency is located 8 km south of the town.[2][3]

A significant diversion of the Great Northern Highway, known as the New Norcia Bypass, now keeps heavy traffic away from the buildings and town. It was officially completed on 9 October 2017.[4]


On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local native Aborigines (must specifically the Yued) was started about 8 km (5 mi) to the north, led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra.

Within a year the mission was moved to where the town is today, and on 1 March 1847 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid.

The place was named New Norcia, after Norcia in Italy, the birthplace of St Benedict. Unlike the Italian Norcia, which is pronounced "nor-cha", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".


New Norcia Hotel

The town of New Norcia has buildings in a Spanish style of architecture, along with some other historical sites. Among these are the two old boarding schools, St Ildephonsus' and St Gertrude's (both now used for accommodation and various social functions), the Abbey Church (containing the tomb of Rosendo Salvado), an old mill, a wine press, a hotel and the monastery itself.

The town has attracted interest and tourist visits for most of its existence, and as a consequence a number of guide books and histories have been produced.[5][6]

Tours of the town are operated daily by the Friends of New Norcia, who also organise the accommodation in the various buildings including the monastery retreat.[7]

The Benedictine monks continue to occupy the monastery and are involved with most of the enterprises in the town. The last Spanish Benedictine monk of New Norcia died in 2010, aged 99. He baked the monastery's daily bread for over fifty years, and until shortly before his death also helped to make its olive oil.[8]

Today New Norcia is increasingly well respected in Australian culinary circles for its quality bakery (built in 1886) offering breads, nutcake and biscotti.[9] Also maintaining olive oil production and locally made wines; port and ale can be purchased at the community or from special outlets.[10]

New Norcia Hotel

The New Norcia Hotel opened in 1927 as a hostel for travellers and families of boarders at the New Norcia Colleges,[11][12] but later opened to the public. It closed in January 2020.[13][14]


The abbey was founded by a Spanish Benedictine, Rosendo Salvado, on 1 March 1856. On 1 March 1847, Salvado and Joseph Serra laid the foundation stone for a permanent mission building. It was a year to the day since Benedictine monks set up their first camp in the Victoria Plains. After three years spent among the local Aboriginal people, Salvado came to the conclusion that they could be converted to Christianity. Salvado was appointed the first abbot of New Norcia on 12 March 1867. Following his death on 29 December 1900, Father Fulgentius Torres OSB was elected abbot in 1902.

Today's monastery is centred upon the site of the original mission building, which Salvado and Serra completed in April 1847 with the assistance of a group of volunteers from Perth. Additional wings were added in the second half of the 19th century, and under New Norcia's second Abbot, Fulgentius Torres, a properly appointed monastery was established.

Behind the monastery's wrought-iron gates, imported by Torres from England early in the 20th century, stands a statue of Saint Benedict, who founded the Benedictine Order.

There are 11 monks living in the monastery, ranging in age from 40 to 95. They pray together seven times a day.



  • Rosendo Salvado, 12 March 1867 - 29 December 1900, died as abbot, aged 86 years
  • Fulgentius Torres, 1902 - 6 October 1914, died as abbot, aged 53 years[16]
  • Anselm Catalan, 1915-1951 (retired),[17] died 29 July 1959, aged 80 years
  • Gregory Gomez,[18] 1951-1971 (resigned), died 31 May 1995, aged 91 years
  • Bernard Rooney, 31 March 1974 - 15 June 1980 (resigned)
  • Placid Spearritt, 29 January 1997 - 4 October 2008, died as abbot, aged 75 years[19]
  • John Herbert, 23 January 2009 to present

From 1983 until 1997, the Territorial Abbey had been suppressed into the Archdiocese of Perth and Spearritt worked as an administrator.

Abbey buildings and pipe organs

The abbey buildings are on the eastern side of the current highway alignment through the town.

There are two pipe organs located within the abbey buildings. In the Abbey Church of the Holy Trinity is a large German organ, built in 1922 by Albert Möser of Munich, with 34 speaking stops. The organ was designed in consultation with the abbey organist, Stephen Moreno.[20]

The second pipe organ, of 11 speaking stops and much more modern in style, is located in the oratory chapel. This organ was built in 1983 by Bellsham Pipe Organs.[21]


