New Norcia, Western Australia
Established: 1847 Postcode: 6509 Location: LGA: Shire of Victoria Plains State District: Moore Federal Division: Durack
On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local aborigines was started about 8 km 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-chee-a", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".
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. 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. The Benedictine monks continue to occupy the monastery and are involved with most of the enterprises in the town.
Many have claimed to have seen ghosts in this town. This is said mainly because of its religious nature and the fact the town graveyard is in the middle of the town. Claims of a pale girl seen on the top floor of the St Gertrudes Girls boarding house has been prominent with many sightings reported. Various other sightings of figures have emerged which adds to the interesting nature of the town.
There are two very interesting pipe organs located within the monastery buildings. In the Abbey Church of the Holy Trinity is a large 35 rank German organ, built in 1922 by Albert Moser of Munich. The organ was designed in consultation with the Abbey Organist Dom Moreno.
The second pipe organ, of 13 ranks and much more modern in style, is located in the Oratory Chapel. This organ was built in 1983 by Belsham Pipe Organs.
St Gertrude's was completed in 1908, and St Ildephonsus' was opened in 1913. Until 1964 inclusive, St Ildephonsus' was run by the Marist Brothers. From 1965 onwards, it was run by the Benedictines as St Benedict's College. In 1972, St Benedict's and St Gertrude's became co-educational, with the boys and girls sharing most of their lessons. In 1974, the two colleges became known jointly as Salvado College, but were 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.
There were also two aboriginal orphanages that housed members of the Stolen Generation; St Mary's (for boys) and St Joseph's (for girls), which closed in the early 1970s. 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 now houses the Museum and Art Gallery, which contains works by Australian and overseas artists, and displays describing the history of the area. In 1986, twenty six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned. They were badly damaged, but were eventually repaired.
Abbots of New Norcia
- 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
- Anselm Catalan, 1915 - 1951 (resigned), died 29 July 1959, aged 80 years
- Gregory Gomez, 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
- 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.
- ^ *ABC Dimensions - New Norcia and the European Space Agency
- ^ Friends of New Norcia
- ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
- ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
- ^ New Norcia Cemetery
- ^ Obituary of Abbot Placid Spearritt
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