Yesterday, we traveled up along the Great North Highway to visit New Norcia, located approximately 140 kilometers from Perth.
New Norcia, Australia’s only Monastic Town, was founded as a Benedictine Mission to local native aboriginals on 1st March, 1846. The settlement was led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. The name New Norcia, is taken from Norcia, Italy which is the birthplace of St Benedict. For some reason New Norcia is pronounced “new nor-sia” as opposed to it’s original Italian namesake, which is pronounced “nor-chee-a”.
A visit to New Norcia is highly recommended. It is architecturally so unlike any other Australian town.
The museum contains exhibits focussed on the monastery and key individuals as well as “rooms” specific to advances in medicine, technology and agriculture. Outside of the main museum building there is a separate, dusty, machinery shed which contains several curiosities.
The second floor of the museum building houses the art gallery which house both modern and classical pieces.
In 1986, the gallery was the scene of WA’s biggest ever art theft, when twenty-six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Although described as a robbery it was more an act of vandalism as the paintings were cut from their frames, then rolled up, further damaging them in the process. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned. The remaining painting, too big to fit in the robbers car, was cut into pieces and thrown away. The recovered paintings have been the subject of a long restoration at the cost of over 100, 000 dollars.
On the top floor of the museum can be found St Joseph’s Aboriginal Girls’ Exhibition which reflects the experiences of Aboriginal girls resident at the orphanage at New Norcia.
Also on this floor is the Gardner Botanical Exhibition, featuring artworks on paper of Western Australian plants, by WA’s first Government botanist, Charles A Gardner.
A couple of monastery residents, not sure if they are Benedictines.
While visiting New Norcia we also had lunch, sat on the terrace of the New Norcia Hotel.
While sitting on the terrace drinking Abbey Ale was very pleasant, my meal didn’t live up to expectations. Although Gerry’s Pork Cutlet, with Chat Potatoes, veggies and gravy, was fine my Ribs were under cooked for the most part and totally raw in the center of the thickest portion. I don’t mind rare beef and lamb but like my pork to be fully cooked. Unfortunately I didn’t notice the rawness until I had cleared my plate of the rest of my meal. However, I returned the plate to the bar and complained. The staff were very apologetic and offered me a refund. I suggested that wasn’t necessary and that they give me a piece of the New Norcia Nut Cake instead. They insisted on giving me the refund as well as the Nut Cake. Smiles all round.