St Ildephonsus' Boys' School

There have been a range of colleges situated in the town, associated with the Monastery, they are situated on the west side of the current main road alignment which passes through the town.[22] In 1972 St Benedict's and St Gertrude's become co-educational with student from both colleges sharing classes in 1973 became known jointly as Salvado College. Each building was still referred to individually as St Benedict's and St Gertrude's, in 1986 Salvado College became New Norcia Catholic College, which closed at the end of 1991.[] The colleges were among those investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for historical accusations.[23][24] There were 65 claims of abuse made about New Norcia, of which 26 were about a single perpetrator.[25][26] In 2016 a trial in the District Court of Western Australia testimony was presented about the events at St Benedict's college during the 1960s and 1970s. While the allegations were recognised as truthful the identity of the perpetrator was disputed with the jury finding the alleged person not guilty.[27]

St Gertrude's

St Gertrude's was completed in 1908.[28][29] The College was designed by Bishop Torres with assistance from the Barcelona architect, Enrique Sagnier, to cater for a growing demand for community education. It was built under the bishop's personal supervision between 1906 and 1907 with accommodation for 125 girls, and opened in 1908. Like the Hotel, the building is constructed of bricks made at New Norcia. St Gertrude's was run by the Sisters of St Joseph who departed in 1977 following the amalgamation with St Ildephonsus' College in 1975 in order to form the co-educational Salvado College. The building continued to be used as the girls' residence until the colleges ceased in 1992.

St Ildephonsus

Like its sister college, St Ildephonsus' was designed by Bishop Torres with assistance from the Spanish architect, Enrique Sagnier. Stone quarried from the hills to the north of the town and locally made bricks were used in the building's construction. The foundation stone was laid in early 1909 and St Ildephonsus' was opened in 1913.[30] It operated until 1964 as St Ildephonsus' under the Marist Brothers order.[31][32] From 1965 onwards, it was run by the Benedictines as St Benedict's College. Like St Gertrude's, the school was closed in 1992 and has since been used as a school camp facility.


There were also two institutions for Aboriginal children: St Mary's Mission (for boys)[33] and St Joseph's Native School and Orphanage (for girls). Both institutions closed in 1974,[34] but the two buildings still exist. St Mary's is next to St Ildephonsus', and St Joseph's is next to St Gertrude's.

St Joseph's Native School and Orphanage has been converted into the New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery.[35][36] Beside displaying many Christian relics and historical paintings, the Gallery hosts an exhibition of finalists for the Mandorla Art Award (the only Australian award solely for Christian religious artworks based on bible scripture themes).[37] In 1985 the first winner of the prize was Theo Koning with based on the theme 'Creation' from the Book of Revelation 15:3.[38] In 1986, twenty six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned though all were damaged they were eventually repaired.[39]

Grounds and heritage trail

With decreasing numbers of active colleges, and changes in the organisation of the town, some buildings and sites have been restored and incorporated into a heritage trail within the town. The following buildings are among the heritage buildings situated on the site of the Monastery, which is registered on the Register of the National Estate and classified by the National Trust of Australia WA:[40][41][42]

See also

European Space Agency - New Norcia Station


  • Beckett, T (1966), New Norcia : its history and development, 1846-1966, retrieved 2014
  • Monachus; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (1946), New Norcia : historical guide to all its institutions, Benedictine Abbey, retrieved 2014
  • Flood, James Rev (1908), New Norcia : the remarkable Aborigines institution of the Australian Commonwealth situated in the state of Western Australia ; a monument of Benedictine courage, patience and charity, Burns & Oates, retrieved 2014
  • Salvado, Rosendo; Stormon, Edward James, 1912-; New Norcia Benedictine Mission; Salvado, Rosendo; Storman, Edward James (1977), The Salvado memoirs : historical memoirs of Australia and particularly of the Benedictine mission of New Norcia and of the habits and customs of the Australian natives, University of Western Australia Press, ISBN 978-0-85564-114-6CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Lennon, Stephen; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (1991), The Story of New Norcia : the Western Australian Benedictine mission (7th ed.), Benedictine Community of New Norcia, ISBN 978-0-646-06140-5
  • Hutchison, D. E. (David Eric), 1927-; Hutchison, David (1995), A town like no other : the living tradition of New Norcia, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, ISBN 978-1-86368-132-2CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  • Smith, John H., (compiler.); Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (issuing body.) (2014), Rosendo Salvado, commemorating 200 years : 1814-2014, New Norcia, Western Australia Benedictine Community of New Norcia, retrieved 2014CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)


