New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town, frequently attracts my attention. With its old Spanish-style buildings, beautiful gardens and hospitality, the town has much to offer tourists, day-trippers and those who want to stay longer. It is 132 kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia.
John and I were delighted to accept an invitation from our friend, Elizabeth Brennan, to join the annual Karrinyup and North Beach Probus Club annual day trip to the remarkable town. We enjoyed a coach tour of some of the buildings and a picnic lunch in the old convent with members of the Club and their other guests.
I’ve been to New Norcia often over the years. For example, I went with one of my granddaughters to an exhibition in the art gallery. (‘Celebrating Word and Image 1250-1600: Illuminated Manuscripts’ from the Kerry Stokes Collection.) Music recitals, study days and picnics all enthralled me.
Every time I go there, something I didn’t know or haven’t seen before surprises me. Always I experience the present peace and beauty of this lovely town, although it was not always a peaceful place for those who lived there.
New Norcia buildings
New Norcia, first settled by Spanish Benedictine monks in 1847 on the banks of the Moore River, boasts beautiful Spanish-style buildings. Some of these have been restored, and more work is in progress. You can read some of the history of New Norcia here. Below are photos of some of the less publicised buildings.
Hospitality and education
A foundation Rule of St Benedict, founder of the Benedictine Order, states that the monks must practice hospitality. Visitors are always welcome. A guest house and a hotel provide accommodation and meals for travellers.
A number of spiritual retreats and other events occur throughout the year with participants from all walks of life. These often coincide with the preparation of important Catholic feasts such as Christmas and Easter.
As well as hospitality, the monks encourage education on many levels. One of the old boarding schools, which has recently been renovated, can be used for school camps. The acoustics in the building make it much sought after for music camps. Writers groups often choose New Norcia as a venue for retreats.
In addition, the New Norcia website states:
New Norcia also has a tradition of research and academia, with its impressive archival records and library collection. Scholars and researchers alike have delighted over the years in the information available in the town’s records.
Self-supporting community of New Norcia
The Benedictine Community owns the town and the surrounding farmland which support the monks.
In the early days, the monks took hands-on responsibility for all the activities of the community. With the help of others, they tended the wheat and sheep farm, grew olives and grapes and made bread.
Now they employ staff who work in the Community under the direction of the Abbott. They run the service station, hotel, bakery, gift shop, gardens and the education centre, as well as the farm and olive grove. Staff houses, away from the gaze of tourists, come with their jobs. Apart from the monks, the only people who live in the town are employees and their families.
Thanks again to the Karrinyup and North Beach Probus Club for their kindness shown to John and me on this trip to New Norcia. Again, thanks to Pat Llorens for the organisation of the day, and to Elizabeth Brennan for inviting us. Casey Tours provided our coach, hospitality and experienced guide for the day.
I wrote about our first stop of the day of our visit to New Norcia here. I also wrote about our visit with the Probus Club to the town of York (Western Australia) last year