  1. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "New Norcia (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 2018.Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ ABC Dimensions - New Norcia and the European Space Agency
  3. ^ Press Release about the European Space Agency information about the New Norcia dish
  4. ^ New Norcia Bypass - 1st May 2017
  5. ^ Smith, John H; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (2008), The story of New Norcia : the Western Australian Benedictine mission (8th ed.), Benedictine Community of New Norcia, ISBN 978-0-646-49721-1
  6. ^ Monachus; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (1946), New Norcia : historical guide to all its institutions, Benedictine Abbey, retrieved 2012
  7. ^ Friends of New Norcia
  8. ^ "Australia's last Spanish Benedictine monk dies".
  9. ^ New Norcia bakery Archived 17 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ New Norcie products
  11. ^ "NEW NORCIA". The Sunday Times. Perth. 20 November 1927. p. 20. Retrieved 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "New Norcia Hotel". New Norcia Benedictine Community. Retrieved 2020.
  13. ^ Hedley, Kate (7 January 2020). "Last drinks in New Norcia as landmark pub shuts its doors". WAtoday. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ "Community's shock as Benedictine monks close down beloved New Norcia Hotel". The West Australian. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ New Norcia Cemetery
  16. ^ "OBITUARY". Kalgoorlie Miner. WA. 6 October 1914. p. 6. Retrieved 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  17. ^ "LORD ABBOT OF NEW NORCIA TO RETIRE". The Catholic Weekly. Sydney. 28 June 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  18. ^ "NEW LORD ABBOT ELECTED". The Catholic Weekly. Sydney. 9 August 1951. p. 5. Retrieved 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  19. ^ Obituary of Abbot Placid Spearritt
  20. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  21. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  22. ^ In sources and descriptions of the 1950s the colleges are referred to as 'mission colleges and orphanages'
  23. ^ "New Norcia Benedictine community among worst child sex abuse perpetrators". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ Wearne, Phoebe (6 February 2017). "Catholic Church officials admit widespread child sex abuse to Royal Commission". PerthNow. Seven West Media/Australian Associated Press. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Clarke, Tim (17 February 2017). "WA at the evil heart of child abuse". The West Australian. Seven West Media. Retrieved 2017.
  26. ^ "Analysis of claims of child sexual abuse made with respect to Catholic Church institutions in Australia". Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Commonwealth of Australia. February 2017. pp. 133-135. Retrieved 2017.
  27. ^ Clarke, Tim (21 February 2016). "The hidden shame of St Benedict's". The West Australian. Perth: Seven West Media. Retrieved 2017.
  28. ^ Byrne, Francis, 1949-; New Norcia Catholic College (1988), 80th anniversary, St. Gertrude's College, New Norcia, 1908-1988, New Norcia Catholic College, retrieved 2014CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Carter, Anne Murphy, Elizabeth; Murphy, Elizabeth (2006), Rich Harvest, A : St Gertrude's College - New Norcia, Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, ISBN 978-0-646-46628-6CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ "ST. IDELPHONSUS' COLLEGE. NEW NORCIA". The Southern Cross Times. XI (277). Western Australia. 4 January 1913. p. 2. Retrieved 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  31. ^ St. Ildephonsus' College (1960), St. Ildephonsus' College, New Norcia, Western Australia : prospectus, St. Ildephonsus' College, retrieved 2014
  32. ^ Braniff, Valerian (2009), St. Ildephonsus' College, New Norcia 1913-1964 : an educational, religious and social history ([Rev. ed.] ed.), Schools of Education and Social Enquiry, Murdoch University, retrieved 2014
  33. ^ "Native Orphanage for boys". The Daily News. Perth. 22 July 1924. p. 6. Retrieved 2014 – via National Library of Australia.
  34. ^ "New Norcia Mission (1848-1974)".
  35. ^ "New Norcia Museum".
  36. ^ "New Norcia Art Gallery".
  37. ^ "About - The Mandorla Art Award". The Mandorla Art Award. Retrieved 2017.
  38. ^ "Past Winners - The Mandorla Art Award". The Mandorla Art Award. Retrieved 2017.
  39. ^ "Compass: Restoration (RPT)". Retrieved 2017.
  40. ^ Livings, Simon (1987), "The New Norcia Heritage Trail. -in Western Australia-", Heritage (Australian Heritage Society), 6 (1): 20-21, ISSN 0155-2716
  41. ^ Western Australia. Heritage Trails Secretariat (1986), New Norcia Heritage Trail : the development of the Benedictine settlement at New Norcia, Western Australia, Heritage Trails Secretariat, Western Australian Heritage Committee, retrieved 2014
  42. ^ Heritage Trails Network (W.A.); Heritage Council of Western Australia (1999), Heritage Trail, New Norcia : the development of the Benedictine settlement at New Norcia, Western Australia, Heritage Council of Western Australia, retrieved 2014

External links

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